It seems that every holiday, Aunt Suzie or Grandpa Pat asks, “So, what do you want to do with your life?” 

And if your answer always is,“I have no idea,” then this is the blog post for you.

It’s a question that plagues many millennials, and for the soon-to-be college grads and young professionals, the struggle is real when it comes to knowing where to even begin when looking for a job, let alone where to find this mythical "dream" job.  But what you might not yet know is that the answer is right at your fingertips.

How many times do you check social media a day? How many hours do you spend on Twitter and Instagram, or even Facebook? What about LinkedIn? The secret is, these are all incredible platforms you can be utilizing to find both a career direction that interests you, and connections with the right people to get you there.

Think about all the resources you have right on that little screen in your hands. There are a variety of blog posts and articles that focus on nailing the interview, landing the role, and succeeding at the job. You already have the start of a professional network of college alumni, professors, and previous employers on LinkedIn. And, there's tons of companies taking a modern approach to recruiting through videos and social content. Following an employee takeover on Instagram at a company you're eyeing, or reading a blog post on the day-to-day life of a data analyst or a marketing coordinator will help you decide if that career could be the right fit for you.

The best advice I got when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life post-graduation was to not just build my network, but to actually use it.

But you can’t use your network if it doesn’t exist. I’m sure you’re thinking, “I’m a student or young professional -- I don’t have a network besides my classmates, friends and family.”

You might be right, but the secret is, that is your network. Now, all you have to do is grow it. It’s simple: start following executives and professionals on social media that you inspire to be like. Engage with their content - if they posted a blog or an article on LinkedIn, comment on it. Write something thoughtful and business-savvy. Social media is the most available, accessible, and did we mention free networking resource out there. It allows you to start building a network, and enables you to then use that network to learn about industry trends, make professional connections, and to check out people’s resumes for job ideas and career paths.

Note: I’m not saying you should connect with every marketer or sales rep on LinkedIn, nor do you have to message them all asking questions about their work or industry. Pick a few people every day to connect with and follow along on their career journey. Get to know how they got to where they are today, and when you’re truly interested in one of the career paths you see, reach out and ask them questions that you haven’t learned already from their social media presence. Since you’ve already done your research, avoid boring questions like “What does a day in your life look like”. Use social media to dig into a project they recently completed or read that interesting article that they just posted. By using those details to start the conversation with that connection -- it will go a long way in getting your relationship started off on the right foot.

Once you’ve made that connection, ask for an informational interview, or even see if you can shadow a day in their office. This is the time to make observations or ask the questions you really want to know. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s the biggest stressor in this job, is there another path they wish they’d taken, what skills are important to hone for this job, etc. People love to share their journey and their advice to the younger generation, because at one point they were all in your shoes, and they all had someone that they reached out to during their job search.

Building your network as soon as possible will help you as you continue to grow in your life – these will be the connections you can turn to not only when you’re doing job research for your first job, but also when you need help on a project, advice on landing that great deal, or even making the jump to a new job or company in the future.

Networking is a two way street-- just because you’re young in your career doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to offer others – you can help them find interns, you can offer a different perspective, you can even offer your time and energy. Finding and nurturing these connections through social media is the key to finding the career of your dreams. It's all about how much time and effort you put in to building a professional social presence. No one ever said it was easy, but with all the resources of today right at your fingertips, it's no longer that difficult either. 


Originally published Apr 23, 2018 11:08:48 AM, updated January 19 2023