Guest blogger Pat Gotham won The New York Intern Project competition sponsored by Affect. He discusses how social media got him the prize, as well as the role social media is playing in his summer in the Big Apple. Join his conversation on Twitter.

While in college at Salisbury University in Maryland, I did everything a typical college student does to secure a job for after graduation. This included attending countless workshops at Career Services, researching companies, tailoring my resume to each job, and writing separate covers letter for each application. Despite my best efforts, I didn’t hear back from a single company that I applied to.

It was discouraging because I knew this process relegated my résumé to each HR worker’s constantly growing stack.  I had no control, and it was becoming obvious that the traditional job search wasn’t working for me.

One day, I found a beacon of hope on LinkedIn. It was The New York Intern Project – a contest to find a summer intern for Affect. The contest would allow me to leverage my talents and Facebook friends to land summer employment in New York City. This was perfect for me! I could see my competition and monitor my progress through votes. Instead of listing references for Affect to call, I was able to rally the support of friends and family by having them comment on my profile. It was the most unique job application I have ever been a part of!

The contest came in three stages. First, contestants had to create an entry and gather enough votes to make the top six at the end of the voting period. This was no small task considering there were nearly 100 entrants by the time the first round ended. Next, judges evaluated the top six entries to whittle the competition down to three. Finally, the top three were brought to New York City for an intense day and a half interviews and activities with the entire Affect team. I advanced through each stage of the competition, and am proud to say that I won! As I moved through each round, I realized more and more about the value and power of social media.

Social media makes driving traffic to a website easy. At the end of the voting period, I received 795 votes and 45 comments. Without the use of social media, I would never have gotten to the next round of the contest. Each post on my Facebook page brought in views, comments, and votes because it was fast and easy to navigate to the page. Friends and family could vote and comment quickly then get back to their original tasks in only a couple of minutes.

Social media rapidly expands your network. I have a second cousin who is a former Mrs. United States pageant runner-up and current TV personality on ShopNBC. As a public figure, she has developed quite a following on social media. I was able to tap into her network with one quick Facebook message asking her to post a link to my contest profile on her wall. Within minutes, I was gathering votes from people I had never met simply because a celebrity recommended me.

Social media spreads news quickly. As I progressed through the various stages of the contest, I was able to post the good news on my Facebook profile and Twitter account. This allowed all of my friends and followers to comment, “Like,” and re-tweet the good news. It was shocking to see the overwhelming number of responses to my announcements!

Social Media got me a job. After a long and highly competitive contest that tested my social media skills, I landed a summer internship in New York City. I always believed that if I had the chance to show prospective employers what I can do, they would hire me. This contest confirmed that belief. Affect gave me a chance to tap into my social networks to illustrate my talents, my potential, and my work ethic. After continuing to demonstrate the qualities that helped me land this internship over the past several weeks, Affect offered me a full-time position to begin at the culmination of my internship in August.

Social media helps people around the world keep in touch. Now that I’m balancing a new job with living in a new city, it can be difficult to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Texting can become tedious, and I can barely find the time to talk on the phone with my family amidst all of the new people and excitement in the city. Luckily, all it takes is a quick scroll through my newsfeed and a few posts on friends’ Facebook walls to stay up to date on what everyone is doing and update them on my life.

Thanks to social media, I was able to find out about an opportunity to start my career, pursue it, and ultimately succeed, proving the power that these platforms hold. I’m excited to uncover more ways to use social media in my career and personal life as it continues to evolve.