Quick fix: How careers services can utilise social media

I presented at the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services Technology Day this month, I’ve added my presentation to this post.

Part of the day included a Q&A with a student panel, made up of 4 students from various courses. The comment that hit hardest was that the panel was barely aware of the careers service and the support it offered. This is a situation you will find at most universities, but how on earth are careers services supposed to build their reputation with every student when resources and budgets are so tight? Well, I’ll run through the other points raised by the students and, hopefully, some quick fixes showing how careers services can use social media to work towards building their reputation amongst students.

When asked what the best way of reaching them (students), they all replyed that email is probably the best channel

Although currently this is the case, owing to a slow uptake with Linkedin and Twitter, I think that this provides the perfect opportunity for careers services to act as educators in social media. If you, as a careers service, teach someone how to use a tool that they will use for the foreseeable future, you will be engrained in their conciousness forever. Considering that the panel had bearly heard of the careers service until this point, this would be of massive benefit. This is further supported by the following point…

We (students) would attend sessions or view online how to videos showing how social media can be used to search for jobs

A member of the audience raised the point that they don’t have the time for this sort of activity, which is a fair point. But consider this; in one afternoon you could either see up to 6 students in one-to-one sessions, which is useful. Or you could download some free screen capture video software, which records your on-screen activity, plug in your webcam to record your voice and record a video commentary showing how to set up a Twitter account and search for job opportunities. There is an interest in the student and graduate market for this type of information and, along with some promotion, it will reach thousands of students and graduates. Include a link to your careers services pages at the end of the video and it will act as a traffic driver to raise awareness of your careers service.

All panel members use YouTube and Facebook

Once you have created your video as outlined above, you can upload it to YouTube and post the link on Facebook. This is where the concept of waterholes comes into play, i.e. be where your audience is. Also insure that your video is posted to the main university Facebook page and any other pages associated to the university (including the Student Union). After all, the one thing all of these page users have in common is that at some point they will be searching for jobs! Get creative with this, maybe record a ‘How to tie your tie for an interview’ video, or run a competition on campus for the funniest careers related video. User generated content such as this will give your Facebook and YouTube channels a personal touch that will make them extremely shareable. At every careers event, get your camera and video camera out there and create some content!

A member of the audience asked the one question that everyone, including myself at one point, asks about social media. ‘How can I justify allocating the time to tweeting or updating Facebook?!’. I believe that the extra investment of time is worthwhile because it amplies the effort that you put into each task and provides a soundboard for your service. If we’re honest, whatever we have been doing thus far to promote on-campus career services has not worked as well as it could have. So, let’s change it up and try something different. Try commiting some time over the next 3 months and I am sure that you will see the benefits.

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About onlineastevens

Dad. Marketing Manager. Pie eater. Man City fan. Former Isle of Man resident. Professionally amateur guitarist.

Posted on May 27, 2011, in Recruitment, Twitter, Useful tools and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Helen Louise Beaman

    Hello Andy

    I think it is less about tight budgets & lack of resources in Careers Services and more about whatever Careers Services do to try and engage their audience, in what is basically their future; students are not recognising a Careers & Employability Service as an essential part of their University Studies. How do Careers Services address this?

    One area which does need investing in is, as you say, Social Media, after all a Careers Service is an Information, Advice and Guidance service. Dissemination of information therefore should explore and experiment with all modes of communication tools available to reach a wider audience as possible, and through social media you potentially have the capacity to reach many.

    However one problem you rightly addressed, is teaching students/graduates the benefit of using social media within a careers context and as a form of communication, specifically in this case of how it can benefit them regarding their future career. I believe Matt Lingard (from AGCAS Careers In Technology day) hit the mark when he spoke of Social Media not being taught to students as a separate theory, but as part of other existing Careers & Employability workshops, e.g Networking, Graduate Job Searching Skills, Career Planning, the list goes on!

    I thought it was interesting that the members of the student panel all engaged with information from their School website. One student commented that she took information from her particular school seriously and looked to her school/college intranet for employability opportunities. Having strong links and working closely with schools/colleges is definitely an area which needs further development. Social media can have a place in this, for example having a link to a relevant subject blog on the schools website/intranet which you can then put a link in to the Careers Service website.

    I believe in what you are saying in essence that Social Media has a role to play in the promotion of a careers service and dissemination of careers information. However I think consideration needs to be given into how you are going to engage students with this new platform. The use of social media needs to link strategically with existing forms of services which a careers department has to offer.

  2. Helen Buzdugan (Careers Service)

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for the post!

    It was interesting that screencasts came up in the student panel. Unfortunately I didn’t see that as I did my a.m. virtual Skype presentation from Minnesota (that was fun!), but I actually mentioned screencast demos of LinkedIn and Twitter etc in my presentation, as this is something I’m currently working on for our website. It’s encouraging to know they’re likely to prove useful anyway!

    I completely agree we have an educating job to do with students regarding LinkedIn and Twitter in particular, as their usage of these tools tends to be a) low and b) not very careers-orientated (in the case of Twitter). You probably remember I tried to make this very point quite strongly in my AGCAS LinkedIn & Twitter Lab session back in April too, as the tendency can be for some careers services only to focus on social media students are already heavily engaged with (e.g. Facebook and perhaps YouTube), rather than focussing on the most potentially useful tools. Taking on an education role is not really a quick fix though, unfortunately, and a screencast can do the ‘how to use’ better than the ‘why to use’, I think. I use my guidance appointments a lot now to talk to students about social media (doing a ‘show and tell’), but my caseload includes media, marketing etc so it’s pretty much essential for those clients anyway.

    Helen

    • Hi Helen,

      I heard your Skype went really well!

      I agree that screencasting is one of those tools that has great potential in careers advice but has really been under used. I created a few some years back that showed careers staff how to use our Prospects PNet careers software and they are extremely effective.

      I think that the key to successful uptake of social media as a job seeking tool depends on total buy in from the students. In order to achieve this, I believe we should show ‘how to’ Twitter/Linkedin in the first year of university so that students can get to grips with the tools. Then as they progress through university, using the channels in their own way, the ‘why to use for job seeking’ can be introduced.

      I guess the reason that I posted this as a quick fix (although I’d agree with you that a comprehensive quick fix doesn’t exist) is due to the frequency that I hear time/resource availablity as being restrictive to social media strategy at careers services. ‘How to’ is a mass-marketing first step which, when successful, can be monitored to prove the worth of social media and justify increasing the resources allocated to it. Currently, students generally don’t ‘get’ Twitter. If careers services can be the ones that help them to do that, with or without education content, it will ultimately mean increased awareness of their existance and services.

      Cheers

      Andy

  3. Hi Andy,

    I agree with my colleague Jemma’s comment, this is a great post. I think as Careers Advisers, we more than most people know the demands of keeping to up to date with changes in the labour market. In order for us to continue to be seen as a beneficial service we need to embrace social media to not only reach out to students but to help them use it effectively to inform their career plans. Whilst I understand people’s reservations (until recently I had quite a few of my own!) I think sometimes it’s a case of “we’re great, we know it, but does anyone else?”

    I too am a relatively new convert to social media and have a Twitter (@tahiramajothi) and LinkedIn account. In the space of four or five months I have been able to:

    • Connect with likeminded careers people and share best practice
    • Circulate job opportunities to students and researchers
    • Retweet relevant careers news and events to my ‘followers’
    • Contribute to a Guardian piece on Graduate Employability with my colleague @annatayler

    The rise of social media is also the overriding theme of our one day careers conference for all postgraduates at the University of Salford. The publicity for this event has in turn generated a couple of emails from academics who have requested workshops for their students, on the effective use of social media.

    I do echo your final thoughts; you do need to commit to a social media platform but the dividends pay out almost immediately if you know what you are doing! Thank you for all your useful tips 

    Tahira

  4. Excellent blog post. Thank you for sharing. I work in a university careers service and as others who do the same work as me know – it is notoriously difficult to get students to engage in their own career planning – even though it is for their own benefit! We are now trying to market our careers service to students through a variety of ways – email, printed posters, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube etc. If there are any university students reading this please use your careers service! We are here to help and even better we are free!

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