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Guest Post: On The Importance of Finding Your Voice

We’ re on a roll with fantastic guest bloggers, and so this week we bring you Megan Wolleben.  Megan is an Assistant Director at the Bucknell University Career Development Center and manages all the social media and student marketing for the office. She also hates the word “commence.”  To connect with Megan, check her out LinkedIn & Twitter 

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In the spirit of authenticity and finding your voice, the pic for this post is Megan Wolleben herself, just being herself.

We say it all the time, “just be yourself.” Whether we are prepping students for interviews or career fairs, it seems to be our mantra:  “just be yourself.”  And it’s just as important for those of us in Higher Ed to remember:  just be yourself.

If 2012 was the year of #yolo, 2013 seems to be shaping up to be all about authenticity. In a world of self-publishing, sharing itty-bitty details of your life, and Instgramming your every bite it is no surprise that being authentic has come to be the number one rule of marketing. But what does being authentic have to do with higher education and, more specifically, career services? The answer in two words: a lot. We are dealing with an audience that doesn’t always want to hear our message, and yet we are dealing with messages worth hearing.  Perhaps students aren’t ready to talk about career, maybe we sound too parental, or maybe they fell asleep while listening to us drone on about “the importance of real world experience,” – just say internships! How many times have you felt like the teacher from Peanuts “wah-wah-wah”?

Blogs, and social media in general, allow for an authentic voice and I think it is really important that we (higher education professionals) use these mediums to find ours and take advantage.  Not only because we will have more fun doing it but because when it comes to influencers, online blogs rule.  Technorati’s “2013 Digital Influence Report”, revealed that blogs are some of the most powerful influencers, above Facebook and Twitter.  Although Technorati’s study was aimed at marketers and brands we can relate the information to us –we are still talking about behavior. Behavior that causes someone to visit a blog about a product is the same behavior that will cause someone to look for a blog about job searching or interviewing (i.e. career services) and wouldn’t it be nice if they found yours … and liked it!

We need to let our hair down and be human.  We need to be engaging in how we say things.  We need to find our style, our voice. What we have to say has not changed, but the only way students are going to listen is if we say it in a more fun way. I know it’s tough getting old and out of touch with the younger generation but don’t be afraid to use the cultural references that you know.  I once wrote a post about our “steps to success” series workshops with the title “Teach Me How To Dougie,” and yes I do know how to dougie.

We are no longer held to that (somewhat) stuffy university voice of old – the one that wears tweed jackets (nothing against tweed – I love a good elbow patch!). If you can’t remember what that voice was watch an episode of Downton Abbey and you will remember.  Blogs, social media, the world – they are all working to change the common voice and the old voice of higher education needs to change with it; we need to change with it.

I can be the first one to tell you that being witty every day can be challenging, and I’m not suggesting that you must do it every day. All it takes is an occasional display that we remember that we are talking to students, many of which are under 20 years old, who will grow up to thank us for teaching them metaphysics or how to dress for an interview but first really just want to discuss the fact that Bucknell was mentioned on Pretty Little Liars!

It can be exhausting to try to keep up, and I’m not suggesting we start watching Pretty Little Liars every week. I definitely think you need to be true to yourself, and, here is where I tie it all back to my opening line “just be yourself,” be authentic. I am a self-proclaimed dork and the students that read our blog know this.  I profess my love for NPR about once a week. I don’t try to deny that.  I embrace it. When I watch a movie and some aspect reminds me of career advice you better believe I’m going to write a post about it.  And just so you can mark your calendars: on June 7th Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn will be staring in a movie called “The Internship.”  I am already following the movie on Twitter and on Facebook!

To be heard we need to be culturally relevant and one thing that helps is taking your life and what is happening in the world, mixing it all with a bit of pop culture and adding in some career advice! So don’t be afraid to find your voice and start using it.

And if you haven’t realized it by now – my title was meant to be ironic!

For more on blogs & influence, check out: http://blog.sysomos.com/2013/03/11/when-it-comes-to-digital-influencers-blogs-rule/

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