A robust social media presence will give students a leg up in the job market, says a branding expert

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That Instagram and Snapchat photo, the Facebook post and ­Pinterest pin? Just think of them as an online job interview.

It’s never too early for young people entering the workforce to start thinking about their brand, students attending a networking conference were told Wednesday.

Social media, checked by prospective employers, is a clear ­indicator of the type of person, and employee, you may be, said ­Bobby Umar, president of ­Raeallan, a Toronto training and speaking ­company.

“It is about building a brand about yourself, about thought leadership,” said Umar, who gave the keynote address at the Student 2 Business event.

“People will stand out for what they say and do. Imagine a 21-year-old, third-year university student who has blog posts on financial ­markets. That would be ­amazing.”

Umar’s message to students was clear. They need to build their ­personal brand using online ­media, because that is where employers will look.

If an employer Googles a ­prospective hire and finds they don’t have a LinkedIn page or their Face­book is private, that is not good, he said.

“Their brand should always be evolving,” he said of students.

The conference at the London Convention Centre drew more than 700 students from Fanshawe College and Western University and representatives of about 100 businesses, many of which are hiring.

Information about finding a job was a focus. Students had the ­opportunity to attend sessions on starting a business and understanding the local economy.

Kapil Lakhotia, chief executive of London Economic ­Development Corp., said one of the goals of the annual networking ­conference launched eight years ago is to keep young workers in the city by making them aware of job ­opportunities.

Some of the business reps wore buttons saying I Am Hiring, an ­indicator they’re looking for workers immediately.

The hunt is becoming more difficult because a strong economy has pushed down the unemployment rate to 5.8 per cent.

“Talent remains a key issue ­industries looking to fill niche ­positions,” Lakhotia said.

“This offers employers a chance to mine talent at an early age.”

Some of the sessions

How to unleash your entrepreneurial spirit: How to launch a business in London

International students: Designed for individuals in London on a study permit

What would an HR expert say?:

A panel of human resource representatives shared tips

Winnie Corvera, Western University political science student

“I’m here today to learn about working skills. I’m looking in the government or marketing sectors, but mostly I am looking for advice now.”

Orlando Alberto, Fanshawe College finance student

“Every single business event you can go to is really great. You get experience about meeting people and networking.”

Mihai Kawai, economics student, Huron College

“I’m looking for a job and this event is tailored to students and all the information is conducive to students getting a job. It is for recent graduates.

Jessica Eray, Western University political science student

“I want to get to know what businesses have to offer. I’m not looking for a job, but I want to get to know what businesses are here, and how to network.”

What others said

Shauna Rae, marketing and communications specialist, ZTR Controls: “It’s a lot like speed dating, putting students and business together. It’s great networking here also so other businesses know about us.”

Kaitlyn Apfelbach, human resources manager Voices.com: “We have 95 people (and) we want 130 by the end of the summer. We are trying to recruit new graduates in our sales and marketing sector.”

Laurie Lashbrook, owner, Lashbrook Marketing and Public Relations: “It’s about getting your name out there in front of potential employees, new grads. . . . We are looking for people with digital skills for social media and online marketing.”

Susan Honderich, director of talent acquisition and human resources, Startech.com: “Its a great opportunity to network. It’s an opportunity to help students and give them tips on finding a job. We have hired from this event.”

Source: London Free Press

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