I get a lot of questions about learning social media, digital, and breaking into the industry. With more universities offering diplomas, certifications, and courses for social and digital media, the question is whether it’s worth your money.
My advice is always to use extreme caution.
The nature of the digital space is such that its in a constant state of change. Social is new; Facebook is nine years old and Twitter six. What’s the next disruptive social platform?
The point is social and digital evolves quicker than any industry – formal education doesn’t mesh with this space.
Professors develop curriculum long before courses take place. It goes against the real-time nature which makes digital and social so unique and exciting. Any course becomes outdated before it is taught.
While formal education isn’t a perfect fit for the industry, there are specific use cases. I’ll rattle off a few examples.
Skill Acquisition: If you’re looking to add specific skills, ie photoshop, illustrator… etc, formal courses make a decent fit. The important thing here is utility. Ensure you are learning tangible skills that transfer and are directly applicable to your goals.
Networking: Professional network development. As much as I hate networking, it is necessary. You have to ‘play the game’ no matter how fake and phony it makes you feel. This is something i’ve personally struggled with before because I find it exhausting.
The beauty of formal education is how it provides a rolodex of connections for the future. This is probably the only reason i would consider an grad school down the line.
Keep in mind building these relationships takes effort and is only worth it if you attend a globally recognized grad-school program.
Learn yourself. I personally take pride in self learning… you should too, but how does one do this?
Expose yourself to the social space, experiment on different social networks and research who is influential and innovative on these subjects. These are who you should learn from.
An easy example is by making a Twitter list with digital “thought leaders.” Read not just what they write, but what they read as well.
Everyone knows the spiel about how everything is free on the internets, i’ll save it and instead, point you to some resources i’m using to continually learn. Same knowledge, but without the fancy piece of paper.
Continue Reading →
School is starting to wind down. After a brutal week, I managed to get through the last two term papers of my illustrious UBC career. Classes end next week. One final separates me from freedom. My amateur hour undergrad is almost over. What happens next? That right there is a loaded question.
Soon I will be free from the burden of painful lectures, trivial exams and papers that I can barely get through reading in order to edit.
The so called freedom brings a future of uncertainty. The ability to use school as a scapegoat or excuse for why you haven’t accomplished anything yet is gone.
My amateur hour is almost up; the big bad real world beckons. This is great because now I can focus on the things that matter. Leading the charge is my internship at HootSuite.
The terms of my internship are 24 hours or three days a week. I will say that I look forward to every day I get to spend at work; I love it.
Work days I wake up giddy, much like a crew of pre-pubescent girls at a Justin Bieber concert. Days on campus have been brutal compared to days at the office.
The relief of classes ending means I can spend more time learning (wow that’s ironic). I plan on showing up to work every day, whether they like it or not. Why? I love it.
I have some exciting things on the go, my co-workers are awesome and I want to make the most of the opportunity.
At the end of the day I want what everyone else wants: fulfillment. I have a voice (perhaps a quiet one), I feel like I have something unique to contribute. I want to share. Basically I want to put myself in a situation to help people and inspire change.
Anyone miss being in school?
I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about goal setting. I remember back in CAPP class, we had to go through these garbage goal setting exercises that made me cringe. What a waste of time.
If anything, that experience deterred me from wanting to set goals. To be honest, since then the only goals I’ve set are in sport. I guess because sport consumed most of my life.
It never crossed my mind to think about lifelong personal goals until recently. What do I want to do? How am I going to do that? These questions scare the shit out of me.
This is when I started to think big. I’ve come up with some lofty goals that I won’t share now… They are ‘need to know.’
What I will say is how I am going to get there. Creatively working my ass off and investing my time and resources on things I care about and can control.
I’ve developed an interest in building communities around a brand. Social media is an amazing tool in this process. About six months ago, I made the decision to master social media. What the hell does that mean? I’m not sure either.
Nonetheless, I got on my grind reading everything I could all day until my eyes wouldn’t stay open. See you later school. I had a burning motivation to learn and felt like it was only a matter of time.
Last week, I started interning at HootSuite. For those unfamiliar, HootSuite (Vancouver tech start up) is a social media management dashboard. It lets you use and manage all your social networks from one page.
How did I get the internship?
Seizing opportunity combined with some fortunate timing (luck) and help from some amazing people. Three weeks ago at the IMgroup Meetup, I got the chance to hear HootSuite’s VP of Community, DaveO speak about five unique days in their company’s history. Each day represented a defining event for their company. The stories resonated; I admired their transparent and unique outlook on everything from day to day business to crisis management. I was drawn to their gritty hustling culture.
I put myself out there. At the Meetup, everyone gets a 30 second elevator pitch style intro to the group. I broadcasted my aspirations for an internship. My announcement was met with smiles from the crowd that turned to laughter when Dave responded with: “you can’t spell internet without intern.”
I sent Dave a message the following day asking if he wanted to go for coffee. He obliged and we met later that week. I had no idea what to expect, but I received some great advice from a few friends and family. I wanted to cover my bases, so I printed off my dismal resume and cover letter just in case.
I made my way to the given address expecting a coffee shop. Instead, I got the HootSuite offices. Damn! I was fiending coffee as always, what a cruel trick. I walked in, stumbled through a stack of 15 bikes and a friendly dog. Dave was sitting where you would expect a receptionist to be.
We talked for a while. The word internship kept coming up, but I wasn’t positive he was offering it to me until the end when he made it clear. I was ecstatic.
Moral of the story
Social networks are driving hiring decisions everywhere. Be cognisant, but most importantly, be yourself! Deception is not sustainable. Why waste time convincing anyone you are something you are not? This applies not just to employment but to everything. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.
I am now taking names at HootSuite three days a week. I just have to figure out how school, sports and blogging fit in.
If anyone has some time management suggestions, I would love to hear them.
Throughout social media week, I attended north of 20 events at places all over Toronto. I love exploring new cities; walking and street-caring made it pretty easy to get my bearings. Transiting from event to event allowed me to fully experience the city of Toronto in all its grandeur. After five days, I feel that I know the city pretty well. I learned a ton, what I want to touch on today is networking.
Through experimentation with “networking” over the last month or so, I am starting to figure it out. Practice makes progression (perfection is a fallacy). I’ve found through a lot of trial (and error) that I no longer have that same level of apprehension to approach people, whether it be an acquaintance or stranger. Social media week was the perfect medium to meet people. I met some awesome people in the process and even made a few friends.
See what works for me below.
Find a way in
The way to approach someone you seek to network with is to establish some common ground. This should be easy if they share a similar vocation or hobby. If time allows, I will quickly research via twitter. Profile and tweets are a good way to gauge personality but their pictures are even better. This literally takes one minute.
In my case, I have no problem approaching strangers at Social Media Week because we all share a common interest. I’ve found that people are very receptive to help, all you have to do is gather the courage to initiate.
What is your motive?
Something to ponder before you approach. What are you looking to get out of the conversation? For me, I am hoping to learn from my peers about how they got started in the social industry. What is there story? I honestly believe that everyone is unique and has an amazing story to share.
This is where Seth Rogen comes in. Once you have found some common ground to initiate a conversation, start picking their brain with relevant questions. Whether it is about where they work, what education they have or how they got started in the industry. If you are genuinely interested in talking to someone, these questions should come easily.
Share your story.
People love talking about themselves; it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy. Once a connection is established, don’t be afraid to tell your story. What are you doing currently? Where have you been and where are you going? Sharing a bit about yourself takes the engagement to another level.
Nothing to Lose!
I ask myself: what is the worst that could happen? We are hard-wired to develop relationships in order to build our proverbial tribe. Remember this. People are inherently friendly. A smile and eye contact go a long way.
Two way street
It is not all about you. Think how you can help them. Networking is about mutual understanding and benefit.
The other day I shared some of the new age self-education options that are out there. This will be a primer on my trip to Toronto next week for Social Media Week.
Hilarious hipster video was put out by the organizers of Social Media Week.
Social Media Week is a global event that takes place in several host cities from February 13-17. It consists of dozens of presentations, speakers and conferences on all things pertaining to technology, communications and social media. After the great experience I had attending a couple of events at Social Media Week Vancouver in September, I figured what better excuse to skip a week of class than go to Social Media Week Toronto (SMWTO).
My primary concern with investing time and money into an event like this is the added value. I have no doubt the content will be great and I will learn some useful skills. The other part of the value in my opinion is the relationship building.
I plan on using my newfound networking prowess to meet some movers and build some connections. For those concerned about my past business card fiascos, worry not, they are in production as I type. No longer will this guy be answering business card inquiries with embarrassing excuses.
The budget is another huge concern. I am a student with no income. However, with careful planning and frugal spending, I can make it work. The major expenses are: the event itself, accommodation and transportation.
The majority of events at SWMTO are free, friends were gracious enough to let me crash on a pull-out bed in their apartment and my flights are booked on Aeroplan miles. So far so good. Aside from a $61 service charge which Aeroplan was nice enough to sneak in to my ticket transaction, I will not have spent a dime upon my arrival.
Food is another concern. I enjoy eating good high quality food. Most of the events at SMWTO provide “light snacks and refreshments” before and after the entertainment. Not sure what that means, but I plan on taking full advantage of any complementary food; getting appie happy as much as possible. Perhaps even schmooze my way to a few lunch or dinner meetings.
I look forward to the coming week in Toronto. Aside from SMWTO, I am excited to re-connect with some good friends.
No doubt there will be some great stories for the blog as I continue to experiment with networking.
If anyone is in Toronto next week, drop me a line so we can meetup!
The cool thing about self-education is that it is a matter of choice. Everything rests firmly on the shoulders of the individual. There are no barriers to entry, applications or GPA restrictions. Desire and drive are two key necessities for mastery through self-education. Intrinsic motivation is an extremely powerful cognitive process. That is why self-education is 100% what you make it.
I wrote a bit in the past about my self-education efforts to date. These range from simply reading books to attending seminars and conferences on social media. Recently I have been getting a bit more creative with my education. I want to talk a bit about two different approaches I’ve been using in the hopes that some of you will be inspired to try them out.
Online Twitter Conversations
Twitter or social media may not be your thing. Hear me out.
If you have ever come across someone spamming your twitter timeline with a bunch of annoying random answers to questions followed by the same stupid hashtag, they are likely deep into a twitter chat. A Twitter chat is an online conversation hosted by an individual or company where a group of tweeters share insight on a pre-selected topic. The chat is structured by the host who provides questions, moderates and progresses the conversation from one question to the next.
The host often recruits an expert on the topic as their co-host. Free professional advice!
The chats take advantage of the hashtag search feature on twitter, allowing the conversation to be organized and followed in a linear fashion. The beauty of these conversations is the versatility. How else can a community of passionate contributors from around the world be assembled for an intellectual conversation?
There are twitter chats on just about every subject. You just have to do some digging and research to find the date and time.
I realize that some may see this conversation medium as impersonal and retarded. You are mistaken. I’ve been doing a few of these twitter chats per week. The diverse audience provides insight that you would never find in a real time conversation anywhere else.
A meetup is a group meeting organized online through social media on a specific topic. Like twitter chats, there are meetup groups for everything. Two weeks ago, I came across a message about a meetup called Internet Masterminds. Internet Masterminds is a meetup about marketing, social media, career and social networking. They have a guest speaker every week.
I showed up to my first #IMgroup meetup having no idea what to expect. Slightly less nerves while signing in compared to my last networking event. However, the nerves came roaring back when I was asked to make a quick introduction to the group. I have high threshold for pain, no fear of spiders or competition, but public speaking scares me. Public speaking in front of a group of 75 strangers is petrifying. I thought back to my grade eight public speaking class. Strike a power pose and make eye contact.
Somehow I managed to tell my story without too much stuttering. What a miracle.
I’ve been to two meetups so far. The most practical information I have learned about social media have come from these meetups. If you’re looking to learn about or meet people in an industry, a meetup is a perfect way to kill two birds with one rock.
The only issue with my self-education is my real education. Midterm week makes blogging tough.
Have you attended a meetup or twitter chat? Any creative self-education secrets for me? Post a comment!
This is a 500 word pitch on why you SHOULD get LinkedIn. Don’t be intimidated and don’t feel inadequate.
LinkedIn is a social networking site where you build connections (friends) and expand your network. I was late to the LinkedIn game, but am quickly realizing how valuable a medium it is for all aspects of relationships and networking.
It does not matter if you haven’t had a corporate job. My employment history consists of installing new driveways or lawns, and yelling at disengaged teenagers on a field. Doesn’t stop me (wait, can I call myself a blogger now?). I’m not granting permission to pepper your LinkedIn account with your Safeway shelf stocker job. Casually leave that part out of the equation for now.
Work the student angle. In the case where your vocation is non-existent, make sure the rest of your profile is stellar. Your profile picture should be a gorgeous headshot with the pearly whites on fine display. Think of the rest of your profile as a work in progress. Add one thing every time you log on, whether it is a new ‘skill’ or a new group. Try and log on once a day.
For the summary section, find a way to differentiate yourself from the riffraff; tell a story, display your autonomy and uniqueness. Complete the remainder of your profile in stages.
LinkedIn differentiates people by category (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc), denoting the degrees of separation between you and another person. When someone is a 2nd degree connection, it means at least one mutual friend. 2nd degree connections can be added by anyone. Extend the olive branch with a personal message.
LinkedIn does have a “get introduced by a friend” feature, where you can be connected to a second degree connection through a friend. This can be beneficial for scouting contacts and surveying potential business opportunities. It prompts you to send a quick message to your mutual connection, asking for an intro. This is like someone vouching for you. Be courteous and don’t outright ask for favours. The mutual friend must accept your intro request before the invitation is sent out to the scouted connection.
Don’t get caught up in adding everyone you may know as a connection. Unlike Facebook, absolute number of connections is arbitrary. I could have 1000 connections. It is useless if you haven’t built up a rapport and trust with each connection at one point or another. What good is having a connection that wouldn’t vouch for you? Meaningful connections where mutual benefit can be established are what make LinkedIn unique.
The average Canadian spends eight minutes per visit on LinkedIn, Facebook is triple. It does not require the real-time active interactions that Facebook or Twitter demand.
It will be interesting to see where LinkedIn fits into the greater landscape of social media. Some question the staying power. The fact that it does not command real-time interaction means less daily visits. Less visits cripples ad revenue and sponsored pages: two key revenue streams that fuel social media platforms. LinkedIn is going to have to get creative.
Perhaps you don’t need an account now, but in my opinion, you will at some point. Why not gradually familiarize yourself now, so you are not flustered registering later when someone asks for your LinkedIn info. Almost as faux-paw as a business card slip up.
Here is a good guide.
What do you think about LinkedIn? Can I call myself a blogger?
What follows is my first attempt at networking. Let’s take a peak.
A couple weeks ago, I came across a tweet from Trevor Turnbull promoting an event he was presenting at. Being familiar with his work I was intrigued at the chance to hear him speak as he is very much in tune with social media in sports. The event was called ‘Your Keys to Networking Success,’ by ‘Networking in Vancouver.’ Or NIV.
Talking to strangers is not something that comes easy for me. I used to see networking as shameless self-promotion involving all sorts of fake courting and interaction in order to peddle ones hidden agenda. Not exactly an optimistic view of humanity. Forgive me for my short-sighted ignorance, but that is how I felt. Despite the prevailing hypocrisy, I decided to register.
The day came a week or so later. I had to go directly from class on campus downtown to the venue. This meant a long, uncomfortably steamy bus ride on the 44. It was pouring rain and windy outside. As the bus driver was prodding us in like cattle, I suddenly remembered my prof last semester lecturing about how busy Vancouver busses were operation zones for frotteurs (use that word in a sentence to impress someone). Great. Standing room only. Between listening to my ipod and constantly shuffling with my phone I managed to spear about three people with my umbrella as the bus crashed to every stop.
This guy drives like an animal.
I got to the venue, walked in with my heart racing as nerves started to creep in. It represented a pretty big deal for me to step outside my comfort zone and go by myself to something like this. I was greeted by one of the organizers asking if I had a business card to put in the jar for the raffle prizes. Blindsided, I said something to the effect of: ” You know I don’t have any with me today,” could barely keep a straight face while I crafted that one. Crisis averted.
Now what do I do before this thing starts? Clearly I mistimed my arrival. To my dismay, a friendly face! I went over and we chatted for a bit. Natalie recently completed her MSc in sport management. Check out her blog here.
The NIV event consisted of six groups of speakers: some on their own, some in pairs. They preached a variety of different strategies for networking. I eagerly listened as they talked about personal branding, finding unique ways to differentiate yourself and positive networking. The content was great. After they spoke, there was a mandatory networking period where they encouraged people to… Network. Shit. Should I just bolt and go watch the Canucks game?
Despite the new knowledge, networking still is not as easy. Especially for an introvert like myself. I curbed my natural escape tendencies and managed to introduce myself to a few people, actually making an awesome contact in the process.
I can provide one suggestion. Motivated trial and error is extremely important in order to make progress at just about anything. I learned this playing sport, but networking is no exception. Yes Allen Iverson, we are talking about PRACTICE!
If you are like me and are shy around new people, I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone. Introduce yourself to a friend of a friend or a stranger. A smile is a start. Be yourself and be honest. Why be someone else? Why be Dishonest?
A good resource for introverts is this primer on networking for introverts.
NIV has some great networking events coming up.
Any good networking tips, resources or events I should know about? Any good sites to order business cards?
The other day I talked about the transition I am making from amateur athletics to a more career centered approach in social media. Today, I’m going to talk a bit about the cold reality of the application process.
The most important part of my self-education for a career in social media is an internship. While the idea of working for free is not something that I am particularly thrilled about, I am happy to do it in order to gain relevant experience and learn more about the field that I am passionate about and would eventually pursue a career in. That, and the fact that I have no formal education in marketing or social media and extremely limited applicable experience. Not exactly in a power position here.
Where does one find internship postings? Searches on Craigslist, Twitter and Monster gave me some decent leads as a starting point.
Next, I had to spruce up my resume. The fact that I had to scramble to even find it on my computer probably tells you the current state of said resume. The hectic training schedule associated with being an amateur athlete makes regular employment a bit tricky. While most of my friends went to school during the winter and worked in the summer, I took part-time classes at UBC year round in order to be able to balance school with the travel and training for Field Hockey. This is also part of the reason why I’ve only worked as a coach or in manual labour. Is that a cop-out? Nevertheless, I feel this is a common issue that many athletes face.
So with my resume freshly updated, it was time to start thinking about a cover letter. Much to my chagrin, my sister was kind enough to assure me that you need an entirely separate cover letter for each job you apply for. Cover letter’s are meant as an opportunity to make the ultimate creative pitch to an employer. AKA blow as much smoke as possible, but keep it to one page. Seems like a cocktail of corporate buzzword mumbo-jumbo with a dash of neuroticism is the recipe for success.
As a way to use my self-proclaimed social media prowess in order to write the best cover letter, I turned to Quora (awesome site) and Twitter. Quora is like the Google effect on steroids. You type a specific question and industry professionals answer. The Quora search gave me some great tips and info from supposed “experts”. Susan the ‘Career Counsellor’ got the highest rating from users for her spiel on cover letter secrets; she must be legit. Good enough for me. Armed with a template draft for a cover letter, I started applying for internships.
Then… I randomly found an awesome website through the UBC AMS Society. Apparently they have an internship coordinator for students… Who knew? I met with the coordinator and sent her my resume and a cover letter. She goes over your info and applies to internships on your behalf. Highly recommend this for students. Also recommend you follow @YouTern on twitter. They post internships to places all over North America daily.
Few moves made. Couple of developments in the works. The wheels are in motion as they say.
Any good resources for internships or writing cover letters? Holler.