Interviewed by Scott Proietti
Professor Robert Stewart (Pictured Above)
3/11/14 This week the conversation centers around the importance of social media for job seekers and how people can better use social media to market themselves in the workforce. The workforce today is vastly impacted by social media. Our featured guest is Robert Stewart, Director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.
1. How has the social media boom impacted the workforce, as we know it today?
Robert Stewart: Social media give a voice to members of the workforce from the bottom of the organization to the top. At the top, company leaders can communicate with the public and with employees more directly and on this rather organic platform. They can choose to use the platform to increase interaction with employees and the public. Further down the company food chain, employees (and even the public) can use social media platforms to comment on various aspects of the company, for example decisions that are made, perceived missteps, or positive developments. In other words, a company shouldn’t be surprised if disgruntled employees weigh in on matters that formerly would have been mere water cooler complaining. That complaining can be very public. And of course, there’s a consequence for that complaining, too, which employees need to be well aware of.
2. What would you say is the key difference between job-search pre social media and job search in the social media era?
RS: The key difference is that every potential employee now has a social media history that can be carefully scrutinized by employers. Social media are an important way to evaluate potential employees. In addition, social media provide a new venue for people to interact with future employers, somewhat more casual than email or submitting a resume. It can be a way to start the “conversation.”
3. How has social media impacted your career?
RS: Twitter has become a very important part of my identity as the director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. I use it to communicate to students about school-related developments, and even more important, I use it to point out articles in the media ABOUT media developments that students should be aware of. Students tell me that even after they no longer have to read the New York Times articles I Tweet for my JOUR1010 class, they find the “service” I provide helpful. Certainly, the school has embraced social media under my direction, which is an extension of how my career has been impacted by social media. I also realize that we’re under enormous pressure to figure out not only how to incorporate social media in the daily life of the school, but also in the curriculum. Students are counting on us to be as close to the front edge of these changes as possible, so that they graduate with a cutting edge skill set that includes social media.
4. Overall, do you think social media has had a positive or negative impact on our society and the workforce in general?
RS: Social media platforms give every user a megaphone to amplify their part of the “conversation” that’s taking place. Social media have contributed to the national and global conversation, but of course, many users are not taking advantage of these tools for good. But I agree with those folks who say that the best way to counter bad speech is not by curtailing it, but by countering it with more good (i.e., “positive”) speech. Which isn’t to say that good speech is uncritical speech. On the contrary, good speech is honest, authentic speech, which more often than not can sound critical, even harsh. So really, it’s impossible to say whether the impact is more positive or more negative. The real question is, would I want to return to a time when there were no social media platforms. The answer is a resounding “no.”
5. What impact has social media had on the hiring process in the job market?
RS: The assumption today is that new employees entering the workforce will have sophisticated, effective social media skills. Industry is counting on these new employees to have social media “figured out.” Therefore, anyone planning to become part of the workforce absolutely needs to figure out how to use social media in appropriate ways. And, as noted in a previous response, the social media footprint of a potential employee will be carefully scrutinized for signs of trouble, similar to reading a resume full of typos. Why hire someone with high negatives on social media?
6. What would be your best advice to any aspiring job seeker hoping to gain entry into the workforce?
RS: Think of your social media use as a way to interact with future employers and enter the workforce. You are creating a virtual paper trail, so be very deliberate about it. At the risk of using the overused “brand” metaphor, be strategic about how you communicate your thoughts and views to the world, such that a future employer (or mate, for that matter) can get to know your thoughtful, considered self before learning about your more snarky, perhaps even mean spirited qualities. We’re all some kind of mashup of these characteristics, but it’s clearly better to put our best foot forward through social media. Too often, that’s not what comes across.
7. How can someone better use social media to market himself or herself in the workforce?
RS: Definitely use social media, but use them very, very thoughtfully. Don’t lose track of all of the various constituencies who are interacting with you via these platforms. Remain mindful of the different kinds of folks with whom you are talking to/with on social media. And just because they aren’t actively Tweeting doesn’t mean they aren’t lurking out there, reading your posts/Tweets with an eye to hiring (or not hire) you.
8. What are some social media strategies that adult job-seekers (specifically those who’ve been out of work for more than 6 months) can use to better market themselves to employers?
RS: The easiest way to build an effective profile on social media is to Tweet articles you are reading about relevant topics for your field. It shows a potential employer that you are remaining current and that you actively seek out thoughtful and meaningful ideas. Comment on these with caution, avoiding too many judgements. You never know your future employer’s views about topic X, Y or Z. Don’t stick your neck out too far. Rather, make note of an interesting point, much like you would at a dinner party with important folks whose opinions matter to you.
9. Would you give the same advice to college grads as you would to long-term unemployed adults?
RS: Yes, I think the advice is pretty much the same. Long-term unemployed adults probably don’t have the advantage of having grown up with social media tools, so they have the additional burden of needing to learn how to use these tools. But they also don’t have the task of having to reinvent their social media reputation the way some college students entering the workforce may have to. Caching of social media means that the “long tail” effect can be particularly challenging for young people who haven’t been mindful about their posting behavior.
*How do you think social media has impacted the workforce?