By Christina Jedra, USA TODAY College
Career services centers and word-of-mouth are great for learning about and pursuing job and internship openings, but taking advantage of online tools (with social media skills you already have from Facebook-stalking and live-tweeting award shows) can help you be five steps ahead of the pack.
As Amy Homkes-Hayes at the University of Michigan's Career Center put it recently: "The days of making everything online private are over, so I recommend students embrace the use of social media and the Internet in ways that positively showcase them."
Here are five tips for using the Internet to find internship and job openings - and make your resume rise to the top of the pile.
1. "Friend" your peers and co-workers on Facebook.
It makes sense to be hesitant about opening your social network to colleagues, but there can be advantages to Facebook-friending people you know in your industry. (Just keep the photo albums from spring break on a custom, private setting).
Belmont University senior Travis Ball stumbled across a job posting in his news feed, posted by a fellow student. He immediately inquired about it and is now interning as an audio engineer with a music producer in Nashville.
"Opportunities can come from anywhere," Ball says.
2. Be "stra-tweet-gic."
There are some great websites for finding internships and job listings in your industry, but many companies are also posting open positions on social media.
Andrea Torres, a junior marketing communications major at Emerson College, uses Twitter to her advantage.
"I usually search marketing companies in the Boston area and read their tweets or search #interns, #fallinterns," she says. "I've gotten my two best internships via Twitter."
Torres recommends following regional tweeters like @BostonTweet, who aggregate job opportunities.
"He always asks companies who's hiring and then posts all the answers," she says.
3. Blog your way to success.
In the professional world, showing your skills matters as much -- if not more -- than talking about them on your resume or cover letter.
Blogging is a great way to demonstrate your skills in writing, marketing, web development and SEO (search engine optimization, basically making your content rank high in web searches).
Brianna Vieira, a junior public relations major at Boston University, was offered an internship in part because of her blog, Little Boxes & Bows.
"When I was offered the position, [the internship coordinator] mentioned that part of the reason was my blog showed off my capabilities further than my resume experience," Vieira says. "That was important because where I interned is all about creativity and innovation."
Try Tumblr, Weebly, or Wordpress as free ways to create your blog or online portfolio.
4. Don't get LinkedIn-envy.
LinkedIn can be a great way to maintain a professional online presence, but it's also an easy way to get stressed out.
One minute you're proudly reviewing your accomplishments, the next, you're reading someone's profile with bulging eyes, wishing you were doing more.
Nora Bayly, an administrative assistant and social media expert at the University of Houston, says not to do this.
"Everyone has their own methods, educational background and determination to get where they wanted -- or sometimes weren't expecting -- within their career goals," she says. "It's important to stress that there is no mathematical formula to one's success."
Some tips for using LinkedIn effectively: Use your industry's key words, post a professional-looking headshot and ask former supervisors to write a recommendation.
5. Go big or go home.
When you want something bad enough, sometimes you have to pull out all the stops to get it.
When Mike Montano, a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, realized he wanted a job in social media, he asked himself: "What better way to get a job in social media than to use social media?"
He initiated a week-long social media campaign called Hire Mike and courted companies on his blog, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Vine and YouTube pages.
His multiplatform campaign worked when he got connected him with the company he currently works for.
"It was because I spread myself all over, and people were so helpful along the way, that I made all these crazy connections," he says.
Montano stresses that students should make their online presence a positive representation of who they really are.
"Keep in mind that whatever you say [online], it's an extension of your personality," he said. "Be true to yourself on social media because people can pick up on that."
Christina Jedra is a junior at Emerson College.