Recent studies have shown that students are comfortable using sites such as Facebook and Twitter in their social lives but feel less confident about applying those skills for learning.
Our own small-scale study, carried out in conjunction with our careers service SEECC, indicates that the same seems to be true for careers research, networking, engaging in discussions, and showcasing achievements – all crucial employability skills for our students in the digital age.
117 Reading students took part in the survey we conducted in February to find out how our students are using social media for employability.
Nearly all respondents (98.3%; 115) stated that they are registered on social media sites. 96.6% (113) of students are signed up to Facebook, 50.4% (59) registered on Twitter, and 33.3% (39) using YouTube, with many students accessing their accounts on a daily or even hourly basis. However, only 13.7% (16) of students who took part in our survey have uploaded a profile on LinkedIn, the professional networking site recommended by many careers experts.
Only a small number of students are using social media for employability. For example, out of 115 students using Facebook only 10.4% (12) are using this site to search for jobs or work experience, 9.6% (11) for networking with potential employers, 16.5% (19) to research companies, 4.3% (5) to engage in professional discussions, and 3.5% (4) to showcase their academic profile.
Reasons for not using social media sites in this way include students’ perceptions of those sites as purely social platforms, concerns about employers seeing their profiles, and uncertainty regarding how social media sites could help them with their careers.
Students come to university already familiar with social media which, with a little guidance, could give them another string to their bows when it comes to finding work experience and graduate jobs, and in their professional development. In February, Em Sowden, Senior Placement and Development Manager here at Reading, ran a session on ‘Using social media for employability’.
As Em explained, recruiters expect applicants to have a professional online presence. Employers are increasingly and actively using social media as an instant, cheap medium to find and recruit proactive job seekers. Em recommends Twitter and LinkedIn to help students and graduates conduct research on companies they are interested in, as well as connecting with recruiters, building contacts and discovering or even creating employment-related opportunities. Her presentation and top tips can be found here.
The Digitally Ready team are working with SEECC to look at ways of engaging students so that they can take full advantage of the capabilities of social media to raise their professional profile.
I’ve been using a closed Facebook group for the alumni of the MSc Plant Diversity course to advertise jobs as I become aware of them. Some of our graduates are now using this to advertise jobs they have heard about too. So 100% of the Plant Diversity graduates see Facebook as one of the means to gain employment. We also have an open Facebook organisation that is used for general publicity and events. http://www.facebook.com/PlantDiversity
Thank you Alastair – great to hear of examples such as yours where staff and students are already using their initiative to use social media for employability.
The Digitally Ready team is supporting a curriculum development project (funded by the Teaching and Learning Development Fund) which looks at the use of Facebook for student communication, particularly in relation to employability. It would be great to hear more from you about your alumni group and any reflections on limitations and opportunities so that we can capture current practice as well as plans and hopes for the future.
Nadja, that sounds like a worthwhile project. Is there a Facebook site for the project that I could sign up to so that i can keep in touch with what the researchers are doing?
I’m afraid there isn’t but I will suggest setting one up! I believe the project team’s final report is due in July.