Sunday, 19 July 2009

Blogging to improve employment prospects

These days the web is highly participative - people contribute. People don't just go there to READ other's expert content. Netpop's research in the United States suggests non-contributors are now in the minority.

Jobseekers, those researching careers and those seeking career development can all benefit from blogs.

Producing your own blog can help people establish greater control of their online identity. At present many employers and admissions tutors search online to see what they can find out about individual applicants. This might trawl up facebook entries, photographs, youtube clips, as well as professional profiles on sites like xing or linkedin. If you are active blogger, any web search could also draw recruiters or those searching for you to your content.

We can help our clients to audit their online identity. For many people, "presence" could be important, as recruiters are looking to see whether you are engaged in the social web at all. Not being there could mean your client not being shortlisted for a job, and reduces the chance of headhunter approach.

What you share is important too - the links, files, content, ideas you post. Is it meaningful, legal, relevant?

What is your reputation? Do others comment postively on your posts? Are you considered knowledgable or expert and therefore being linked to by others?

Who are you connected to? Which other bloggers do you follow? The relationships we make visible online say something about us. For example if you follow industry leaders, employees from a company you want to work for, it demonstrates you are keeping yourself updated professionally, and might have some insight into how the company operates, and it's values and priorities. Following people in your industry, or the career specialism you aspire to gives you access to social labour market information. This is different from the statistics about employment in different fields, which some advisers share with their clients. You can't interract with employment stats, but you can ask a question of a blogger, or comment about their posts on a blog.

Recruiters are interested in who you are linked with, who inspires and influences us. For example a relevant professional network could mean you'll be perceived as someone who can bring business with them to a new employer, or be able to solve problems more easily because you can call upon your network for support.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Slides from ACEG Conference presentation on careers work and social web

Here are the slides from my 3rd July 2009 workshops at the Association for Careers Education and Guidance Conference in Cambridge, UK.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Jobseekers increase hiring chances by developing a strong online brand

A survey of 208 employers by recruitment firm Harvey Nash and the Department for Work and Pensions finds social networks are becoming an increasingly mainstream tool for recruitment.

Half of those surveyed claimed candidates would increase their chances of being hired if they invested time in "developing a strong online brand"

Unfortunately this message is not getting through to young people, with separate research finding only one in ten 18-24 year olds making use of social networking sites for the purpose of finding job leads or making useful career contacts.

One HR manager, Matthew Garrett says: "social network sites like LinkedIn and Facebook have become absolutely critical in finding new hires. Not only do they give us access to people who we might not find elsewhere, but they are also an excellent way to understand more about the candidate beyond just their CV. Certainly for, job seekers who have a strong online presence do stand out from the crowd, and we would encourage more people to invest in their online 'brand'.

18-24's are also bearing the brunt of unemployment in the current downturn. It is vital that career advisers working with teenagers and young adults fully appreciate the changing practice in recruitment sector, and advise candidates on how to develop a public online presence, designed to complement the formal CV, resume or job application. So many employers now check candidates details on the web that we must assume every employer will be making such checks.

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Thursday, 2 July 2009

8 ways careers educators can use the social web

Here are some ideas of ways in which careers teachers and advisers can make use of the social web in their work with young people.

1. Set up a Careers Dept page on social networking sites. Find out which sites your learners prefer. Even if your institution blocks access to social websites, your students will still be using it outside school, so there is still an argument for having a presence.

2. Set up a careers forum in your institution’s Virtual Learning Enivornment. Your virtual learning environment may offer a way of establishing a collaborative space which students and teachers can access. Many institutions block access to most social networking sites, but VLE’s often have similar features such as document sharing, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, personal profiles, polls and surveys, status updates etc. While generally not as slick as the popular social networking sites, your VLE can offer a safe, controlled environment for collaboration and networking within your insitution’s community. Popular VLE’s include the free, open source Moodle, RM Kaleidos, Frog, and Microsoft Learning Gateway (SharePoint).

3. Set up occupational wikis, learners can update. Wikis are sets of linked webpages which can be created, edited, amended by their readers. Wikipedia can offer a good starting point. Content about a particular occupation, or region could be copied into your own new wiki, to provide some material which groups of students can build upon. Students add new pages and sections, and update the content as a result of their team research efforts. Many VLE’s will have WIKI features available, but there are also online services such as PBWiki and wikidot, which have free or low cost versions available. Various controls allow you to limit access by unauthorised users.

4. Encourage groups of learners to annotate and share web pages they find in their careers research. Diigo allows groups of users with shared career/education interests to view each other’s favourite webpages, and leave sticky notes on them, with their comments. When logged into diigo you benefit from being able to see your friend’s comments about the websites you visit – for example a user may highlight sections of a university website as being particularly useful.

5. Encourage groups of learners with similar occupational interests to share their bookmarks on Delicious. This site allows you to store all your bookmarks online, and share them with the world (or keep them private). Interestingly you can see who else has bookmarked the same site, and this can lead you to view another person’s bookmarks on your topic of interest. Often the resulting recommended links will be helpful to your own research.

6. Get learners to pose questions on Yahoo Answers and then evaluate the responses they receive to careers questions, or examine archived Q&A's from the site. Yahoo answers allows users to pose and answer questions. There is an active community of users who ask questions which are career and education related. The answers given are often immediate, sometimes quirky, and quite mixed in their accuracy, sensitivity, and impartiality. But they are real people’s views, and you do see real insights from people who know about specific jobs, giving information you would not find easily from more traditional careers resources. It’s helpful to discuss issues of accuracy, impartiality, bias with learners and help them to evaluate the quality of the answers they might get from sites like this.

7. Use Horsesmouth for learners aged 16 and over to find (and also become) an online mentor. There are thousands of mentors available. While their identities are not currently checked (you just have to have a UK mobile phone number), all discussions are carefully monitored and moderated by professionals, who intervene if they are concerned about conversations between mentors and mentees. The site also allows nuggets or pearls of wisdom to be shared. This is interesting because it potentially links young people with highly experienced professionals, with great understanding of their chosen occupational area. There are other ways to source online mentors, perhaps through sites like linkedin, or other social networks. If an institution is encouraging such use of social networks it will be important to check local policies, and if soliciting for mentors on behalf of young people, institution staff should seek to verify mentor identity.

8. Help learners find and subscribe to blog and RSS feeds from key experts in their chosen sector. This is a way of keeping up to date with the latest developments and issues in a particular profession or area of study. There are millions of blogs. Technorati offers a means of finding blogs, and often bloggers will list the other blogs they follow or recommend. Many news media sites will also have RSS feeds too. Setting up a blog can be a means for learners to express their own interests and establish some online identity and personal branding. Increasingly employers and admissions tutors check individuals out online. Having something positive in the form of a blog can be a useful way to prepare for such checks.