I’m often asked to advise or train career companies or services around their use of social media. People tend to view social media as a piece of software equivalent to something like Excel or Word. From this point of view the question is just to learn how to use the software and then roll your existing services through it.
What I generally try and explain is that this isn’t really the best way to look at social media. Learning the tools is generally pretty easy, but working out what to do with them is rather more difficult. I also generally try and explain that social media is not necessarily “where the kids are at”. Adopting social media doesn’t give you a quick route to accessing young people. Even if you are on Twitter you’ve still got to persuade them to look at you.
So rather than setting out how career services should use social media I’m going to suggest five things that you should want to do (which social media might be helpful with.
- Run a campaign encouraging people to care about their career and convincing them that they should be actively developing their career. This is not about providing support or giving advice but rather helping people to understand that their career will really matter and they have the potential to exert influence on how it turns out.
- Help people to identify and expand their networks. We know that social capital correlates with career success and that networking is an effective career development strategy and yet these things rarely have much prominence in the career support that is offered. Try turning things on their head and ask clients who they know and who they would like to know as a basis for a career conversation instead of asking what they are good at and what they want to do.
- Actively skill up your clients as career researchers. Show them how they can find out what they need to know about their careers and develop their ability to reflect and draw in support.
- Make the most of your success stories by feeding those clients who have benefitted from your services back into current service users. Build up case studies, placement opportunities, a network of mentors and exemplars to inspire and inform.
- Make sure your staff are exemplary careerists. Who wants to take advice from gloomy people who hate their lives and feel trapped? Career professionals should be able to evidence high level career management skills in the way that they live their own lives and use these as a basis to talk to clients.
So there are five ideas which I think that career services should be excited by. I feel that the world of Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, social booking and so on should provide services with huge opportunities to actualise these kinds of ideas. So if any of these things inspire you then I’m happy to talk to you about how social media might help.