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Are Parents and Universities Failing Our Young People By Ignoring Social Media?

Posted: 06/08/2012 12:08

How many parents, teachers and academics have you heard dismissing social media as ridiculous or a waste of time?

They have no intention of understanding how it really works, beyond the headlines, and by ignoring Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and blogging they are failing their children and students.

1. A third of recruiters use social media
According to research by Robert Half recruitment specialists, 30 per cent of HR directors now use social media to recruit candidates and 22% check out a candidate's profile online.

2. Universities do not teach social media skills for job hunting
Last November I wrote about the need for universities to teach employability skills differently and include social media and networking as part of careers advice. An Associate Dean of a UK university left a comment on this post and said 'currently universities are told what employability skills they should embed in the curriculum and social media and networking don't come in to it!" He also added that universities are culturally unsuited to be championing employability.

Well they may not be suited, but universities are already being judged in league tables by the employability of their students - that is, how many get jobs. So these are skills that universities will have learn to give their students the best chance in the job market. And quickly.

So what social media skills do students need?

3. Children need to understand 'personal digital footprint' from young age
First, they need to understand their 'personal digital footprint'. The fact that whatever someone posts online will stay there forever - and one day could lose them the job they have spent months or years trying to get. As a minimum they need to set their privacy settings so the world at large can't see their photos and chatter.

But it is clear that they need educating as to what is legal or not when commenting about public events and people. Take the case of Liam Stacey, the second year biology student at Swansea University, who went to jail for 54 days because he posted racially offensive comments on Twitter. Some might say his career is over before it has started. Did he understand the impact of what he was doing? Almost certainly not.

Students need to be taught the perils of social media from a young age - primary school is not too young to start. They then need to learn how to use social media as a job hunting skill, one that is every bit as critical as knowing how to write a good CV.

4. LinkedIn is key for job hunting
If you are one of the sceptics about all this, let's take a simple case study. The University of Leeds asked me to give a talk on using LinkedIn to third year enterprise students. I stressed the importance of having a profile, ensuring it is 100% complete and including keywords that an employer might search for them on. One student, Josh Jervis, contacted me to say he went home that night and completed his profile and within just hours was invited for an interview and offered the job.

5. Social media is becoming a core communication skill
Employers are not only using social media to recruit, but we are starting to see these skills being a requirement in job advertisements. A recent job stated 2-3 years of community management experience and building a following in social media. So the job isn't for a social media specialist, but the successful candidate is expected to be able to use social media to engage with their local community.

6. Blogs and Twitter can demonstrate expertise
And then there are blogs and Twitter. Both of these can be used to demonstrate a student's passion for and expertise in a subject or career topic, as well as be a way to engage with a potential employer.

7. Jump the job queue by engaging with employers
Asad Ali is a partner in law firm, Blacks Solicitors and is on Twitter. He says they have taken on a number of work experience students who contacted them on Twitter and that some have jumped the queue because of the way they engaged with the firm.

He also emphasises the importance of a professional profile online: "We wouldn't consider employing for a graduate position without checking out their social media profiles. We definitely disregard some because of what we see online, but equally there are others coming over as extremely professional and that counts as a plus.

8. Students don't understand Facebook in the real world
If you think that because a young person has grown up with Facebook, then of course they will understand how to protect themselves, think again.

I have just written an ebook for students to show them how to use social media in job hunting. I tested it out on a wide range of students and almost without fail, their feedback was 'I never thought an employer might look at my profile. I need to clean it up and put on privacy settings."

9. Start using social media yourself - so you can help young people
If you are a parent, teacher or lecturer, start using and become familiar social media. It takes time to understand the basics and longer to become adept at using it professionally. And you might want to think about challenging your local school or university - just what skills are they teaching to students and why is social media not a core subject?

Where do you stand on this? Sceptic or convert? And do you think social media - risks and opportunities - should be taught in schools and universities?

 

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