Telling your career story in a web 2.0 world

 

To understand the impact of web 2.0/the social web on careers work it is important to do some thinking about how the web 2.0 world will impact on our careers. This post is just a starter for ten, I suspect that there will be more.

Technology has recently made two things easy that until relatively recently were quite difficult. The first is accessing information while the second is maintaining contact with people. We are now in a position where we can easily find and access information in ways that would previsiously required not only a library, but also a librarian. Alongside this we have seen the cost of maintaining personal and professional relationships fall dramatically. I no longer need to buy all of my friends a drink every few months to stay in touch with them. In fact I don’t even need to buy a Christmas card any more. Facebook, Twitter et al have expanded my personal networks meaning that I’m in touch with people I would otherwise have lost touch with and that I can find, access and possibly even gain social capital from these people. The world is changing and this must have implications for our careers.

Career is a sort of story that we tell to ourselves and to others. It is a way of linking up our learning, our work and our values in ways that are meaningful to those telling and hearing the story. We tell the story again and again and we tell it differently to ourselves as we develop our own narrative – but we also tell it differently to others depending on why we are telling the story.

My father (who has lived all of his life in and around London) has recently moved to a Leicestershire village. He was talking to me the other night about how he finds it odd that everyone in the village knows each other. What is more they have known each other since childhood. This community embeddedness clearly limits the extent to which they can reinvent themselves. Career stories do not become fixed by connections to others, but they do become more stable.

Our journeys through life often provide us with opportunities  to move on, change the environment and resituate our narratives. Most of us don’t live our whole lives in villages and we often enjoy the freedom to reinvent ourselves that this offers. This is not to say that there are not benefits to being embedded in a community. Rather it is to note that the retelling our our career story is dependent on talking to people who haven’t heard it all before.
Hopefully it is fairly obviously what this has to do with the web 2.0 world. The availability of information about us and the extension of the reach of our professional reputation mean that we are likely to have fewer and fewer opportunities to tell our stories to people who haven’t heard at least some of it before. This is not to say that there won’t be a need for stories. In some wasy the availability of ever more information makes the need for the development of some kind of narrative structure within which we can interpret it even more important. The process of articulating your career becomes about helping people interpret the various facts that they encounter about you online.

Our careers are currently like a secret diary. We show them to others when we trust them or when we want to engage their interest, but increasingly our careers will be given digital form through our activity online. Our role then becomes to tell and retell our stories in ways that can engage the interest of others and draw them into a relationship with our career.    

It is worth swinging sideways into how this might impact on recruitment. Why would employers ask for CVs/applications forms when they can just Google you? Why would they want a partial story when they can easily gain a wider sense of your impact on the world from looking at who you are, who you know and what you say and do? The price of headhunting just got a lot cheaper and the dialogue between employers and prospective employees may have just got a lot more complex.

 

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