Learning about the US experience of careers and web 2.0

1 May 2008

I know I’ve been very quiet on the blog recently. Trying to do too much as usual and dropping some of the balls! But I’m also re-thinking things a little in terms of what I write about, so watch this space…

I’m writing this post from a slightly chilly Minnesota. I’m actually on holiday visiting my brother, but also squeezing in a day at the University of Minnesota next week to swap notes with some careers people there.

So how did that come about…? Well it’s a typical web 2.0 story.

I had the idea of seeing whether I could arrange a visit to a local university while I was in the US, and the University of Minnesota was the obvious choice. After that, I played online detective, looking for someone at the university who I could contact to set the ball rolling. A careers practitioner interested in the web and new technology with a strong online presence seemed like too much to ask for… until I came across Vic Massaglia’s profile

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E-guidance (where ‘e’ stands for eternal or exasperating?) and an instant alternative

9 April 2008

Everyone is talking about e-guidance and lots of us are doing it, but it doesn’t get a very good press. It seems to be something we do reluctantly, a poor third cousin to face-to-face guidance and even telephone guidance interviews. And actually, it’s not hard to see why we advisers don’t like it very much.

Firstly, it can be painfully slow. A student writes “I’m a history student graduating in June and I need to get a job, but not really sure what I want to do. Can you help?” The usual ‘exploration’ phase of the interview is highly problematic by e-mail. It is always a delicate balance between giving information (risking being irrelevant) and asking lots of questions to probe and clarify (risking opening up so many cans of worms that even a flock of hungry seagulls over two generations couldn’t deal with all of them!).

Secondly, misunderstandings seem to happen much more often. Of course, we are very aware that with e-mail there are no visual cues – no body language, no facial expressions or tone of voice. There’s little in the way of substance to help you get to know a person. But I think the lack of immediacy is also an exacerbating factor here. If you write “What do I need to do to get a job at the BBC?”, are you asking for information about the BBC’s recruitment methods or do you mean “Darn it, I’m so frustrated! I’ve tried everything to get a job in that bloomin’ organisation and nothing’s working. The whole world’s against me!” [cont…]

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Virtual mock interviews?

3 April 2008

If you’re a careers adviser reading this, chances are you’ve conducted a mock interview at some point. It’s straightforward enough. You prepare your questions for the student according to the type of interview and the job they’re applying for. You brief the student, run through the questions, making notes on the student’s answers, and then spend some time discussing how it went and where they might improve their performance.

In general, it’s a fairly simple exercise, and students (assuming they aren’t scared off completely!) usually find the experience pretty useful, if only slightly less painful than a trip to the dentist! Some of you might have also ventured into the realms of video interviewing, as we have here at Manchester…

But at peak times of year the demand for mock interviews might be so great you just can’t meet it.
Or students (or more likely, graduates) might be off campus and not able to come for a face-to-face interview.
Or a client might need to arrange a mock interview at very short notice and you just can’t fit them in.
Or they might want to have more than one shot at practising their answers to those “killer questions”.

That’s really where virtual interviews come into their own. [cont…]

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What do we want from our careers websites?

13 March 2008

I discovered today that my area of work is in fact ‘a science’! Yes, the BBC’s technology blog reported today on the birth of a new so-called science – ‘web science’.

Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton and one of the directors at the Web Science Research Initiative, said:

“The web is the elephant in the room – it has transformed our lives, but we never see it. We feel the time has come to study it – to see its benefits and understand its possible dis-benefits.”


On the one hand, I feel slightly uneasy about the word ‘science’ being used to describe the study of what the WSRI describe as “the largest human information construct in history” – the internet. However, as someone who sometimes feels like she’s on an accelerating treadmill with no ‘off’ or ‘pause’ buttons, desperately trying to keep up with new technology, I do welcome any attempt to make it appear less scary and more manageable. I’ll be watching these developments with interest…!

So what is the purpose of a careers website in 2008? What do we want it to do? What do students and graduates want it to do? What are the possible pitfalls? A few thoughts and questions…

  • How many of our websites are still mainly about providing information or ‘content’?

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“To do” lists and techie tools for getting organised

4 March 2008

Thanks for all your comments and feedback on my previous posts, and particular thanks to AGCAS for promoting it! My last post on video interviewing via Skype or other technology really seems to have caught people’s attention, so I’ll write an update on that later in the week. Apologies for the virtual silence in the last week by the way – my ISP is playing up at home, and since this is an out-of-hours blog, it has been a little tricky!

Time Management and Organisational Skills. Hmmm…

I’ve run student workshops on these, but it’s still something that I have to work hard at myself, in spite of many years as a project manager… In the past, I’ve had ‘to do’ lists that look something like this, probably written on the back of something I can’t find again:

[Image from Flickr courtesy of Eamon Brett, http://www.ebbybrett.co.uk]

But I do love tools and gadgets, so I’ve tried PDAs, the ‘tasks’ function in Outlook and numerous other “technology-enhanced” techniques. My latest discovery is a little tool at www.rememberthemilk.com. (Thanks to Matt Lingard at LSE for that one.) It’s another example of what has traditionally been a desktop application going web-based. If, [cont…]

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Off campus careers guidance via Skype, anyone?

19 February 2008

An recent Guardian article about medical consultations via live videolink (telediagnostics?) got me thinking… For a doctor (especially a specialist) to conduct a proper consultation with a patient remotely, the latter still has to get to some kind of “patient’s booth” with all the appropriate equipment – perhaps not quite as revolutionary as it may have first sounded?

To conduct a careers guidance interview remotely, however, all that is really needed is some form of video or teleconferencing technology (such as Skype) installed on your PC, a webcam, and some speakers or headphones, and hey presto, our students (assuming they have the same technology) can interact with us from the comfort of their [cont…]

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Is reading dead?

18 February 2008

I recently came across this article, Dawn of the Digital Natives (in the Technology section of the Guardian website), about changes in reading habits which have resulted from the rapid burgeoning of the internet. The author, Steven Johnson, argues that reading is not dying, contrary to the beliefs of an bunch of apparent scaremongers at the American organisation ‘National Endowment for the Arts’ who published a study on the issue, To Read or Not To Read, in November 2007. The author of the NEA study makes the somewhat bold claim that:

“Whatever the benefits of newer electronic media, they provide no measurable substitute for the intellectual and personal development initiated and sustained by frequent reading.”

Wow! Does he mean that any reading we do on a screen as opposed to on the printed page somehow does not count? The point is, [cont…]

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