Much has been written about how social media can (and has) helped online-savvy young people find jobs with companies anxious to acquire employees with certain talents. There are presently 12.76 million unemployed in America, 2.05 million of those ages 20 to 24. Presumably, members of this generation matriculated alongside classmate Social Media. Have the young minds used the tools and trends available, coupled with accumulated “offline” skills, to edge out the competition on the job hunt? Or simply for less ambitious pursuits?

The more industrious of the educated and peppy (or overly caffeinated) job-seekers write blogs, produce photography galleries, build demo websites, host Twitter chats, publish useful tools to GitHub, and lead meetups and barcamps. Their goals are to use these channels and venues to showcase skills ranging from design and research/writing to programming, leadership to community-building. In many ways, these activities are the digital equivalent of the unwieldy leather portfolio schlepped around by previous generations. Those who have spent any time on either side of the interview desk know how valuable those portfolios are to distinguishing candidates from one another and exposing a sliver of the depths and potential within.

The blogs and galleries, sites and code bits are tangible evidence of what my grandmother would have termed “grit and spit;” ambitious people carving out a competitive advantage in a challenging job market. Theirjob hunt portfolio work products, constructed in part with technology, mark them as capable, qualified, and clever. Initiative and curiosity has created many opportunities for those willing to devote time and energy to their quest, all without guarantee of immediate reward. Still they keep creating and building.

Indeed, social and digital media can be a means to achieve a career objective, one with broad societal benefits (reducing unemployment) and personal rewards (generating income, launching a career path).  But social and digital media can also be a time-siphon, and in the hands of the unmotivated or self-absorbed, a distraction rather than a channel for productivity.

On the one hand, there’s awesomeness with social and digital. On the other, possibly where self-discipline and initiative are week, there’s less awesomeness. And sure, there’s gray in between.

The deal: when student loans mature and the rent is due, some hunker down and push hard to make stuff happen. Social and digital are two tools in a toolbox of resources accumulated over a young lifetime. And some wait for it to materialize. Social media – along with many other things – may be a factor in the career equation. It’s a factor that a parent of a teen, I want to be mindful of.

I’m not suggesting social media in itself creates sloth or discourages ambition among youth. Some are born with intellect, drive, and an inner fire to make the most of their lives. Others choose a path with less resistance. Those inclined to skate by and ask for a boost will do so, that’s the wheat and chaffe of human nature.

What I’m suggesting is that our general preoccupation with staying connected, sharing the mundane, and compulsion to own the latest equipment sometimes clouds our vision of the real world. One where bosses want to have conversations with junior employees who have the poise, self-possession, and communication skills necessary to stay engaged in a business conversation and think in complex patterns.

Technology alone is an inert ingredient. When combined with some know-how, a bit of hustle, and creativity, a new potential emerges from all that effort. It’s the heavy leather portfolio, now supercharged. It’s happening every day, leading people to build things we never imagined.

But as with most good things, too much (to the exclusion of other stimuli and real-world experiences) is debilitating rather than productive.  My concern is that there’s a growing subset of young adults for whom a mobile data plan, high-speed access, and a Facebook timeline are part of their DNA. A 24-hour-per-day “given,” rather than an earned privilege used as a springboard to leap ahead. And a means of unregulated, personal escape that narrows their perception of or experience with the real world.

Parents, it’s time to make sure our kids understand the cost of our technologically advanced lives, and inspire our kids to combine their smarts with their social to get ahead. To find balance between their virtual world and their mechanical one.

It’s graduation day. Are our kids ready for what’s next? Technology is only part of their educational coursework.

Image courtesy of The Art Institute of Portland on Flickr.

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About Heather Rast

Heather Rast

Heather is Principal of a boutique Cedar Rapids digital marketing company. She develops brand positioning strategy and marketing communications plans to distinguish small businesses from the competition and attract their ideal customers. Her content planning, writing, and online community-building work helps larger businesses better serve their audiences with useful information that solves problems as it builds affinity for the brand.

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://twitter.com/drbret Bret L Simmons

    Lisa Drake was an MBA student in my personal branding class exactly one year ago. She wanted a job in her company as a project manager, so that is what she created her blog about  http://lisamdrake.com/ She now works as a project manager in her company – one of the largest employers in Reno. She also now knows project management professionals all over the world. Kendra Wilson started her blog on her passion, snowskating, less than a year ago. Last month she rubbed elbows with the CEOs of companies that make the equipment she uses at an event in Colorado http://projectsnowskate.com/2012/02/07/fuse-derby-recap/ This stuff DOES work for those that do it with distinction and stick with it

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com/ Heather Rast

      Thanks for weighing in, Bret. Your comment brings an important piece into focus – passion, subject matter knowledge, and commitment to actively pursue an objective. Social media can be one very useful way for driven, talented students to break through the barriers they face and provide empirical evidence of their skills and knowledge.

      A point I hoped to impress in my post – social media on its own won’t help a graduate land a job. Number of followers or breadth of network alone isn’t valuable to employers. And technical prowess with the platforms does little to demonstrate potential outcomes. Your examples with Lisa and Kendra above show the young women were willing to “walk the walk.”

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com/ Heather Rast

      Thanks for weighing in, Bret. Your comment brings an important piece into focus – passion, subject matter knowledge, and commitment to actively pursue an objective. Social media can be one very useful way for driven, talented students to break through the barriers they face and provide empirical evidence of their skills and knowledge.

      A point I hoped to impress in my post – social media on its own won’t help a graduate land a job. Number of followers or breadth of network alone isn’t valuable to employers. And technical prowess with the platforms does little to demonstrate potential outcomes. Your examples with Lisa and Kendra above show the young women were willing to “walk the walk.”

    • http://twitter.com/KendraWilsonNV Kendra Wilson

      Bret’s class opened all sorts of doors for me!  I really enjoy blogging, and it’s paying off for me in networking, merch, and travel! 
      Thanks Bret, and thanks for linking to my site!

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  • http://callboxinc.com/ Judy Caroll

    Hi Heather;) I believe it all boils down to this: balance.  Getting into social media can give good results if one uses it correctly, but if not, it can give serious damage.  Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/rainbowclaire Claire Dunford

    When you’re job hunting you should use all the tools available to you in order to get your foot in the door.  Just because social media can be a place where you look at friend’s holiday photos, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be used for job hunting.  It just needs to be used correctly.

    I wanted to work in social media, and so I created an Youtube video directed at the company I wanted to join.  I then seeded it out on social media sites, tagged them in relevant blogs etc and soon I was appearing in their social media monitoring.  That was 18 months ago – I joined BOTTLE as a Social Media Consultant in January 2011.

    Social media by itself won’t find someone a job, just as much as a blank
    piece of paper can be used as a CV.  It’s how you hone your skills and
    present yourself that can get you that interview.  But ultimately whether you get that job is still down to you.

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com/ Heather Rast

      Claire, your comment raises a good point I hope I touched on in the post. Tools and platforms are inert tactics/resources until activated by an ambitious, creative, and driven individual with a clear sense of objective. 

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  • http://florine-foulon-portfolio.weebly.com/ florine foulon

    Fantastic post! I share your thoughts!

    • http://www.essay2review.com/paramountessays-review.html paramountessays

      I agree with you! The post very nice!

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  • http://twitter.com/DevianiAryW Deviani Wulandari

    Hi Heather, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this article! 

    For me, social media is not clearly black and white; there are many things that you can gain or lose through social media. For example: job opportunities. It goes back to the question of who really uses social media and how the individual will maximize it to turn it into a resource for a good opportunity. Right now, with blogging as the trend, there is an increasing number of bloggers out there. They behave as a writer, analyst, critics or promoter. Through blogs, these bloggers are able to speak out their minds to attract other people attention. Of course, someone will step into these blogs and discover any hidden talents within. Eventually, passion can turn into opportunities through this blog. You just have to stay creative and motivated on what you do. Or else, you’ll be missing out. Social media is not only used to connect to your friends and stay updated with their status and photo albums but also to gain more benefits that can bring to your advantage.

  • http://www.americanrecordablemedia.com/ Martz Hobert

    On my part, social media can make or break your time depends on how you handle it.  You can’t find a job or learning experience in social media if you don’t have any idea or strategy how to handle its benefits.

  • http://www.americanrecordablemedia.com/ Martz Hobert

    On my part, social media can make or break your time depends on how you handle it.  You can’t find a job or learning experience in social media if you don’t have any idea or strategy how to handle its benefits.

  • http://www.affilorama.com/blog Rod Tolentino

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts regarding social media! I’m definitely addicted to social media, sometimes it is time wasting, but little by little you’ll be able to find the benefits for your business! 
    Cheers! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/zornitsa.stefanova.71 Zornitsa Stefanova

    Social media could be the best way to find the next career opportunity, but only if you know how to use it right.
    Otherwise it would turn into a huge time wasting.
    p.s. Here’s one great opportunity for job seekers:
    http://social-media-training-courses.co.uk/jobs/

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