06 February 2011
By Tristram Hooley
Much of what has been written on this blog so far has focused on how social media can be used to actually support you in the process of research. Social media can be an powerful research tool that can help you to discover information and resources, seek help and disseminate you research. Many of the same tools can also be used to help you to advance your career and to build your reputation in academia and beyond.
There is a famous model of career development know as DOTS which argues that you have to be able to make decisions (D), understand opportunities (O), make transitions (T) and understand your self (S) in order to be successful in your career. In this post I’m briefly going to sketch out how social media can help you with each of these key career development processes.
Making decisions: One of the issues that researchers often find challenging in thinking about their career is making decisions. Often this is seen as a big decision about whether to stay in academia or leave for ever although it is probably more usefully seen as a series of smaller decisions e.g. is this the right job for me? Which of these alternatives do I prefer? Is now the right time to move?
Social media can be enormously valuable in helping you to think about these decisions. For example, the experience of blogging about a dilemma you are facing and asking for help or information from others can provide you with further food for thought in your decision making. Ultimately only you can make a career decision, but being able to quickly gather in the opinions of others can be enormously useful. The experience of blogging can also be useful in helping you to clarify the nature of the decision that you are making and to provide you with space to think it through.
Understanding opportunities: Understanding opportunities is crucial in building a successful career. Until you know what jobs, courses and other opportunities are out there it is very difficult to make realistic career moves. In the past people might have approached this through combing job adverts in the back of various news papers. Increasingly it is possible to use social media networks both to source information about the opportunities that are available and to proactively make opportunities. For example Twitter and LinkedIn are both used by recruiters to advertise jobs. Careful management of your accounts in these kinds of services can enable you to identify opportunities. Furthermore you can proactively use these kinds of resources to build you profile and potentially attract opportunities to you.
Negotiating transition: For many people career requires a process of both holding on and moving on. In our careers we try and keep in touch with friends and contacts from old jobs whilst moving on and fitting into new roles. This process of transition is particularly daunting when it involves leaving a sector (such as higher education) or moving to a new town or even country. Social media offers lots of tools that we can utilise to support our career transitions. We can use social networking tools to build relationship with people before we start working with them and to maintain relationships after we no longer work with people. Social tools like Facebook have had the impact of extending the size of our social networks and sustaining them once we are no longer physically proximate. Tools like LinkedIn and Twitter may offer similar advantages for professional relationships.
Knowing your self: If you want to be happy in your career you are likely to need to develop a good understanding of your own abilities, likes and interests. If you have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses it is likely to help you to identify the kinds of roles and opportunities that you will enjoy. Individual reflection (perhaps using a reflective blog) can be really important in improving your self-knowledge, but feedback from others can also be really crucial. Social media can enable you to test out ideas about your career and to seek feedback about yourself. Social media also enables you to gain insight into others and to examine whether the careers of other people who you identify with offer you possible models for developing your own career.
Social media offers a range of powerful tools and practices that can be used to support your career development. You should think carefully about how you use it and remember that much social media is conducted in public. There is a balance to be struck between open reflection and too much disclosure. However on balance I believe that an effective use of social media can support you in shaping, managing and advancing your career.
What do you think…?