Students must be educated in social media

7 August 2012 By Northern Lights

Students must be educated in social media image

Are teachers and academics short changing our young people?

In academic and educational circles, many have been slow to adopt social media – and there are still those who are dismissive of social media as a lot of silliness.  Perhaps an element of intellectual snobbery?

Lecturers don’t have social media skills

Whatever the reason, students are not being given skills in social media.  Last year I gave a talk on how to use social media in business at a college, to business studies students and their lecturers.  Going round the room at the start, the lecturers were almost proud to admit they knew almost nothing about social media and certainly weren’t using it.  Yet shouldn’t this be a critical skill when starting business?

Employers are eliminating candidates based on Facebook

We have just launched our eBook for students on how to use social media to get a job.  We tested it out with numerous students to check if it was relevant, easy to understand and useful. 

One started on the introduction and half way down the page she looked up in shock:  “I never thought that an employer might look at my Facebook page”.  This from a bright, second year student at Leeds University.

 Claire Morley-Jones, managing director of HR180, recruits everyone from part-time staff to chief executives on behalf of her clients.  She says that social media is now an essential part of the recruitment process particularly in relation to headhunting or finding the perfect candidate who might not yet be actively looking for work.

She says:  “We do use social media to find candidates and our clients might check out their digital profile as part of deciding whether they are happy with our shortlist.  Unfortunately, more often than not we are concerned about what we see online – content that involves salacious, ‘peeping tom’ style photos of a recent night out, accompanied by comments of a derogatory, insensitive and callous nature towards the participants! 

“These logically reflect poorly on any candidate, as they clearly demonstrate the individual’s lack of confidentiality, judgement, respect for their own friends and empathy – along with poor team work.  They could even be construed as bullying in some cases.  Whilst not wishing to be totally over the top and prevent individuals from having fun or enjoying themselves, at the end of the day, the qualities listed above are certainly not admired by friends, let alone prospective employers.”

Why aren’t students being taught at school, college and university that the rest of the world is making judgements on Facebook profiles that could affect their career for ever?

Students are missing opportunities

Social media is a great way for students to target and build relationships with potential employers – and they don’t need well connected parents to do that.

Asad Ali, partner at Blacks Solicitors, says they have taken on a number of work experience students who made contact on Twitter.  He said:  “For any business that is serious about social media, it’s really hard to ignore someone who is interested in you and your firm, who wishes you good luck, or that asks how an event went.”

“One student tweeted to us that they were applying for a training contract and that they really liked our new website.  He asked to talk to us about placements and for advice on his CV, which we gave him.  Our advice was to lose the ‘cool dude photo’ that he was using – and the next day there was his photo with him in a suit.  So he asked and he listened.  We liked that.  To be honest, he jumped the queue because of the way he engaged with us.”

Get your students writing blogs to demonstrate their expertise

When we ran our Northern Lights PR internship, we got the team writing professional blogs in their first week.  They had no concept of how blogs could convey their expertise and this, along with networking, were the most useful skills they learnt.  So they said.

This is particularly important if someone is trying to break into a career where they have no previous experience or qualifications. 

In our eBook we give the example of someone who wants to move from drama to HR and suggest she starts a blog to do this.  This will demonstrate her ability to research and analyse the subject, passion for the career and commitment to posting a blog once a week.

Social media will help employers to find you

Josh Jervis, a third year student from Leeds University completed his LinkedIn profile after our lecture – and within 24 hours was offered an interview and then a job through LinkedIn. 

Students need to understand the process of including keywords in their profiles so that they will be found by employers doing Google searches for recruits.  Already a third of employers use social media to recruit – and that is increasing by the month.  So the lucky few students who understand how to use social media are standing out – and the rest are losing out.

Isn’t it time for the educational world to wake up and smell the coffee?   Or are we being too harsh?  What’s stopping universities and colleges from making social media a core skill for every academic and careers adviser and an integral part of every degree and course?

Author Image

Written by Northern Lights


  • Please don’t generalise! Some lecturers are very good with social media and embrace the new means of communication. Here at The University of Lincoln we are proud to boast that some of our students have been head hunted for their first posts because of the way they have made use of social media, and we have encouraged that.
    I think your ebook is fabulous and will help those less comfortable with the medium…but we are not all dinosaurs!

  • That’s a fair point Jane – I am generalising and I know you have been great at teaching social media skills. But I think you’ll probably agree you are a rarity?!
    Thank you for the comment (I am suitably chastised!) and the kind feedback on our ebook

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