Service aims to build professionals

Select students at three post-secondary schools will soon have an extradigital component to their studies — they’ll learn how to build aprofessional online presence by melding their education, work and lifeexperiences with social media.

Select students at three post-secondary schools will soon have an extra digital component to their studies — they’ll learn how to build a professional online presence by melding their education, work and life experiences with social media.

This fall, Algonquin College and Carleton University in Ottawa and Toronto’s Centennial College are incorporating WhyHire.me as part of the curriculum in certain business classes.

The program, co-founded by Ottawa couple Andy and Patti Church, and Rob Saric, integrates coaching, branding techniques and social media tools to help students establish their online presence.

Part of that entails taking the traditional resumé and giving it a digital makeover. WhyHire.me allows users to integrate blogs, photos, videos, news feeds and Twitter along with their online resumés on one interface.

As an instructor at Algonquin, Patti Church said she saw there was a need to help students branch out beyond crafting portfolios and resumés. Part of that included adding technology.

“I was in a first-year marketing class teaching them about positioning products and services, and then basically looked at them and said: ‘You know, you have an opportunity to position yourself strategically over the next three years or you can sit back passively and assume the paper’s going to do the work for you,’” she said in an interview with Andy during a recent Toronto visit.

“The reality is the market’s changed and you need to think more strategically.”

The program includes eight hours of instruction that can be led by an instructor in-class or taken online. It covers what are described as the four Ds of personal branding: Dig Deep, Declare your Brand, Display Yourself and Deploy Your Brand. All the educational material is in digital format.

Helping to determine their personal brand involves having students analyze their strengths, achievements, passions and interests, said Patti Church.

“They have to ask themselves the questions and take the initiative to dig into ‘What makes me tick? What is it that gets me going?’” she said. “From there we add, ‘Well, now that you’ve done the research on yourself then how are you going to put yourself out there?’”

Regardless of what their future career will be, students have an opportunity to show initiative, demonstrate passion and leadership by having an online presence, following industry topics and commenting on them, said Andy Church.

In the context of being in school, that could involve blogging about projects they’ve done, he added, something he realizes for many students is “a big jump.”

“(Students) still think the old way, it’s a means to get an A or a B plus. They don’t look at it as an opportunity to create a digital asset,” he said.

“We envision the 21st century student as being someone who understands how to research using the web, how to drive agendas,” he added. “Whether you’re in policy or you’re in marketing, we see this is as a foundation set of skills.”

For $29, students can set up an account. Once in the system, they can access an e-book that covers the learning modules, and get access to presentation slides. The fee also includes hosting their profiles on WhyHire.me for 12 months.

Students are able to work privately on their profiles before opting to post them. Like Facebook, the site can be accessed anywhere, and has security settings that can allow only specified contacts to view their pages.

While both Centennial College and Carleton’s Sprott School of Business will be involved in trials of WhyHire.me, Algonquin is expanding to a larger rollout after piloting the program earlier this year.

Recent graduate Sarah Ormon was among the students involved in the pilot, and admits to some initial resistance. A job interview last winter where she was asked what she knew about blogging and Twitter helped lead to a change of heart.

“Up until that point it had kind of been a hypothetical,” said the 28-year-old. “That’s when the little green light went off in my head like, ‘I better get on this.’”