Delivered from the University of the Arts, the course was based around “supporting students to use social media.. for networking and finding opportunities.” Part of my role at the university is to provide 1-1 feedback advice to students on all aspects of the application process. I am also heavily involved in our use of social media and feel very strongly about it’s potential, not only for us a service, but for students and graduates.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to secure a place and chuffed when I found out our Learning Technologist, Matt Mobbs was coming too!
I’ll skip over the hell-ish journey to London from Leicester at rush hour. I don’t think my nerves could take re-living it anyway.
We started with a session called Digital Footprints with Judith Baines and Matt Lingard from LSE. Digital Footprints is a session they deliver to their students on the importance of having an online presence. Take a look at their presentation on Slideshare. I was aware how useful the likes of Facebook and Twitter can be for researching employers and improving commercial awareness but I don’t think I fully understood how important it is to have an online presence, as a student or graduate, from an employers point of view.
It’s a great way of showing an employer that you’re proactive and for certain industries, such as what I’d call the ‘creative industries,’ it’s absolutely essential to show an employer that you’re out there being active. They will get to see your writing style, not to mention give them an insider view of your personality/motivations etc. The interesting thing that Matt and Judith said was that in their experience, this practise of checking out a students online presence is really starting to expand and it’s not limited solely to employers within the creative industries.
It was interesting to hear that this doesn’t necessarily mean keeping a blog or networking through Twitter or Facebook. Simply starting to comment on other blogs, articles and news items or writing a (sensible!) Amazon book review will start creating your digital footprint.
Matt and Judith talked a lot about protecting yourself and ‘Netiquette’ (I love that phrase!) but one of the main discussion points was the ‘line’ between public and private and whether it’s necessary to have separate accounts. More on this later!
I found it really interesting to see how hard Matt and Judith are working so hard to educate students on their digital footprint and think it’s important that we at the University of Leicester do the same. Matt Mobbs and our Leicester Award Co-ordinator, Zara Hooley, currently provide a session on networking and social media as part of the Leicester Award programme.
For me, the way forward is to develop this into something we deliver via other routes too, most sensibly through the careers service/team. Like we provide advice on traditional CVs and effective networking skills, I would like to see us firstly beginning to provide 1-1’s and workshops on improving your digital footprint and eventually moving to support this, by way of proving feedback on say LinkedIn profiles, blogs and online networking.
After a quick break we then went on to have a ‘lab’ on LinkedIn and Twitter with Helen Buzdugan, Careers Consultant at the University of Manchester. The first mistake I made was to declare myself as a ‘guru’ along with Matt Mobbs. I’m not big headed. Honest. But I do use social media every day without fail, so thought I was probably classed as a ‘guru’ rather than ‘fairly competent.’
I went on to feel like a bit of a lemon when we started to explore LinkedIn and I had never used it before. In all fairness, I think I picked it up pretty quickly. Much to the relief of my stress levels.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that, as of March 2010, only 9% of University of Manchester students had a LinkedIn profile. Like the other 91%, I too had no idea of it’s potential. Furthermore, I’d looked at it briefly before the course and to be honest, just didn’t get it. And that coming from someone that uses social media everyday. Imagine looking at it as a newcomer. Not hard for me to imagine being completely baffled.
For that reason, this session was absolutely great. Helen was a really good facilitator (I would recommend going to any of her sessions) and she really clearly demonstrated exactly how powerful it can be. If you’ve not used LinkedIn before, join up and have a look at Helen’s PowerPoint presentation.
Unfortunately we did need a bit longer for people to explore Twitter properly. As a self confessed ‘guru’ alongside Matt (try that for feeling out of your depth!) we tried to help the people on our tables get to grips with it, whilst Helen tried to get round the room, answering questions. As a huge Twitter fan, it was very interesting to see how the majority of the other people there couldn’t quite see the benefits it poses for students, when compared with LinkedIn. That might have just been a time issue though.
After lunch, we went on to have a ‘panel’ session with two graduates and two employers, to find out how they are using social media. The panel was made up of an Accenture employee, Tim Mitchell of timothycreative, Claire Strickland; a graduate and bespoke Milliner and Reem Kanj, graduate and professional blogger. (See FiveFiveFabulous)
The overwhelming message from the discussion was that all panel members agreed just how important it is for students and graduates to really exploit their digital footprint.
Accenture and Tim Mitchell had similar but slightly different points of view. The Accenture representative told us that although she would be impressed by a prospective employees good online presence, showing commitment and enthusiasm, she wouldn’t Google or ‘Facebook’ any individual. Tim of timothycreative pointed out that although ‘noble,’ this definitely isn’t a general rule to go by. It was agreed that a lot of employers will indeed check out your online presence and so we were back to the question of having multiple accounts or not.
All the panel agreed that Facebook is still seen as a social area that most students do not want to use as a networking platform. However, everyone was in agreement that you need to be very careful with your privacy settings. My feeling was that the un-spoken consensus was keep the likes of Facebook as a social space that is strictly access limited and have a ‘professional’ space, such as LinkedIn.
Given my complete u-turn over LinkedIn, I was especially enthused to find all panel members thought LinkedIn was the way forward. The Accenture representative especially, saying she ‘was surprised’ by how many students do not have a profile saying it’s the ‘CV of the future.’ Anecdotally throughout the day, we were given examples of people being head hunted via LinkedIn.
The graduates points of view were really useful. They both said they wouldn’t be where they are now, if it wasn’t for new media like Twitter. I was really glad to hear such overwhelming support, given that I felt there will still a lot of skeptics in the room.
I came away feeling really positive. The panel discussion was especially useful and really confirmed a lot of my thoughts. However, it did really open my eyes to the uses of LinkedIn. At a service level, I feel we’re already doing some good work promoting the importance of digital footprints but more could be done. The nice thing is, given a bit of time and a few more people on board, it’s seems achievable.