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Your advice for college students looking to work in tech?

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 7, 2010 08:12 AM

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I occasionally get e-mails from soon-to-graduate students asking how they can find a job in the local tech community... and I received one such note last week from a senior at Babson College.

I usually feel pretty ill-equipped to provide good advice; while I have a job covering the tech community, it has been a long while since I've dusted off my résumé and interviewed for jobs.

So what advice would you share with students, many of whom are now trying to make plans for June and beyond?

Here are five bits of advice I'd toss out, to get things started:

1. Show that you understand how to use social media — and that means something other than a personal Facebook page. Start a blog about a topic that interests you, create a Twitter account to share links about an industry sector you'd like to work in, or shoot videos of local events you attend and upload them to your own YouTube channel. For many entry-level employees, being a "power user" of social media will be one of the things that gets you hired.

2. Be clear about what you'd like to do for your first job. If you can focus on a role you'd like to have (software developer or public relations associate), and an industry segment or two that seem attractive (healthcare information technology or robotics, for instance), that will help people make connections for you. Meeting someone at a conference or cocktail party and saying, "I know Ruby on Rails and I'd like to work in healthcare IT" enables people to point you to companies and people most likely to hire you. Asking them to sit down for a meandering coffee conversation about your hopes and dreams is, (A) too much of an "ask" for many busy people, and (B) not likely to be as productive if you don't know what would be an ideal first job for you.

3. Go to the MITX Career Combine in Boston on April 13th. The goal of the event is to connect students and recent grads with great jobs at innovative companies.

4. If you're a future entrepreneur (or interested in working with start-ups), subscribe to e-mails or RSS feeds from local sites like Greenhorn Connect, BostInnovation, Xconomy Boston, and Mass High Tech. (And this blog, too, of course.)

5. Meeting people in person is such a better way to find out about new opportunities than monitoring Monster or Craigslist; you'll also get a chance to make an impression with smart questions or your knowledge of industry trends. So when you see tech executives speaking on your campus, or other local schools, show up and ask a question (even better: chat with them afterward.) Check out free events like Web Innovators Group and Mass Innovation Nights, or the company open house events run by the state's StartHere initiative or Innovation Open Houses (which I help to organize.)

OK, now it's your turn: what's some useful advice for students preparing to enter the tech job market? What worked for you?

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.
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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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March 3: Web Innovators Group
Demos, drinks, and schmoozing at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge.

March 7-8: MassDigi Game Challenge
Competition for aspiring game developers... plus panels and keynotes related to the business of play.

April 3-4: Mass Biotech Annual Meeting
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