Thursday, 25 October 2012

#PlacementChat returns

#PlacementChat returns on Thursday 25 October. From 9pm I will be online to answer your placement questions live.

Questions can be asked using the hashtag #placementchat

You can follow the conversation on Twitter, using Tweetchat or by logging onto my website 

I look forward to seeing you online later this evening.


For those who missed it, you can read how things went by looking in the TweetChat box at the bottom of the page. The tweets should remain viewable for the next week

Monday, 22 October 2012

The 7 C's of Digital Career Literacy - In Practice

This is an article that I recently wrote for Tristam Hooley's blog, Adventures in Career Development. It is not particularly related to placements but I thought it still may be of interest to some of my readers. If you haven't already done so, please visit Tristam's blog which makes for excellent reading. 

I am not someone who typically flirts with career theory. My involvement in career development starts and ends as a coalface practitioner within the confines of Higher Education, where the focus lies in helping clients to reach for the first rung of the ladder. Dosed up on a concoction of CV review and extolling the virtue of employability, I leave the science behind my craft to the thinkers.

However, I was recently drawn to an article by Tristam Hooley published in the NICEC journal in which the author explored the relationship between career development and online technology. In summarising the skills and knowledge required for people to pursue their careers effectively through using the internet, Hooley identifies seven elements for developing digital career literacy, which he calls the Seven C’s.

This struck a chord with me on two levels. Firstly, I encourage my students to take advantage of the opportunities social media and the web can offer in their search for internships and graduate jobs, be that sourcing opportunities, researching industries or networking with recruiters. The Seven C’s offers a simple framework for careers professionals to deliver this message to their students, perhaps through case studies revolving around successful technologically savvy graduates.

What also struck me about the Seven C’s what how much of it I could relate to on a personal level. Over the past year I have actively taken steps to enhance my career through online engagement. In a moment I will outline what each of the Seven C’s has meant to me in practice, but first I will offer a little context into why I embarked of my journey with technology.

I have been working in Higher Education for almost 7 years. During that time I have helped hundreds of students to secure sandwich placements as part of their undergraduate studies. I love the role I play in helping young people to take the early steps on what I hope will be a highly successful career path, and yet paradoxically I have spent little time actively developing my own career. At the start of 2012 I devised a project which could offer both networking opportunities and personal development outside the confines of my traditional working environment and immersed in the digital world.

Here then is my experience of The Seven C’s of digital career literacy

Changing describes the ability to understand and adapt to changing online career contexts and to learn to use new technologies for the purpose of career building.

My project began with a simple idea; a blog written purely about placements, filling a gap I perceived to exist within the careers blogging community. ‘Tales from the Placement Office’ was born and I assumed an online identity called ‘The Placement Officer’. I viewed this as a suitable platform to share good practice and promote the advantages of placements. It also offered an opportunity to practice what I preach to students about online engagement.

Communicating describes the ability to interact effectively across a range of different platforms, to understand the genre and netiquette of different interactions and to use them in the context of career

A blog without an audience is like novel written in disappearing ink; the content may exist but nobody is going to read it. I created a Twitter account to complement the blog by promoting new articles. A LinkedIn profile was also initially established with a view to reaching out to relevant professional groups. However, it soon became apparent that this was not an appropriate platform to advance the project as the faceless profile of ‘The Placement Officer’ struggled to make connections or secure group membership. Subsequently the account was closed down with the Twitter account taking over as the chief communication tool and means by which interactions could occur.

Connecting describes the ability to build relationships and networks online that can support career development

While Twitter provided a means to spread word of the blog, it was important to develop online relationships with key placement stakeholders. Starting from a base of zero followers, I purposefully instigated interactions with organisations that offered a strong prospect of sharing my articles to their audience within the placement community. Rate My Placement provided a link to students, while PlaceNet offered a route to fellow placement professionals. To my surprise, I quickly found a third party (Career Geek) were interested in my work and offered guest blogging opportunities, which I duly accepted with a view to reaching a wider audience.

Creating describes the ability to create online content that effectively represents the individual, their interests and their career history

What began as an idea one cold January evening has thus far spawned 33 placement-related articles. I would like to think that each one of them has been injected with strains of my personality, although the fact that I have until very recently blogged anonymously means that I have some work to do yet if the blog is to offer a true reflection of career history.

Curating describes the ability of an individual to reflect on and develop their digital footprint and online networks as part of their career building

My most recent article in which I unveiled the author behind the blog provided a first step in my new digital footprint. A by-product of this has been an influx of requests from placement professionals who have wanted to join my online network on LinkedIn. My next course of action will be to update my profile to include the blogging experience and to ensure that the digital footprint created as ‘The Placement Officer’ is transferred across to me as an individual.

Collecting describes the ability to source, manage and retrieve career information and resources

Something that I have learned throughout my project is the digital world contains good information, bad information and lots that falls somewhere in between. Separating the good becomes easier as your online network expands, where contacts directly or indirectly refer to quality material. For example, prior to starting the blog, I was unfamiliar with the excellent video resources offered by Aimee Bateman through her Career Cake TV portal, but became aware of her work through a mutual acquaintance on Twitter. Shortly afterwards when writing an article on the potential dangers of social media when job hunting, I was able to refer to a specific resource from the Career Cake website and with permission from the owner embedded a video into my article.

Critiquing describes the ability to understand the nature of online career information and resources, to analyse its provenance and to consider its usefulness for a career

This is perhaps the weakest of my Seven C’s within the context of the project. Where I have offered review of career resources, such as ‘A Student’s Guide to the Top Placement & Internship Employers’ it has been done from the perspective of my audience, rather than in terms of me as an individual. However, this article in response to Hooley’s journal item is a personal (if public) reflection of a career resource and as such falls under the banner of critique.

In conclusion, I have found the Seven C’s of digital career literacy a particularly useful tool for mapping my online career engagement and identifying areas that may require improvement. Each element is easily understood and from the perspective of a practitioner, I can see how I may present this to students as a framework to help them to develop technology-led career savvy. I encourage others to utilise the Seven C’s to reflect upon and assess the development of their own digital career literacy.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Introducing 'The Placement Officer'

When I started this blog earlier in the year, I was looking for a new challenge. After experiencing a number of setbacks in 2011, I decided to immerse myself in a project that would enable personal development, enhance my skillset and build upon a successful start to 2012. Modern day careers advice encourages students to utilise social media as a networking tool and so in an effort to practice what I preach, Tales from the Placement Office was dreamt up and I adopted The Placement Officer as my title.

10 months, 32 articles, 1070 tweets and 385 followers later, I can only be pleased with how the project has developed to date. My humble placement blog was quickly embraced by the careers blogging community, and I soon received a guest blog opportunity from Career Geek. I have been extremely grateful to the likes of Rate My Placement and PlaceNet for publicising my articles to their Twitter followers, which has been a great help in expanding my network and reaching a wider audience. 

I have engaged in a variety of conversations, some serious, others less so, with bloggers, careers & placement professionals, recruiters and students, that simply would not have happened had this blog not existed. While to that extent my time as 'The Placement Officer' has been successful and I have undoubtedly advanced my social media skills, it has been difficult to map personal development as throughout the project I have been hiding behind my online alias.

Anonymity was very important to me when I started out. Initially I wasn't sure how well received the blog would be or if there would be any interest in my musings. 'The Placement Officer' provided a safety blanket which offered protection from failure. I was also very clear that I wanted my blog to retain neutrality, fearing that if it was too closely identified with one person from a particular university it would not appeal to a wider community.

Now that those fears have been allayed, I feel the time is right for a proper introduction. In recent days I have unmasked to a few people and the sky did not fall in. Hopefully that won't happen now either. If curiosity gets the better of you, my LinkedIn profile can be found by clicking here - I know this won't be a complete bombshell for some of you who had already joined together the dots!

With disclosure comes both apologies and confession. At the PlaceNet conference in May I was offered numerous opportunities to unveil but chose not to. Several delegates questioned me directly and to my shame I denied all involvement. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to all those concerned and I will be contacting them privately to do likewise.

The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice from LinkedIn there is a discrepancy between my job title and my chosen alias. I am not in the literal sense a placement officer, so if any of my readers or followers feel mislead then I unreservedly apologise to you. When picking my name, I went for something that was easily understood and to put it bluntly, 'The Placement Assistant' would not have been half as effective in establishing an online identity. While there may have been a slight embellishment in this area, I stand completely behind the content of my articles. I am passionate about my industry, a huge advocate of placements and if 'The Placement Officer' has motivated even one student to pursue an internship, re-start an application or give due consideration to their graduate prospects, I believe that this will have been a worthwhile project.

Having built a strong online presence, I will continue to blog and tweet under the same alias. However, for this one article I will make a long overdue formal introduction. My name is Graham, I am 'The Placement Officer' and it is great to make your acquaintance.

Friday, 5 October 2012

#placementchat - a retrospective

Have you heard the one about the blogger, the recruiter and the geek?

It sounds like the basis of a pretty cheap gag but in fact goes some way to describe some of the participants in the inaugural Placement Chat hosted on Twitter yesterday evening. I was joined by a fellow university professional, students currently out on placement, a graduate/blogger who benefited from undertaking a placement, and a recruitment consultant/careers adviser.

Throughout the hour discussion ranged from the benefits of placements, parental influence on decision making, how students can help themselves to become more employable and even helped a student with preparation for their quarterly review.

Inspired by the brilliant Career Cam Live I wanted to use social media to create an interactive session to discuss the virtues of placement and hopefully reach an audience beyond my existing network.

The technology that powered the event was incredibly simple. Anybody with a Twitter account could interact with the conversation using the hashtag #placementchat while using an application called TweetChat made it very simple to block out the rest of the Twitter world. Copying a little bit of HTML code, I embedded a TweetChat window into my blog so that my readers could keep track of the event.

In terms of promotion, I probably need to apologise to my Twitter followers as for the last week or so I have been posting regular reminders of the time and date. I'm very grateful to those who retweeted the messages to their followers, particularly my friends at Career Geek who put out a stream of messages through their social media channels. Ahead of the next #placementchat I will look to tap into the marketing expertise of Rate My Placement to reach out to a wider student audience.

So what were the outcomes of this event? From a personal perspective, I was happy with how the session went. Whenever you try something new or innovative there is always the danger of falling flat on your face and I had worried that I would be sat at my laptop tweeting to myself for an hour. That didn't happen but I'll be the first to admit that I was hoping for a little more student engagement in the session. However, a platform has been laid for future events and any fears I held about exiting my comfort zone have been put to rest.

There were other positives too. One of the participants sent me a message afterwards to say they had been inspired and would be looking into the possibility of doing something similar. I noticed two of the participants networking outside of the main conversation and may look to collaborate together on a future project.

On reflection, I am fairly pleased with how things worked out. I'm excited at the possibilities of running similar sessions with my own students, perhaps involving placement recruiters or inviting alumni to recount their placement stories to the current class.

There will be another #placementchat in the near future. Keep your eyes open for the hashtag.