This article was written by Crystal Washington, author of The Social Media WHY, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project. Blame it on the economy, universities, parents, or Millennials themselves—more and more college graduates are “graduating” to unemployment and underemployment. While the numbers are at record highs, the issue itself is not new. Every past graduating class contains superstar students who land their dream jobs, while others find themselves grasping at straws. Related: How To Leverage Your Alumni Network To Get A Job Interestingly enough, the “successful ones” are not always those with the highest grades or stellar performance. What set’s these students apart?

Why Are Some Students Hired While Others Are Not?

I noticed an interesting trend during my own sophomore year in college. It appeared that the most outgoing seniors who had relationships with professors landed the best jobs after graduation. However, when I began asking the recently employed grads for their secrets, I quickly discovered that two major forces were at work: nepotism and cronyism! They already had connections to their employers either through family or acquaintances. Some of these acquaintances were social friends, but many were their professors, internship coordinators, or past employers who were either able to hire them directly or connect them with a hiring manager at their desired company. Not every student has the ability to leverage powerful family members to gain employment. However, all students are afforded the opportunity to start building relationships while they are in school, and it is never too early!

Get Started Building Relationships

Having the proper skills and training for a position is only a fraction of the success equation. You may be majoring in a field of study that has an overabundance of qualified graduates each year. Start building your network now through establishing strong rapport with your professors—they have industry contacts, internships—formal and informal, part-time work in your field and volunteering in professional organizations.

Steps To Building A Powerful Network

1. Add value first

To build rapport with a professor, add value by being a high-achieving student with a reputation for turning in quality work and taking a genuine interest in class. If possible, obtain a part-time job in your field or participate in internships. Exceed the expectations of your job description and build a reputation as a team player. When volunteering within professional industry associations, show up on time, excited, and perform at a top level.

2. Obtain contact information

Request the business cards of your desired connections or record their information for step #3.

3. Send thank you notes

After adding value, always mail hand-written notes or letters to thank your desired connections for their time, insight, or the opportunity to serve. Professionals receive so few hand-written notes that you will stand out.

4. If possible, connect on LinkedIn

This may not be an option with professors. First, seek to connect with your new contacts on LinkedIn. If locate them, send a quick customized note along with the connection request. Try reiterating some of the points you made in your thank-you note and let them know that you’re interested in connecting. Use the LinkedIn Contacts feature (contacts.linkedin.com) to add notes about the person and set reminders to follow up with them every few months with updates about your progress in school, articles that may be of interest to them, and so on.

5. Use a relationship management system to stay connected

If you find that many of your contacts are not on LinkedIn, it may be easier to use a service like Contactually to enter all of your contacts in one place and create notes about them and set reminders to follow up to keep the connection hot. Remember to notify your connections a few months before you intend to begin your job search, asking them for insight, letters or recommendation, or introductions. It’s never too early to start building your professional network!

Download Your FREE E-Book!

Graduating? Know someone who is? As a perk of the Happy Grad Project, we're offering a FREE download of our e-book, "The Recent Grad's Guide To Getting A Job." This e-book is JAM-PACKED with tips from experts and recruiters, videos, and additional help. Don't put off your job search any longer - Download our e-book today and get started!   Photo Credit: Shutterstock
The following is an excerpt with minor edits from The Social Media Why: A Busy Professional’s Practical Guide to Using Social Media Including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and Blogs for Business by Crystal Washington. Now that you have reviewed the top social media and social network options, decide which ones are best for you. You may feel, based on the practical applications, LinkedIn and YouTube would be the best suited for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a new position, you may want to use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Make your decisions and move forward. You can always add another network later, should you choose.

Posting Frequency

Wondering how often you should post on each social network? While it varies by user and purpose, I would recommend the following to start off. Then adjust according to the amount of responses, comments, and clicks you receive.
  • LinkedIn – One time every one or two days, or link to your Twitter account if your Twitter postings would be appropriate for the strictly professional network.
  • Facebook – For your profile page, one to three times per day. If you have a business page or group, once every other day for those.
  • Twitter – Four to six times per day.
  • Blog – One to two times per week.

Stay Productive

I’ll be the first to admit, falling into a social media black hole is something we all do. I’ve had more than my share of days when I’ve started off uber-productive only to find three hours have passed, and all I have to show for it is a gazillion interactions with Facebook friends, and many laughs. Want to become productive on social media? Here are my recommendations:

1. Make A Plan

Understand exactly who you would like to reach (your target markets) and design your brand in a way that will be attractive to this group. Do not simply post what you want people to read, post what they want to read. Make a conscious decision to post information that appeals to your target markets vs. what you want them to want.

2. Sign Up For Google Alerts And Visit Alltop

Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) will send you emails about specific topics you would like to post about. Simply type in the search words and set a new alert. Alltop (www.alltop.com) has hundreds of categories to choose from. Simply click on the link for your topic to instantly see top blog posts and articles you can share via social media.

3. Create A Posting Calendar

Use a blank calendar. Decide what you’re going to post on social media each day, and then fill in your calendar with your choices. Consider holidays, upcoming events, and other items that might influence your posting. You can also include your blog, if you’d like. Do this at least a month ahead of time.

4. Sign Up For Hootsuite

Hootsuite will allow you to update your social networks from one place. Additionally, you can schedule future posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

5. Buy A Kitchen Timer

Decide exactly how much time you will commit to social media each day. I suggest 10-20 minutes in the AM and maybe 10 in the PM. At whatever time allotted each day, set your egg timer for the correct amount of time. Then use that time to post, moderate, comment on others’ posts, photos, and so on.

Watch This FREE Webinar!

With more than 200 million users, LinkedIn is the premier social networking site for both business professionals and owners. Most users know the value, but the problem is they don’t know where to start. Discover practical ways to leverage LinkedIn to increase efficiency, be discovered by influencers and create meaningful business relationships. Here are some of the things that will be covered in this broadcast:
  • Identify your brand strategy and create your LinkedIn ritual
  • Discover how to use LinkedIn to save time in your normal tasks
  • Get found by decision makers and influencers by using keywords
  • Advanced Search- Discover how to find key people and connect
  • Power Posting- Learn how to post great content while saving time
Join us for a special webinar on getting the results you want on LinkedIn. Presenter: Crystal Washington. NOTE: Can't make the live event? No worries! Everyone who signs up will receive a recorded version in their Inbox.   WATCH NOW ►   Photo Credit: Shutterstock
The following is an excerpt with minor edits from The Social Media Why: A Busy Professional’s Practical Guide to Using Social Media Including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and Blogs for Business by Crystal Washington.

Reconnect With Old Business Contacts

Everyone has lost touch with a good business contact. Perhaps you or he/she moved or switched companies. Unless you are a stalker, you probably would not feel comfortable tracking down the person’s home address and showing up at the front door. However, LinkedIn provides a great, non-spooky way to reconnect. Simply type the name in the search box, or upload an old contact file. Or, using the advanced search option, type in part of the name and his/ her past place of employment, and then see if you come up with something. If so, connect! While I’m sure you are memorable, be sure to personalize your connection request message just in case the person needs a little reminder of how you know each other. Without a personalized message, or picture, you are subject to being ignored.

Keep In Touch With New Contacts

Where are all of your contacts’ business cards? If they are in a Rolodex, shoe box, plastic card carriers, or anywhere other than uploaded somewhere digitally, you are doing yourself a disservice. The best way to ensure you’ll stay in touch with contacts is to connect with them via social media. This way, you can keep up with each other between visits, calls, and e-mails. You can comment on their posts or send them messages when you see they’ve changed positions, companies, or added something to their profile. In Chapter 9, I’ll give you tips on how to best upload your contacts into networks like LinkedIn. Connect with fellow members of professional organizations between meetings. Many official organizations have also started LinkedIn groups. Some are public, others private. Either way, this can be a great way to connect with fellow members to ask questions, exchange information, and get input. Save time collecting information. Have a question on how to structure a proposal, on industry standards, or if your target market will buy a new item? Post a discussion question or poll in a group. I recently saw a member of a meeting planners’ group post a question about contracting. Within a day, several veteran planners responded with detailed information and even templates. Now that’s value!

Improve Your Search Engine Rankings

Have you ever Googled yourself? If not, I would suggest you try it. Type your name into Google and see what pops up. If you have a common name, you may see a variety of people, blogs, articles, and videos as results. However, if your name is a bit more uncommon, you may see your “evil name-twin,” popping up all over the first two pages of search results. Your evil name-twin tortures baby turtles while farting on butterflies for a living. Not good! Or, you might find that picture of yourself which your ex-best friend posted on her blog. You know the one—where you are tipsy and moonwalking. Either way, you want the good stuff about you to pop up first. The great news is Google and other search engines love LinkedIn. Having a complete LinkedIn profile increases the chances a positive representation of you will pop up high in search engines. Results will vary based on how popular your name is. The more items on the Web with your name, the harder it will be to get on the first two pages of search engine results.

Prospect And Eliminate Cold Calls

I used to be in sales, and I know, for most people, cold calling is about as much fun as a root canal. Who wants to call someone they do not have a relationship with to try to convince them they should have a business relationship? Yes, LinkedIn can help you here as well. Whether you are trying to connect with a potential client or a hiring manager, it is always better to get an introduction. Do you know the person’s name and place of work? Assuming you know this information, use the search box to find the person you want to connect with. Then, click on his/her profile and look to the left to see if you have any mutual contacts. Here is where things get tricky—ready? Do not use the “request an introduction” option on LinkedIn. Instead, pick up the phone and call the mutual contact— you do know him/ her after all, and say that you’d like to set up a lunch or would like to be somehow introduced to your desired new contact. Technology is great, but sometimes other forms of communication just make more sense. You can take this process up a notch with the advanced search option. Using the advanced search you can find the names of individuals holding specific titles at a specific company, in an industry, and so on. It is the most powerful, yet under utilized, tool on LinkedIn. Missed the first part of this excerpt? Read it here.

Watch This FREE Webinar!

With more than 200 million users, LinkedIn is the premier social networking site for both business professionals and owners. Most users know the value, but the problem is they don’t know where to start. Discover practical ways to leverage LinkedIn to increase efficiency, be discovered by influencers and create meaningful business relationships. Here are some of the things that will be covered in this broadcast:
  • Identify your brand strategy and create your LinkedIn ritual
  • Discover how to use LinkedIn to save time in your normal tasks
  • Get found by decision makers and influencers by using keywords
  • Advanced Search- Discover how to find key people and connect
  • Power Posting- Learn how to post great content while saving time
Join us for a special webinar on getting the results you want on LinkedIn. Presenter: Crystal Washington. NOTE: Can't make the live event? No worries! Everyone who signs up will receive a recorded version in their Inbox.   WATCH NOW ►   Photo Credit: Shutterstock
The following is an excerpt with minor edits from The Social Media Why: A Busy Professional’s Practical Guide to Using Social Media Including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and Blogs for Business by Crystal Washington. LinkedIn is a powerful social network that helps you exchange knowledge, resources, career, and business opportunities with over 200 million professionals. LinkedIn is a cross between a resume bank, a yellow pages directory, and a business chat forum. LinkedIn gives you the ability to build and control your personal online brand, increasing the chances of influential decision-makers finding you on the Web. LinkedIn is truly the no-nonsense social network. It caters to a sophisticated audience of career professionals. In fact, every Fortune 500 company is represented on the site. Another great thing about LinkedIn—it is the simplest to maintain. You don’t have to worry about others posting things on your profile or posting numerous times through out the day. LinkedIn is the only social network where it is acceptable to make your profile 100 percent about you and your accomplishments. Think of it as a super-duper resume. You want to put your best foot forward to build credibility, getting others to weigh in on how awesome you are, and attract opportunities. Over 200 million professionals are on LinkedIn, including CEOs, potential clients, friends, and any other type of professional you can think of. However, remember you don’t know most of these people. Linked In is not a place to go to immediately strike deals and sell people on you or your business. Remember Social Media Rule #2 – Don’t Sell. It is not like shooting fish in a barrel. People will report you and your account will be terminated. When you first meet someone, in person or online, they trust you enough to spend $0 with you and owe you zero favors. In other words, don’t ask new contacts for anything, including a sale. Instead, just as in real life, focus on building relationships. If you build rapport by demonstrating your expertise, being helpful (giving first) and being consistent, those zeros will change over time.

Practical Applications

How To Use LinkedIn To Find A Job

Over 10,200,000 Americans have reported finding their current job using Linked In. In fact, LinkedIn is the obvious choice for job search simply because it is the most professional social network. Using the Jobs feature in the menu bar, you can easily search for open positions by industry, company, or keyword. Additionally, you can follow companies on LinkedIn and receive e-mail updates when a new position is posted.

Increase The Likelihood Of Being Found By Customers, Influencers, And Decision-Makers

Whether you own a business or are a professional, you want to be findable. From an entrepreneurship perspective, LinkedIn is like the physical yellow pages from the 1980s. If you owned a brick and mortar business and were not in the yellow pages, you were missing out on business because people who were looking for your type of business would not find you. Similarly, if you and your business are not on LinkedIn, you will not be found on LinkedIn by potential customers, hiring managers, and so on. From a professional standpoint, recruiters consider LinkedIn to be one of their best tools. According to one website, 93 percent of recruiters use, or plan to use, LinkedIn to acquire talent. While I am not looking for employment, I have been contacted about many job offers by human resources professionals looking for “social media managers” and “marketing consultants.” Maybe you are not looking to make a business move yet, but it does not hurt to dig your well before you are thirsty. Find credible businesses. One of my favorite productivity tools is the search box on LinkedIn. Before, if I wanted to find a plumber, graphic artist, or hairdresser, I had to use the yellow pages (online, of course) or ask friends. Now, I can simply type in who/what I’m looking for. The best part is I can then see if I know the person (maybe I forgot I have a contact who offers that particular service) or if there is a “friend of a friend” who offers the service. Then, I can click on the person’s profile and see if any of my contacts have recommended them. If I see someone who is recommended by a few trusted contacts—I know I should use them. Now, I don’t have to call anyone except the business. Stay abreast of emerging industry trends. It is good to be in the know. By using LinkedIn Today (a collection of the most shared blogs and articles categorized by industry) and LinkedIn groups, you can stay on top of industry news, updates, great articles, and even join conversations with influencers. I recommend logging into LinkedIn for five minutes in the morning if you want to see any late-breaking industry news or great articles.

Watch This FREE Webinar!

With more than 200 million users, LinkedIn is the premier social networking site for both business professionals and owners. Most users know the value, but the problem is they don’t know where to start. Discover practical ways to leverage LinkedIn to increase efficiency, be discovered by influencers and create meaningful business relationships. Here are some of the things that will be covered in this broadcast:
  • Identify your brand strategy and create your LinkedIn ritual
  • Discover how to use LinkedIn to save time in your normal tasks
  • Get found by decision makers and influencers by using keywords
  • Advanced Search- Discover how to find key people and connect
  • Power Posting- Learn how to post great content while saving time
Join us for a special webinar on getting the results you want on LinkedIn. Presenter: Crystal Washington. NOTE: Can't make the live event? No worries! Everyone who signs up will receive a recorded version in their Inbox.   WATCH NOW ►   Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Facebook’s new Graph Search feature puts the network on par with LinkedIn for job search. While most people consider LinkedIn the primary social network for business and career connections, more Americans have actually reported finding jobs on Facebook than LinkedIn. With Facebook’s announcement this week that the network is rolling out Graph Search for all users, this trend will likely increase.

What's Facebook Graph Search?

Graph Search is a new, advanced way to search for people, places, and things on Facebook. Now, rather than being limited to only looking up items by name, you can use relational elements. For instance, you can look up “people who live in Houston, Texas and who like small businesses” or “friends of friends who work for Shell.”

How To Use Facebook Graph Search For Your Job Search

Here are three action items for using Graph Search to find employment:

1. Clean Up Your Facebook Likes

It’s time to remove inappropriate pictures, posts and anything that could potentially turn off a hiring manager. With Graph Search, it’s easier than ever to find unflattering information on Facebook. Most importantly, remove any and all “likes” that potential business contacts could find offensive. You can find all of your likes by clicking on “About” under your profile. Clean, clean, clean!

2. Review Your Privacy Settings

Use the little padlock at the top of your profile to visit Privacy Shortcuts. Pay special attention to all three items under “Who can see my stuff?” The first choice, “Who can see my future posts?” will allow you to change the viewing permissions granted to different audiences from this day forward. The second option, “Where do I review who can see of find things I’ve posted or been tagged in?” allows you to view your activity log in detail. Your activity log allows you to see the items you’ve posted, friends’ posts that appear on your timeline and pictures you’ve been tagged in. With Graph Search, Facebook users can easily look up “Pictures of people who live in Houston, TX taken at <insert undesirable venue>” Do yourself a favor, remove tags of yourself in inappropriate photos or simply ask friends to remove them.

3. Use The Search Function

One of the coolest features of LinkedIn is that you can see if you and a desired connection share a mutual connection or friend. With Graph Search, you can do the exact same thing! Did your spouse get a job transfer to Houston, Texas and now you’re looking for employment in the city? Try searching for “Friends of friends who live in Houston, Texas who work for <insert desired company>” Review the generated list to see if any of the potential connections are hiring managers or work in your desired department. If so, contact the friend you share in common (shown under their basic information) and request that they introduce you, preferably by e-mail or set up lunch versus Facebook. It is important to note that you will have more results using “friends of friends” in search when you have more Facebook friends. Photo Credit: Shutterstock