Shout it from the rooftops

Tomorrow I’ve been invited to speak at the University of Bristol for their Promoting Postgraduate Research. I think that I’ve been invited because I’m seen as a show off and self-publicist.

This is what I thought I might say.

Shout it from the rooftops

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5 things that career companies/services should want to do with social media

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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?

Social media interns programme (SMIP)

We run the initial training sessions for this years social media interns programme tomorrow. If you want to find out a bit more about this programme have a look at the article we published in the NICEC journal last month.

These are the slide that we are using to get the students going. The idea is to make it a substantive session on career management with just enough technology tips to get them started. They can then go away and puzzle it out for themselves.