CEIAG & Careers Leaders
Another Tweeting Careers Adviser - A guest blog on using Twitter
Monday 18th July 2016
As a confirmed Tweacher I love to watch how schools use Twitter to develop their outreach strategies in order to communicate with their students. I've long admired the Aquinas School Careers Department for the way they use Twitter, so when I bumped into John Morrison the Careers Adviser that runs their blog at the recent CEC conference, I asked him if he'd write a blog for me on the topic...
Another Tweeting Careers Adviser! Some thoughts as a Careers Adviser working in a Sixth Form College
Another Tweeting Careers AdviserManaging the social media profiles for our Careers service in a Sixth Form College, has been exciting, yet challenging! I'm lucky to be at Aquinas College in Stockport as we have a fantastic community atmosphere, encouraging our students to do their best and to aim to #bemore!
We wish to be accessible to student and to be a presence in their social media world. Employers and Universities have already recognised this moving on from their own Facebook & Twitter feeds: you can now observe Universities embracing Instagram and Snapchat. It's all good and opens the possibilities of marketing their opportunities through appealing and inventive ways. It seems career practitioners and careers services in general have to appeal to clients (for us they are aged 16-18 year old College students) and to have a multi-level provision for their users.
The potential use of social media in the work of careers is exciting and challenging in terms of its potential outcomes. Since working as a qualified careers practitioner at Aquinas College in Stockport, Manchester, I feel we have made great strides in raising our service's profile and in providing an effective careers service for our students and their parents/carers. Logistically we cannot see everyone for careers guidance interviews and so we should be thinking of ways to be an effective service to engage our clients. Our clients are aged between 16 and 18 so getting our messages out and relating to their circumstances is a challenge we must face. In a world involving the use of computers and the internet being a potential treasure trove of information and opportunities, how to attempt to guide young people towards the right careers guidance at the right time is a challenge to say the least!
Using social media has been an effective tool to use in engaging our students and their parents/carers in providing fast, useful and up-to-date messages relating to careers information, advice and opportunities. We can 'follow' businesses, universities and apprenticeship providers who disseminate relevant information, advice and opportunities, which can be then signposted to our students at Aquinas College. A few tweets here, a few re-tweets there and it could lead onto promising outcomes (provided the students see and act of our tweets!)
We are developing our services to be accessible to our students without necessarily seeing them directly. Using social media is a powerful tool to enable an extension of our Careers Service. From reading articles, reports and attending meetings, it is obvious that digital literacy skills will be vastly more important to everyone developing their career potentials. You can see exciting opportunities advertised by various companies Universities and Apprenticeship providers through their social media mediums.
We have focused our social media presence on Twitter (and now more recently Facebook) to interact and engage a broad audience, but predominately our students. There are a good number of departments within College who use Twitter and our support to one another has been great this year.
Raising the profile of the important job we do as career professionals has never been more important. I hope our work is increasingly recognised for it's worth as future important decisions rest with our young people in increasingly uncertain times. Our hope is to improve usage of the Careers Service and to engage our students in making good career choices. Here are 5 observations from my own experience I hope will be of use to anyone working in Careers.
Know your Twitter purpose and values
The reason for having a presence on social media is to help support our students in researching and planning for their futures. Opportunities (such as work experience or insight days) are posted through social media groups as it is free and largely convenient to post a message for thousands of users to see. Accessibility to recommended careers advice and information is crucial to support our students in making mature informed decisions through Twitter or Facebook, social media makes that possible. We try to be as impartial as possible - discussing a variety of options post-Aquinas and how to make an informed decision.
Know your Twitter audience
The big question is who is the social media platform for and aimed at? Obviously our Twitter and Facebook is aimed at providing relevant careers information and opportunities to our students, but at the moment I feel the careers service can appeal to a broad range of users. It can connect students with opportunities in and around College, but it can also be to engage with employers, Universities and apprenticeship providers to forge effective links with external services. Greater interaction with different users is a fantastic way of developing a purposeful network. At the moment I can see we have increased our followers, but there are several issues we need to address: how many followers are our students? How many of our students read and react to our posts? How could we measure participation and our careers provision impact? The potential opportunities are exiting but the challenge is knowing what to tweet/retweet.
Know what to tweet/re-tweet
Posts have to be as creative as possible as well as being informative. How else do you ensure your time and effort building your online profile is worth it? Opinions can be of more interest than just facts as information may not to get a potential viewers attention. Anything biased Politics, football may have a negative impact. You wouldn't want to be divisive as you want students to follow and respect your tweets. There have been times when re-tweeting might not be the right message you want to portray to followers. The language of some posts which are not your own views mean people may think you are endorsing the original tweet. There was a post about not going to University and keeping options open. The article was largely positive however there was a section regarding the traditional route of going to University as the "done" thing however it used the term "brainwashed" which I feel is a negative word and patronises students wanting to go to University.
Do not post anything insulting or political - it goes without saying to be impartial as we are conscious of representing Aquinas College and the Careers Service, therefore thinking about everything you say or do is vital. Ensuring you say or do is vital. We tend to post a fair balance of University, employment, apprenticeship and gap year opportunities Labour market info is also a possible topic.
At the end of the day, you want to make your post meaningful with balance. Most of our student body progress onto Higher Education, but that doesn't mean we should post in proportion to past destinations. We want to ensure our students (like the rest of us!) are making good, mature choices.
Ultimately know to have a laugh when possible (and appropriate). An example I can think of is an article about knowing what an apprenticeship should be and how to spot an apprenticeship which may not be following the official apprenticeship framework. I previously used a picture of a person in a Donald duck costume surrounded by real ducks with the word 'Imposter!'
Know you have to dedicate a lot of time.
A LOT OF TIME! Form a strategy about the what's going on at the different times of the year. For example, our students will be thinking about their options more intently over the Summer so tweeting about University and Apprenticeship open days will be relevant. We also have students who are leaving this year so we've been tweeting about preparation for University (UCAS clearing and what happens on results day) and apprenticeship vacancies. To help with this we've connected with our other College twitter accounts, (tweet, re-tweet and comment) to help support each other. We have an active student council so it's great to engage with them regarding appropriate opportunities who then can be the 'student voice' and tweet, retweet about us and relevant career opportunities.
Know to be patient and listen to other social media users
Using Twitter has been great to develop my awareness of Careers issues and thinking about new ideas. Following relevant official Government departments and political twitter users ensures you are kept up to date with latest policy initiatives and legislation. It has been great to follow relevant twitter users who post regular comments about career developments as you are alerted to new ideas and creative thinking. It also helps to have issues condensed and easy to access! Sharing good practice is crucial and so it's great to link with similar career services or hear differing opinions and thoughts from prolific tweeters (@CareersDefender, @pigironjoe, and @theCDI to name the few that come to mind!)
Starting at Aquinas College nearly 3 years ago we wanted to provide professional, accessible and impartial Careers advice and guidance to students to help them take ownership of their own career paths.
I feel we have done this at the College through our engagement with our students and the support of College staff, senior management and developing our communications with parents and carers. These are my thoughts since starting to manage our careers practice through social media. Please get in touch as I am a complete novice and would love to hear your thoughts and comments!
LinkedIn: John Morrison