Career practitioners’ conceptions of social media in career services

I’ve just read a really interesting article by Jaana Kettunen,  Raimo Vuorinen & James P. Sampson Jr discussing the conceptions of social media in careers services in Finland. The article is published in the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling and is well worth a read. However as some of you won’t have access to it I thought I’d try and summarise.

The researchers talked to 15 careers practitioners about their understanding of and ideas about social media in careers work. The practitioners were chosen because they were competent internet users, but were not early adopters of social media. The practitioners were interviewed in focus groups and then the transcripts were carefully analysed.

The researchers found the following five positions about the utility of social media for careers work.

  • Unnecessary. Social media adds nothing and may undermine the core guidance relationship.
  • Dispensable. Social media may be a passing fad. It might be important for people to help them to build and maintain contacts but it is not a way to deliver career services.
  • Possibility. Social media might be important, but it is unclear how it can be best used.
  • Desirable. Social media is important. It may require us to change the way that career services are delivery and this might be a good thing.
  • Indispensable. Social media is very important. It enables career services to be reframed around the needs and interests of the service user.

Each of these different positions was articulated through different views about the nature of social media, where it should and should not be used, the level to which it threatened or challenges existing careers practices and the role of the practitioner. A crude summary might be to say that the less enthusiastic about social media the person was, the less likely they were able to see a role for it in guidance and the more they viewed guidance as a practitioner-centred (rather than learner-centred) experience. This chimes with me as comfort in social media is partially about giving up some control and more consciously being involved in a conversation where meaning is co-constructed.

Would these same findings hold true in the UK as well as in Finland. I suspect that they would be broadly similar, but I think that it would probably be possible to find a number of people who had taken the idea of the use of social media for careers work further and who were innovating or even beginning to mainstream its practice.

So a good question to any careers workers reading this is which category are you in?

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13 thoughts on “Career practitioners’ conceptions of social media in career services

    • Linkedin and FB have changed the way many employers recruit, networking opportunities and more. Add About Me, WordPress and other webpages for the creative and entrepreneurial types and no passing fad here.
      Personally I don’t participated in SM but as a career counselor I would be remiss not to inform my clients and encourage them to investigate their field and see what’s hot so they are not left behind.

      • Susana, in my opinion you have clarified the attitude that would be most beneficial to clients, practitioners, and our communities. Whether you personally use the tools or not, informing your clients of potential use is a professional and capable focus.

      • Susana – “Personally I don’t participate in SM” – yet here you are commenting on an online blog! Maybe we use elements of social media more than we realise as they become more part of mainstream communication. I would also say somewhere between desirable and indispensable, and forums like this are a reminder that it’s not only about the client interface, but also the way in which we as professionals make use of social media to share ideas, opinions, resources etc. amongst ourselves and use it as a tool to develop our professional practice.

  1. From some personal experience with the employment counselling industry, two thoughts come to mind.
    First, many employment counsellors belong to the older generation and as such typically are not comfortable even with MsOffice. I heard statements like, “I’m a communicator, I don’t need to do admin work”. Many of them are still not able to create/format clients’ resume and tend to rely on program assistants to complete the draft.
    There is also a prevaling concept that spending time online while looking for a job is a waste of time as opposed going out in person or making cold calls and using Yellow pages. How many times we heard complaints about clients’ “computer addiction”???
    With all the attitude, many practitioners continue recycling the same old advice as they did 15-20 years ago while also claiming “years of experience” as a proof of their own qualifications. With all due respect, I think many career practitioners – are simply behind the time!

  2. I LOVE social media, and I love it because it works. Case in point – our local newspaper here in London is doing a series of articles on job loss and employment services. There is a call to our CEO who is tied into the media quite well. Do you have someone I could talk to, they ask. Yes, she says, his name is Chris Kulbaba. Really, they ask? He is on the top of my list – he is everywhere that I was looking, I appreciate his outlook, and I wanted his opinions.

    I write a blog – a little bit of work to be sure, but the benefit to me is that I am very well known in the local area so it drives more connections to me. I write for other blogs – again, this is recognition and networking. The absolute best part though – is that I get to share ideas and concepts with other practitioners and learn from them and invigorate myself with new ideas.

    I have a tickle trunk of resume formats, interview questions, motivational documents, and more, and they have come from other practitioners who have shared new ideas with me, and several that I collect from the Internet and several large websites. I have to agree with J in the previous comment – many practitioners I see are not technologically adept or are seeing this as just something else to do or learn. However, I see several that are tied into the new technology as well, so I cannot generalize.

    One thing to be aware of when seeking resources from other countries is that there are ethical standards that are continuous regardless of nation, but the community attitudes and perceptions are different due to the level of context that relationships are made inside of. Are Finnish communities as forward with their communications as UK as Canadians as Americans as Chinese? Are they going to respond to visuals, or videos, or documents, or slide share presentations, or blog articles? Yes, communication is communication – and that means the message is perceived by the receiver, not the sender, and the medium that is used determines the context of the message.

    I would say that the focus of the client will put them into one or more of these categories, and as well the nature of their personality will slot them into different areas. Even though I love social media, that does not mean that I preach to clients that they “must” use this tool at any cost. It is just like any other tool that we use as job seekers, and that means it must fit the client as well as be easy for them to use. The answer to me when someone asks if social media is right for them (whether they are a client asking, or asking my focus on the tool as a practitioner) is simply “Well, now that depends. What do we want to use it for?”

    Just because you do not use it yourself or see the value, we are not doing a real service to clients by not being aware of trends and tools that are bring used. I am sure that when the telephone began to be used, it was seen as a novelty too.

  3. I think I would have to go with indispenable. Career Services for me is about educating people about the Labour Market and how they can connect with employers to land jobs. If Employers are using Social Media – and we know they are – then I think we are remiss not to educate our clients on the appropriate use of Social Media in their job search. Not to mention…. how do we keep ourselves current in the ever changing labour market if we are not comfortable with the latest technology affecting our work?

  4. Indispensable.

    But then I’m a careers information officer rather than careers consultant or counsellor which may affect perceptions; social media is more effective for information than for guidance.

    Definitely agree that in the UK careers services are mainstreaming social media practices. How many don’t have twitter feeds from their jobs boards? How many don’t have a blog or a Facebook page? While success in using social media varies there can’t be many services that aren’t using it at all, surely.

  5. Indispensable, BUT: can genuine guidance be delivered via social media? It may be tricky. Certainly information and discussion points fit well with Twitter and FB, and as other commenters have noted, it is important to emphasise the use of social media by employers.

    As an aside, with my Twitter and blog, I aim to provide a warm, cosy place to offer some nuggets of information and interaction, rather than the cold corporate website and FB. Many students are nervous about engaging with careers so I hope to break down some of the barriers.

  6. Certainly becoming indispensable and ubiquitous but the question, ‘can genuine guidance be delivered via social media’ reminds me of the reaction to providing guidance via email. Many careers advisers rejected the idea out of hand but I was (and still am) convinced that genuine and effective guidance could and was delivered – feedback from users was/is testament to that. So, my question would be, ‘ why is social media any different?’ It’s simply another tool in the box to connected with and deliver a service to our clients. Some will like and want face-to-face, others email, others Skype etc.

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