Social media may lead to jobs

By Contributing Writer

By Elizabeth Earl, Contributing Writer

Networking through social media may be the 21st century method of job hunting, according to several media experts.

During Social Media Week, a worldwide celebration of online networking from Sept. 24–29, several seminars around Chicago were devoted to discussing and exploring various social media outlets. At a Sept. 26 event hosted by DePaul University, a group of employers, entrepreneurs and the public gathered to discuss the importance of social media in the workplace.

“The one way that I believe social media can create social good is to facilitate social good,” said moderator and DePaul adjunct faculty member Douglas Miller.”

Much of the conference focused on the importance of building an online presence through the development of a portfolio.

“All [social media] is a scalable way to leverage our relationships to better our lives,” said Regan Caruthers, vice president of, an online portfolio host.

According to an August study by the Pew Research Institute, 20 percent of the U.S. adult population uses LinkedIn, a professional social networking website frequented by both job hunters and employers. The site functions as an online resumé and portfolio host for users to make connections with coworkers and other professionals.

One of the biggest benefits of social media is the change in how employees fill positions, according to Jordan Ho, a digital strategist for Chicago-based promotion company Zócalo Group. Ho explained it has transformed the classified advertising system to one in which employers directly contact people to fill positions.

“At some level, the social media is there to humanize the resumé,” Ho said.

Megan Gebhart, who works for the freelancer social website, spoke about how networking sometimes gets a negative connotation when users do it simply to obtain contacts or resources, which doesn’t facilitate relationships.

“I always make sure I have a genuine interest in my contacts,” Gebhart said.

Social media can widen the lens for employers, but Celena Masek, a sophomore graphic design major, said she was wary when she was contacted by a possible freelance employer through Talent Pool, Columbia’s website for

student portfolios.

“One thing students have to be careful [about] is what people are fielding for them,” said Masek, who turned down the job because she felt uncomfortable meeting a man she didn’t know.

One important aspect of online portfolios and social media is the ability to constantly keep them fresh, updated and professional, according to Julie Ford, a creative industry liaison at Columbia’s Portfolio Center.

“We want to make sure that everyone has the tools to have professional online presence,” Ford said.

She added that Columbia partners with several websites to provide students with ways to develop and establish their independent work online. Portfolio host, Talent Pool and Columbia Works all have connections to possible employers.

The panel emphasized that relevance and availability are critical to developing an online presence.

“I think it’s key to know your audience,” Gebhart said. “If you say you’re open to anything, they won’t know if you’re passionate about anything.”

Gebhart shared an anecdote about her blogging project, “52 Cups of Coffee,” which used social media to find a different person every week and connect for a cup of coffee, either in the real world or via Skype. The blog helped her create an online presence that made her easy to find, she said.

The conference concluded with an opportunity for audience members to network with one another.

“If you’re not [on the Internet], you’re not relevant,” said Neil Cox, executive officer of Repio, a company that helps people manage their online personas. “[Social media] is going to change the way people hire. People can create images that help them get ahead in life.”