3 Pieces of Career Advice to Turn Students Into Self-Marketers

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Recruiters don’t type keywords into a job search engine and cross their fingers hoping top candidates pop up. In today’s recruiting world, social media, effective job boards, and an emphasis on company culture allow recruiters to look deeper into potential candidates and their whole person.

While this is a pro for both job seekers and employers, it means students entering the application process need a whole new set of skills. And with recruiters in a new Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report saying employee referrals remain employers’ top source of hires, those skills must include networking, understanding hiring pros, and building meaningful relationships.

Students will be entering a workforce that’s at an all-time unemployment low. To help them stand out above the crowd, it’s critical career counselors teach them how to be self-marketing experts — no matter their field of study.

Here’s the career advice you need to give your students to turn them into self-marketers:

Know your audience

Before marketing professionals can begin creating content, they must fully understand their audience. They only have one opportunity to make a lasting first impression. Unfortunately, the consequences of not knowing audience expectations is extremely detrimental to a company’s bottom-line.

The relationship between job seekers and hiring pros is no different. No matter how much career advice you offer them, it’s their first impressions that will determine whether or not they land a job.

Social listening is a highly effective technique marketing pros use to understand their audiences. The technical definition of social listening is the process of monitoring digital conversations to understand what customers are saying about a brand and industry online.

Simply put, it’s using social media to see what your audience is reading, sharing, their values, professional and personal opinions, etc.

Before applying for jobs, help your students find companies, employers, and hiring pros on various social media platforms. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and even Snapchat are used for personal and professional outreach purposes.

A few things to look for are:

  • Company values
  • Professional demeanor
  • Employer or hiring pro values
  • Company culture
  • Current employees’ personalities

Once students have a better understanding of where they’re applying and who they’ll be talking to, it’s time to start forming a message.

Know your message

One size certainly does not fit all in the marketing world. After marketers understand their target audiences, they begin creating various messages. Each one is catered to the emotions, values, and personalities of each specified audience.

The same goes for students looking to ‘sell’ themselves to employers and hiring pros. You’ve likely already given the career advice that students should customize their cover letter and resume for each company to which they apply.

However, as self-marketers, they need to take this a step further.

Now that they understand their audience, they must decide how they want to present themselves. What passions, interests, skills, and traits are important to each company and contact person?

Based on where they’re applying, encourage students to alter their messages on application materials and social media channels. Show them the type of professional articles they can share that portray their message and what pictures of extracurriculars and volunteer efforts connect with specific values.

Know the line between personal and professional

Marketing pros are determined to connect with their audiences on a personal and emotional level. It’s these meaningful connections that move consumers to buy products. However, some marketers push the envelope too far, resulting in lost business and a damaged image.

For students looking to make an impression on employers and hiring pros, there’s also a fine line between showing your personal side to make a connection and being seeming unprofessional. One of the best pieces of career advice you can give your students before sending them into the job search is to look critically at their social media pages.

Teach them how to look at each post through an employers’ eyes. Then, ask them to write down what they think at least three posts are saying to an outsider. Is it saying they’re social, philanthropic, family-oriented, determined, or focused?

If they come across any post where they’re unsure of the answer, encourage them to take it down.

Why do you believe it’s important for students to become self-marketing experts? Let us know!

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution that gives job seekers complete control over their job search. It's available for individual users, university and military career services centers, libraries, and corporations seeking to offer outplacement assistance to former employees. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.