Digital natives: Students create strong virtual persona to woo recruiters
Bagging job offers through Instagram accounts, YouTube channels and interactive CVs, students are focusing on developing a strong social media persona — a new screen test for recruiters too.education Updated: May 28, 2015 19:44 IST
Architecture student Santoshi Shetty, 21, never thought she would get offers to collaborate with leading fashion brands just by posting pictures on Instagram, a photo-blogging mobile app. Shetty, a student at IES College of Architecture in Bandra, started daily fashion posts on Instagram in 2012 as a hobby, through which she garnered thousands of followers over a short period of time. Until last year, Shetty was active on Instagram and had a YouTube channel — the sheer amount of fan following on both those platforms steered her to start her own blog, TheStylEdge.com, in October 2014.
At last count, Shetty had 43,700 followers on Instagram, 3,051 on YouTube and around 1,000 views per day on her blog.
“I never thought my Instagram account would turn into a lucrative part-time job,” she says. “I would just post pictures of my outfit-of-the-day on Instagram, and hundreds of people started following me there. Soon, I started getting offers from brands for collaborative posts, and finally, a call from a production house to start a YouTube channel on fashion trends and brands.”
While Shetty joined Instagram in 2012, the YouTube channel came two years later, in July 2014. As part of the collaborations with fashion brands, she either gets to keep designer clothes for herself, or is paid to post about them on her social media streams. “Still in college, I was initially worried about whether I could manage my studies and my social media,” she says. “But now, I have learned how to strike a balance.”
Like Shetty, Akarsh Sharma, 26, a management graduate from the Institute of Management Technology in Ghaziabad, blogged about football, his passion, while he was in college. “I would write football opinion pieces on a Blogspot page, then later on a sports website started with friends, and soon started receiving freelance opportunities from leading sports websites,” says Sharma. While he worked with an online travel company for a year after completing his studies, he eventually used his blogging experience and expertise on sports to bag a job at a national sports channel in Mumbai, where he currently works.
Many students like Shetty and Sharma are now exploring options on the internet where they can pursue their passions and hobbies, while bulking up their résumé alongside. In fact, recruiters also say that they now judge candidates on their digital presence along with gauging their academic excellence.
“We look for multifaceted, well-rounded personalities,” says Narayanan Ramaswamy, head of education at KPMG India. “If a student is also a blogger, we can gauge whether he or she can think differently and express themselves efficiently. Also, their social media presence gives a fair idea of how they conduct themselves on a public platform, and what are their interests apart from their course curriculum.”
Until a few years ago, such social media platforms were limited to text blogs — now, however, students can experiment with various mediums. For instance, Antriksh Kumar, 25, has a detailed LinkedIn profile, that he updated with latest project information, field trips and internship experiences at regular intervals while studying industrial management from National Institute of Industrial Engineering in Powai in 2013.
He, along with a group of four classmates, had made a presentation on risk mitigation and cost optimisation in transportation at a Confederation of Indian Industries Institute of Logistics conference in June last year, where they met a senior manager from a tyre company.
“The manager went through our LinkedIn profiles, and eventually told our project mentor that he would offer us a position in his company,” says Kumar. Although Kumar did not end up taking the job, he says that this opened up many opportunities for him in the sector. Kumar now works as a consultant with a business consulting firm in Chennai. “While academic excellence is absolutely necessary, one needs to put in a tad more effort to slide ahead of others in competition,” says Kumar.
Similarly, Sheel Parekh, 24, an interior designing student from Center for Environmental Planning and Technology in Ahmedabad has moved beyond boring grey résumé to creating an interactive online CV. On her webpage, www.sheelparekh.com, you can see a list of her work experience and technical skills, and view her blog, where she writes about interiors design.
“It’s so easy for me to send a URL to firms, rather than attaching or carrying pages of monotonous data,” says Parekh. “In fact, every time I complete a project, I immediately update the page so that my résumé always reflects all the work that I do.”
However, experts suggest that one should analyse their power area and then choose the medium where they want to showcase their expertise. “I believe blogging might not be for everybody,” says Malini Agarwal, celebrity blogger and founder at Missmalini.com. “It’s best to find the platform you are most comfortable with and then get really good at that. For example, if you are great at taking interesting pictures, perhaps create a public Instagram account that tells a story. Or if you are clever and like to interact with other people real-time, hop on to Twitter.”
In the age of cut-throat competition, while it is a strenuous task to manage the vast syllabus, experts say that a little effort put towards maintaining one’s digital presence can save them from exhausting job searches on job portals.
Saundarya Rajesh, founder-president of AVTAR Career Creators and FLEXI Careers India, says that LinkedIn, in particular, is a useful tool for students to connect with a potential employer. “It is not just about updating your profile with relevant experiences — one should make sure that they research well, study the recruiter’s profile and then send a personalised connection mail.” This can help them cut through all the clutter and get noticed by the employer.
Shetty of TheStylEdge says that it is very important to be regular and consistent with your posts and updates while maintaining your own portal. “The internet is full of people who are experimenting, so it becomes extremely imperative to be ahead of all the competition and remain in the public eye,” she says. “One needs to be creative and should have the courage to experiment with new ideas, as trends change every second.”
To manage both, she does a photo shoot for say, four outfits in a day and keeps posting them through the week to save time. This way, she only spends two days a week for photo shoots and an hour each at night blogging. When she has exams or important assignments, Shetty makes sure that she makes a few outfit-of-the-day posts to retain her followers. “It is difficult to manage studies and do this, but not impossible.”
For Sharma, his demanding job in an ever-evolving digital media industry has not allowed him to continue blogging, but he claims blogging alone helped him make his passion a primary source of income. “When I, along with two other student bloggers began Thehardtackle.com [a football blog], wrote about popular football teams abroad and also the little-known Indian football teams who didn’t make it to mainstream news. This added credibility to their blog and translated into internet traffic. We got more than 30,000 visits within a month, after just a few months of launching the blog.”
He says that if you are passionate about a particular subject, you would spend all your free time writing about or discussing it. So it doesn’t feel like any extra effort to take it to the next level.
Education counsellors agree that a digital footprint is always given more preference by the recruiters, and sets a candidate apart from other regular candidates. “Mostly, firms look for candidates who are inquisitive, researchers, analysers, gets along well in a team and can express and get themselves heard in a crowd,” says Pratibha Jain, a counsellor at Eduabroad Consulting. “Maintaining a blog doesn’t need any extra time, just your dedication. However, one should ensure that their content is original and fact-driven.”
Break the internet
*You can start your own blog or try one of the many social media platforms to show your interests and hobbies to your prospective employers. Follow these tips from experts:
*Find an angle to your blog that shows off your personality. Have fun, use your imagination and be genuine about your enthusiasm. It’s important to present yourself professionally, so have an appropriate profile picture — especially on more serious platforms such as LinkedIn.
*Tweet and re-tweet. Use it to spread the word about upcoming content. It will give people something to look forward to and comment on. Engagement is the key to social media. The more you re-tweet and share compelling content, the more people will follow and re-tweet yours.
*Be regular with your updates. To be in the public eye, one needs to constantly post interesting and creative content, and stay ahead of all the already existing competitive blogs.
*Ensure that there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors anywhere on your profile.
(Source: Malini Agarwal, founder of missmalini.com, Santoshi Shetty of thestyledge.com and Ishita Mehta, manager — HR at CoCubes, a Mumbai-based assessment and campus hiring platform)