Sunday, 17 October 2010

Careers practitioners should inhabit rather than colonise the web

People turn to the net to find what they need to know about working life, and that includes learning about the world of work, career opportunities, places to study and and train.

The web contains (according to one estimate) 23 billion pages of information, indexed by Google. That amounts to an enormously complex haystack of information, opinions and viewpoints. Today's seeker of career advice faces an unprecedented range of influences - good & bad, inspiring, off puting, up-to-date, out-of-date, misleading, insightful or just plain wrong.

In his recent pamphlet "Career-learning thinking for contemporary working life", Bill Law outlines the view that Advisers can and should be helping clients scrutinise and probe the information they find on the web.

Bill's view is that we, as career practitioners should inhabit the net rather than colonise it with our exclusive expertise. Rather than ignoring the places on the web where people are already conversing about career questions, it is very tempting to set up our own specialist websites as expert enclaves.

Some of my colleagues have been trying this inhabitation strategy! They are delivering advice and guidance directly through Facebook to their teenage clients. The reception has been very encouraging, and there have been good results in terms of engaging with harder to reach young people, and gaining positive outcomes - i.e. into work and training.

When you look at some of the career related advice and views people express on Facebook, or in Yahoo Answers, or all sorts of other forums, you could stand back and feel outraged and want nothing to do with it. Alternatively you could respect the alternative nature of some of the advice on offer, (it's never going to be the same as our beloved expert authored career leaflets) and start joining in conversations and work with clients to help them improve their ability to evaluate, question and challenge.

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