Even in the short time that I have been involved with Career Guidance there has been a notable movement of companies and organisations towards using not just traditional websites but also social media to spread the word about employment pathways in their area to young people. While sites such as Plotr have been specifically tasked to appeal to the younger generation with bright, colourful career areas full of easily navigable pictures, it is well-managed twitter accounts such as the recently established @borntobuilduk backed by the UK Contractors group which offer youngsters the chance to more fully engage by both asking direct questions and interacting with a number of appointed young guiding lights already working within the industry.
Other models such as MyKindaCrowd offer the chance for young people to submit applications in various challenges to secure rewards of various interactions with business areas they aspire to. Here though the community aspect is held at arm’s length as the site relies on teachers or youth workers to provide the organisation of the young people on the ground to actually enter the challenges.
The chance for Employer bodies to build communities of interested young minds inspired by their area of business clearly appeals to managers conscientious of future skills shortages and these interventions are hugely welcome from those of us looking to find the hook to spark an interest in their future from youngsters but it is yet another model that really holds the most potential for me.
Recently, the community based social news site Reddit launched a new sub-reddit called “JobFair”, a dedicated space for members to quiz (or in the terminology of the site “AMA” – ask me anything) other users who volunteer to post answers about their careers. This peer-to-peer interaction, based in a moderated online environment with the enhanced community aspects of a karma voting system for other users to reward positive and penalise negative contributions, holds much promise for a direct, honest and collaborative method of sharing career knowledge not bound by geography or ambition. A youngster with a phone anywhere in the world can now ask tips on how to be a successful bee-keeper. It really can get that niche. With the site now regularly averaging over 16 million unique users a month, the scope and potential is vast and not just confined to questions about users job roles. Sub-reddits to search for open positions have been set up, get general career guidance advice or help finding a route into a specific career, a dedicated section on entrepreneurs, internships, interview advice, CV advice…the list goes on. It’s the internet; build it and they will come. The job boards can get country or city specific, the career sub-reddits specific enough to focus on career areas such as Archaeology or charity work. In its essence it really is just people helping people.
There will be those within the Careers community who will balk at the messy, unregulated and sporadic nature of this sort of exploration experience. The fundamental requirement for safeguarding automatically rules out a Professional recommending a young person to use tools like this. For clients of all ages there are issues to cause caution as well. There is no guiding hand of a Professional to try to ensure quality or relevance of advice, there is only the individual to reflect on their own strengths, weaknesses and traits and, while there is moderation of posts and some verification of claims, the anonymous nature of the site still leaves the door open for unreliable information to be passed on without checks on bias or integrity.
But it is worth reiterating that this is not a free for all message posting board such as Craigslist and all of the horror stories sites like that have. Rules are set, moderation does occur and the community self rewards and chastises so positive possibilities remain with careful use. A school Careers Professional could set up a school account to source information from other users with career experiences not found in their local labour market or established range of contacts and then pass that on to their young client base. Those working with older clients could signpost to users who have become trusted in the community who could answer questions or historical threads, the Professional could use the community themselves to increase their knowledge of requirements or recruitment practices in specific job fields and internship and work opportunities could be sourced to then disseminate. As ever with both online and offline Careers information resources, it’s best that each Professional decides whether to explore it or not and become comfortable with how they could embed it in their own practice as another possible tool for the toolkit.