Are Social Media Skills More Important than a Degree?

Are Social Media Skills More Important than a Degree? 150 150 Kerry Butters

Conventional wisdom has it that, just by getting a degree you show you’re ready for the real world – having made it through three or four years of lectures, and completed something challenging.

Not these days, though.

Increasingly, what matters is getting degrees in fields requiring exact knowledge (like law, medicine, or engineering), or that leave you with an exact skill-set (like education, science, and sometimes business).


The Master’s Way

A master’s degree has a distinct way of preparing students for the working world. Postgraduate studies build on undergraduate skills like time management, self-discipline and working to deadlines.

Postgraduate study can also be about changing direction, or location – which can lead to greater employment opportunities.

The ultimate goal is to walk into the workplace as a professional, rather than a graduate or intern.

Internment, more like…

But, especially in the US, companies large and small are living off university students who’ll work for unpaid internship credits. Firms don’t really need to hire and pay for entry-level positions – which can cut graduates out of the mix, entirely. Why pay for recruits, when you don’t have to?

The sad fact is, when you graduate, you could be in the same position as someone who hasn’t gone to college and may – through their own experience and use of social media – be a better prospect than you are.

The Social Alternative

So, what kind of jobs can you walk into, and with which social media skills?

1. Marketing and Public Relations

  • Detail-oriented
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Project management
  • Self-starting/self-motivated
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Microsoft Office
  • Digital marketing
  • Product development/management
  • Business development

2. IT

  • Hypertext markup language (HTML)
  • Website development
  • JavaScript
  • Detail-oriented
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
  • Oracle Java
  • Software development
  • Structured query language (SQL)
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Project management

3. Sales

  • Sales experience
  • Self-starting/self-motivated
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Microsoft Office
  • Work ethic
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Goal-oriented
  • Work independently
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Business development

4. Human Resources

  • Microsoft Office
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Sourcing strategies
  • Detail-oriented
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Applicant tracking software (ATS)
  • Self-starting/self-motivated
  • Project management
  • Organisational skills
  • Work independently


Getting the Skills

Natalie Burgwin, senior public relations manager for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has a hit list of skills to be applied across the social media board.

1. A sense of humour

Customers want to talk to real people, so posts should be fun and light-hearted, whenever possible. Even complaints can be handled with a little touch – if you’re clever about it.

2. Display common sense

Social media requires knowing how to handle a variety of interactions on different platforms. Don’t waste time and energy on stuff unrelated to your business. Know when to comment, and when not to.

3. Use filters

Think about how your messages could be interpreted by (diverse) others.

4. Grammar and style matter

Every message you send represents you, or your organisation. So, take the time to proof-read. And use a spell-checker. Strive to be topical, but not predictable.

5. Manage your time

Focus only on sites that fit your business best. And give them attention, every day.


Sell Yourself!

Here’s how to do just that:

1. On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

  • Set up a good profile. It’s common for potential employers to check out your Facebook profile before they decide to interview you.
  • Manage your privacy settings. When an employer looks you up, they should see only your picture and some key information about you.
  • Make sure your photos show your best side. As in, no drunken revelry, or bunny costumes.
  • Maximise your number of Friends or Followers. Many marketing jobs need a Facebook media manager and will ask how many Facebook friends you have. Stay active and favour your friends’ Tweets, or like their Instagram photos.
  • Create a fan page, where relevant. Promote your talent or skill. Spread awareness about your work and update your fans.
  • Have an account. Avoid that awkward moment where potential employers ask for your Twitter or Instagram username, and you don’t have one.
  • Think before you Tweet. Keep it appropriate, even if your privacy settings are high.
  • Think before you post a photo.  (See “bunny costumes”, above)

2. On LinkedIn

  • Maintain your profile. LinkedIn is a professional network, so you’ll need an active one. Update often, and make sure to include all of your experience.
  • Be careful. Avoid adding perfect strangers to your network. Stick to people who share several connections with you.

3. Elsewhere

  • Network in person. Whenever you meet someone who can help advance your career (and if it’s appropriate), be friendly and personable – and exchange contact information.
  • Network with Alumni. Join any (school or university) alumni networking sites to increase your chances of finding a connection who can help you find a job.
  • Work the room. Listen, to the views of others. Share their views, as appropriate. Respond courteously and promptly to feedback.
  • Be patient. It takes time, to build relationships – and that’s what social media skills are all about.

And Remember…

Professional use of social media includes networking in your particular industry, reading up on trends, sharing related content, and gaining the interest of others. What you do in your personal life should (generally) be kept entirely separate.