Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

To the Class of 2018: Be the Creators

Class of 2018 Header
Written by Dr. Josie Ahlquist, Mallie Rust (‘18 University of Texas, Austin) & McKenzie Magnus (‘18 Southeast Missouri State University)
Congratulations to the class of 2018! You may be finishing your undergraduate degree, your masters or doctorate, or you might even be just finishing your high school career. No matter what kind of diploma you’re grabbing across that stage, you’re probably thinking about life after graduation. I hope this post will connect with whatever life path you are on at this point in your post-grad life.
I try to write a post to the graduating class every year (sorry class of 2016!) and each year I try to focus in on something new with social media and using your degree. In 2014, I focused on using Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogging to make yourself a triple threat on the job search. 2015 was all about going beyond the platforms and taking a deep dive into your digital brand. Last year’s post emphasized ways to be more creative and resourceful as your career advances.
So that brings us to 2018. More and more colleges are actually incorporating digital reputation advice into their curriculum and career services; about time! Unfortunately, that means that having and updating your LinkedIn isn’t enough to stand out. Employers aren’t just looking for people, they’re looking for passion and a point of view.

That’s why it’s more important now than ever to be a creator of content, not just consumer.

To help you get #hired and #inspired, I’m sharing four tips to help you on your path to becoming a creator that can translate into your job search, applying to advanced degree programs, and even building your own business/brand.
Think of it as your creator’s roadmap. In this post, I’ll explain how to do a content inventory, remix and repurpose, show your work, and find your community.

1. Do a Content Inventory

You’ve spent the last two-to-four years honing your craft through classes, internships, projects, and campus involvement opportunities. In order to get where you want to be in the future, I suggest taking a look back. Yup, get scrolling on your own content.
Take a minute and think about the projects that fascinated you the most. Think about the topics you discussed in classes that only left you with more questions. Think about the most rewarding thing you did in your internship.
What you might not realize is that you already have a vast library of content just waiting to be shown off to the world. Those classes, those topics, and those internships are all places you can mine for content ideas. Heck, you’ve got hundreds of papers, presentations, projects, products, and more (hopefully) saved on your computer. They’re all content just waiting to be shared!
While you’re looking through the work that you’ve produced, ask yourself these questions:

  • What questions came up while I was working on it?
  • What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were working on it?
  • How was your approach to solving a problem unique?
  • Is there a simpler way to tell the story of the project?
  • How have things changed since you created it?
  • Is there new information that challenges the central idea of it?
  • How could you do the same thing better today?

The answers to these questions are a great springboard for new content that you can create. Part of being a creator rather than a content consumer is the ability to think critically about a piece of work and explore new perspectives about it. Start with your own work. You might be surprised at what inspires you.
Sabrina Cruz (AKA NerdyAndQuirky) is an amazing example of this! She turned her fascination with history into an amazingly produced Twitter series called Cool History. I love how passionate Sabrina is in all her videos, and she uses that same passion to share “some of the most morbidly interesting, outright inspiring, or just plain strange stories that the world has ever seen.”

2. Remix and Repurpose

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that there’s nothing more intimidating than a blank page. That’s why I suggested step one. Look for work that you’ve already done that someone else might find value in, then think about ways to remix it. What if you shortened that 10 page paper into a LinkedIn article? How about turning it into a podcast?
The best part is that you don’t have to write an ebook or develop a full-fledged podcast series right away. You can start small. I mean, think about Vine: people told entire stories in 6 seconds. I challenge you to take the project you’re most proud of and turn your biggest takeaways from it into tweets. Employers love seeing people who can take big ideas and express them clearly in 240-characters-or-less.
Let me give you a real-world example: my dissertation. After all of the hours and hard work that I put into it, I didn’t just want to leave it behind, but I knew that 525 pages of digital leadership knowledge were not the easiest thing to consume. That got me brainstorming, which led to a few blog posts. The first one was simply a way to amplify the actual dissertation. First, I live-streamed my dissertation defense, a fifteen-minute presentation that highlighted my findings. Later on, I shared a condensed overview of my dissertation on my blog, a link to the full thing, and the slides I used for my defense.
I didn’t stop there though. I realized that other students and researchers might be interested in not just what I found, but how I found it. That’s what inspired my article about how to qualitatively analyze Instagram posts. That’s probably my biggest tip for remixing: don’t just stop at the “what.” Think about the “how” and “why.” Tell people why your project is so important. Give them an insight into your process or advice about the process, especially if you went about things in a unique way.
Five years later, I created a series of graphics and posts to celebrate the 5 year anniversary of becoming Dr. Josie Ahlquist. Instead of focusing on my dissertation, I wanted to give my advice on getting through the process while staying sane. My dissertation tips were some of my most popular posts on LinkedIn and Twitter, and all it took was 20 minutes in Canva.
Find quotes from your work and turn them into visuals. Take your work and translate it to a new medium like video or audio. Get creative and you’ll find that your work can survive and thrive outside of MLA or APA format.

3. Show Your Work

A big part of your digital reputation is what shows up when employers search for you online. When you search yourself, what are the first three things that show up? For me, it’s my website, my Twitter, and my LinkedIn page.
Google loves LinkedIn, Twitter and a website/blog with your name on it. The more that you update those platforms, the higher they’ll show up in search results. Basically, creating content and posting it has the added bonus of making you and your content more visible.
It’s more important now than ever to create and cultivate online spaces where you can share your work and experiences. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry! I’ve created this handy chart with a few examples:

Blogging Video/Audio Portfolio/Website Other
WordPress YouTube Weebly Pinterest
Medium Periscope Wix Slideshare
Tumblr SoundCloud Squarespace Behance
Blogger Twitch About Me LinkedIn
Squarespace Musically WordPress GitHub

One thing you may have noticed in that list is the portfolio section. While many design and advertising programs emphasize creating a portfolio, they’re not just for people who produce visual work. Everyone, from engineers to English majors, can create a killer portfolio. For examples of what to include, I highly recommend checking out Brooklyn Resume Studio’s article on developing a digital portfolio.

4. Find Your Community

Being a creator isn’t easy, even if you’ve been doing it forever. I can’t count the number of times I’ve battled writer’s block or gotten frustrated when a design just wouldn’t come out right.
The one thing that keeps me going and continues to inspire me to create is the community that I’ve found online and IRL. Communities are sources of news, knowledge, discussion, and support. Best of all, there’s a community for just about anything! Here are just a few places where you can find your community:

  • Mentorship Programs: If you have the chance to join in on a mentorship program, I highly recommend it. Your mentors can serve as a point of connection to a wider community and introduce you to other people and groups. Reach out to past bosses and professors. They’re an important part of your network, and most will be happy to help you!
  • LinkedIn and Facebook Groups: These groups can be excellent sources of information and networking opportunities. In fact, there are even groups specifically focused on connecting you with job opportunities! Inc has some excellent tips for finding these groups here.
  • Slack Channels: Plenty of businesses use Slack for internal communications, but did you know that you can use it to connect to communities outside of work? Alex Kistenev put together an insanely comprehensive list of open Slack channels, which you can find here.
  • Twitter Chats: If there’s a niche, there’s probably a Twitter chat for it. Twitter chats are online discussions centered around a particular topic that anyone can join in on. To find one (or several) that appeal to you, check out Kneaver’s Twitter Chat Directory.
  • Meetups: Meetups are the perfect way to find a community IRL, not just online. There are meetups for just about every job and hobby you could think of. Some online communities will post meetups in their groups or channels, but I recommend checking out meetup.com to start. Alumni groups and professional organizations like PRSA and the Young CPA Network will also often hold meetups, so make sure to check those out.

Once you’ve found your community, take it a step further and really start participating in it. See, one of the most important parts of being a part of a community is that it’s reciprocal. Others are there to help you, but they also need your help. Don’t just stop at finding your community. Find ways to help build your community.
Remember what I said earlier about your knowledge being valuable? Answer people’s questions. Give people support. You can even give tips and advice that you’ve discovered along the way. People remember other people who help them out. You might be surprised at what doors open for you when you hold doors open for others.

Final Thoughts

One of the most powerful tools that you have at your disposal is your voice. Class of 2018, I challenge you to use your voice, even if it shakes. I challenge you to become the creators. If you’re not a member of the class of 2018, be sure to pass this post on to the grads that you know.

I want to leave you with some motivation from one of my all-time favorite content creators, Lily Singh:

Lily is right. You will succeed. Now go and create!
–> Did you know I LOVE to empower college students to be content creators, influencers, and leaders? To learn more about my student leadership programs explore my program here and reach out here to start the booking process!

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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