You’re more than a business card or a Twitter handle

Angela Minicuci

The ability to network online is more prevalent now than ever and we should all be taking advantage of the many opportunities provided by the countless free services available. Your chances for connecting with colleagues online — past, present and future — are growing and expanding.

In my “spare” time, I’m an adjunct instructor at Michigan State University. Last semester, I had a former intern come in to talk to my class. She’s a great example of what a go-getter can accomplish at a young age. Angela Minicuci talked to my students about her college and professional career path. She delivered a fantastic message to the students about the importance of networking. It’s a message we all need to learn and then relearn from time to time.

Here are Angela’s tips, with some added thoughts from me:

  • Internships can give you experience that you can put in your portfolio and on your resume. (I would add that this goes both ways, because professionals who are supervising interns can learn a lot, too.)
  • Networking isn’t just shaking hands and exchanging business cards. Go to events, put yourself in uncomfortable situations and show people you can handle it. Establish a personal and professional relationship with them. (“It’s not personal, it’s just business” can be true, but being a person is important.)
  • You’re a real person, not just an email address. (I would urge all of you to forget that LinkedIn provides an auto-populated message when you try to connect with someone. Please personalize those notes!)
  • You’re always going to be a student. You always have to allow yourself to grow. (That’s part of why I made this blog post. If you stop learning, you stop growing and just become stagnant, both personally and professionally.)
  • Work hard, give to the community, network and be humble. (We all know people who work hard at their day jobs and then spend countless hours giving back to their profession and communities through volunteer work or donation of professional services. When you see these people going above and beyond the call of duty, give them a shout-out on a social network or take the time to stop and thank them personally. Volunteers don’t do their volunteering for recognition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like receiving it!)

All of Angela’s tips are great ones, whether you’re a student, a young professional or a seasoned pro. Learn, grow, share, rinse, repeat…you get the idea. Online or offline, with a personal notecard, a friendly e-mail or a shout-out on a social media site – get busy networking. The rewards are well worth the effort.

Has the Web explosion created a new Lost Generation?

The first Lost Generation is widely considered to be those who were wandering through a post-WWI world trying to come to terms with a new global reality unlike any seen before. It was the generation that includes infamous authors like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In more modern times, Lost Generation has been used to describe groups of younger people heavily impacted by an economic shock — the lost ones are those folks unable to jump right back into the ranks of the gainfully employed when the economy starts to turn around.

I’ve been thinking of another type of lost generation lately though — the students who graduated college in the early 2000s, a time period when the Internet was seen as the future but no one had a clue about how large a role it would play. I was having a discussion about this last night with my wife, Jessi, and two colleagues from work: Becky Johns and Angela Minicuci. Jessi could be considered part of this new lost generation to which I’m referring. A graduate of Ferris State University in 2003, she had classes on Web design and was certainly interested in the promise of a future that would involve the Internet in some way. Since then, she took her degree and her college experiences and built a solid career in public and media relations. Now, because of term limits in Michigan, she’s looking for the next step in her career as the senator she works for will be unceremoniously booted from office at the end of the year.

One of the frustrations she’s commented to me about is having to compete with students coming out of college who seem to have so many Web skills and who have probably had 10 times the opportunities she had in regard to Web design and interaction with the Internet.

Becky and Angela are good examples of this next generation of recent graduates. Just check out Angela’s online profile. She has six different ways for people to connect with her — six ways that didn’t exist when Jessi graduated from Ferris just a handful of years ago. Becky has a large personal and professional network for someone her age, and I’d attribute a lot of that to online activities via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Certainly things change over time and what we learn in college is never going to stay static. And to Jessi’s credit, she hasn’t been one to just sit and whine about the changes that have occurred. She’s involved in many of the same online services that Angela is. She has her face buried in a computer screen because of social media almost as much as I do. But as the Web-based world has grown exponentially, she’s been working to pay the bills and using her free time to try to keep up. In the meantime, young professionals like Angela and Becky have been growing up alongside the Internet. Now, it seems many potential employers see them as Internet natives whereas Jessi has to prove that, while not a native, she’s certainly a full citizen of the online nation.

What do you think? There’s no question I’m biased about this because of my relationship with Jessi. But has there ever been a time when a technology has affected a generation of relatively recent grads the way the Internet and social media are impacting the university classes of 2003?

(Jessi’s photo courtesy of Capital Gains.)