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Business course proves power of social media in job market

Lessons learned from business course help Alex Gibson and Jessica Penton land jobs.


By Jennifer Kelly

If you still believe the only way to land a job is through a cover letter and resumé, you're behind the times, according to Lyle Wetsch, associate professor of marketing, Faculty of Business Administration.

Prof. Wetsch says social media is the key to finding a job after graduation and he's got proof: two of his students, Alex Gibson and Jessica Penton, used tools learned from Wetsch's Business 6240 Channels and Internet Marketing course to secure jobs.

In Business 6240, Prof. Wetsch teaches students how to develop their personal brand and deploy it across five social media channels: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and YouTube.

Prof. Wetsch says the assignment is about teaching "real-world business skills that students can use years after graduation."

He also says the assignment is about teaching "skills that create a starting point for a personal brand that can be enhanced and developed over the student's entire working life.

For YouTube, students had to create a personal branding video – an online positioning pitch. The assignment presented an opportunity for Mr. Gibson. He had interviewed for a position with Essential Coding but felt the interview didn't highlight the best of his abilities.

"I knew I had limited time to make a big impression," explained Mr. Gibson. "So I decided to create two YouTube videos: one for the assignment and a second one specifically targeted to Essential Coding."

Mr. Gibson pitched the video as a testimonial of himself and why the company should hire him. It worked. After viewing his video, the company invited Mr. Gibson in for a second interview and was hired.

"This is owed in part to this course," said Mr. Gibson. "It gave me the opportunity to promote myself in a way a resumé could not."

When Ms. Penton placed the link to her personal brand video on LinkedIn, she had no idea it would land her a job.

"Recruiters from zedIT Solutions (zed) found me on LinkedIn, viewed the video I had completed for the course and emailed me out of the blue to see if I'd like to interview for their marketing specialist position," explained Ms. Penton.

She completed the interview and was hired shortly afterward. Ms. Penton says the experience also made her realize that social media isn't just for fun.

"Even though we all use social media, many people aren't aware it can also be used to find job opportunities."

Ms. Penton also says social media presents an opportunity to brand your message to employers.

"In Business 6240, we took control of social media tools and made them reflective of our personalities. Through my video, zed got a sense of who I was and realized I would be a great fit for their company. This is something a simple cover letter and resumé cannot do."

Prof. Wetsch is not surprised.

"A significant number of employers are hiring candidates based on their online social presence," he said. "In fact, 70 per cent of employers are rejecting applicants who do not manage their online social presence."

According to Prof. Wetsch, it's a sign that traditional recruitment methods are becoming extinct.

"Today's employers are using social media sites to search out prospective employees and are hiring candidates based on their online social presence; companies are becoming their own head hunters through social media."

In the fall, the faculty will be splitting Business 6240 into two courses. One course will focus on a variety of digital marketing channels and will be of interest mainly to business students. The second course will be an expanded offering of the personal branding assignment entitled Personal and Business Branding with Social Media and will be offered as a special topics course and will appeal to all students at Memorial, with no prerequisites required.

Mr. Gibson says the course not only helped get him the job, but that it was also "the most relevant course I completed in five years."

Ms. Penton agrees.

"Developing my personal brand and learning to understand social media was one of the most valuable concepts that I took from my entire degree -- best of all, it paid off with a job!"