If you identify yourself as part of higher education, I expect you agree that preparing students for a successful job search is one of your priorities — not the only one, but certainly one of them.  Just like so many of aspects of life, looking for a job is an entirely different reality today than it was just a few years ago.  And, no, I’m not referring to the economy in this post.

More Companies Using Social Media
The use of social media by Fortune 500 companies has increased significantly in recent years, leading to transformed relationships with customers and more transparent communications with leaderships. Use of corporate blogs increased from 16% to 38% by F500 companies from 2008-2013 (UMASS Dartmouth, 2013). In 2013, 77% of these companies had corporate Twitter accounts, 70% had Facebook accounts, 69% had YouTube accounts, 35% were present on Google+ (none had a presence a year ago), 9% had Four Square and Pinterests accounts, and 8% were using Instagram.

Why is this important to college educators? Well, it’s important to us because this sharp increase in the value of social media to major corporations is, first, reshaping many concepts that underpin our disciplines but, secondly, and more broadly, the increased use of social media identifies a need for college graduates to have a developed their own mastery of using these very same networks to build their own professional brand.  
Some of you may be thinking to yourself that this trend is very industry specific and, well, you have a point that certain industries are certainly different than others. For example, we all know that academics aren’t going to be hired based upon their Twitter followers.  But what I believe is so important and precious is the fragility of preserving the openness of where one is headed in life at graduation.  To presume that one will thrive in a particular industry and ignore the opportunities of flourishing in others may be a missed treasure.  I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Art…I’m still trying to figure out where I fit into this miraculous world (and loving every minute of it).
Why Social Recruitment is on the Rise
A recent survey of 1,600 human resources professionals by Jobvite found that 94% of recruiters use or plan to use social media in their search for new employees and 78% of them have hired at least one employee through social media.  The survey revealed that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are primary sources for locating talent; however, what’s more interesting is how recruiters are learning from what they find online about prospective employees.  By locating an individual with a particular skill set on LinkedIn, for example, a recruiter may further validate that individual’s presentation, industry-related presence, overall expertise within a field, or even cultural fit by clicking over to her YouTube channel and viewing videos she has uploaded or examining the number of Twitter followers, as well as their own social worth within the particular field. Blogs provide deeper validation of an individual’s writing ability, as well as one’s ability to negotiate and interact with others who may leave comments that challenge the views represented in the post. 
All in all, social recruitment can provide much more context about a person’s skillset and fit within a company than a resume.  And in today’s competitive job market, wouldn’t you want to set yourself apart from others?  That’s not to say resumes are dead, however. Rachel Louise Ensign at the Wall Street Journal argues, “a paper resume can make or break a bid for a job” because hiring managers still want to review a resume on paper before meeting a candidate in person.  
Preparing our Students
Perhaps, the question is, “What are the odds of getting that interview without a professional presence on social media?”  And, more importantly, how is are experiences students have in college preparing students to cultivate this presence? Integrating social media into our teaching and learning landscape holistically fosters an effective and professional use of tools like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, even Pinterest is being used in college. Today LinkedIn shared the video below which lucidly points out simple ways students can build a presence on their site. 

I’m going to share this video with my students — I hope you do too!  And while you are at it, take a few moments to explore Pathbrite, another new, open, free ePortfolio site which provides robust integration services for those who are interested.  Pathbrite is a great way to have students create ePortfolios for a class, program, or institution that are easily “taken with” students after graduation and even embedded directly into LinkedIn.  I have my own Pathbrite ePortfolio embedded on my LinkedIn page.  That’s another way we can teach our students — by leading by example. 🙂  

I would love to hear from some of you about how you and/or your institutions are preparing students for success in the social job search. Please share!

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