Twitter used to be my go-to service. There were times when I valued Twitter more than LinkedIn for building professional networks. I’m even published in earlier versions of John Lees‘ great book series How to Get a Job You’ll Love talking about how to use it for job searching. But since Elon Musk took over the service, it has lost its value to me. More so, I think it has become such a toxic environment that I have decided to shutter my account. Twitter will not be part of my New Normal.
Twitter hasn’t been “normal” for a while
Since the takeover, Twitter has become unreliable, as user experience and moderation have suffered from cuts. Some of those strike me as deliberate attempts to scupper representation from groups that had developed thriving Twitter communities, such as BIPOC and LGBTQ+ users (especially T).
Musk’s espoused “free speech absolutism” seems one-sided. The site invites back previously banned right-wing agitators and transphobes, while making it harder to curb their bullying and disinformation. The destruction of the verification system reduced the site’s value as a diverse source of news and relevant information.
My ideological qualms with the site aside, it is a lot less worthwhile as a professional engagement tool. So I have decided to invest my time elsewhere.
My Escape Plan
I held back for a while, hoping to see if this project of grinding down the site into the hellscape it has become would fail. But it hasn’t, so it’s time for me to move on. My escape plan is to preserve what I can of what I had on Twitter, while shuttering my account, but not closing it (yet). I’ll be around for maintenance and checking for unlikely improvements. I have not committed to an alternative platform, as maybe micro-blogging isn’t for me anymore.
I am finally moving all professional conversations about #edtech, #careers, #startups, #remoteworking, and #alumnirelations, etc. to my LinkedIn account.
I have started following individual voices I value (especially on LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and politics) on Instagram. This is not ideal since the cinematic Metaverse is as problematic as a Zack Snyder director’s cut. But the integration with Threads may still be an escape hatch I may want to use.
As I have always appreciated the simplicity and control that RSS feeds offer me, so I have ramped up the use of my Feedly account. I have much stronger control over the news sources while offering me search options beyond my immediate information bubble.
My Twitter account will be set to private while I further reduce my time on the site to a maintenance minimum. Twitter was problematic at its worst, but amazing at its best. X is just its worst, every day. No need to be sad about mothballing it.
1/11 tweets on using Twitter as a tool for #howgetajobyoulove, in support of @JohnLeesCareers new edition of How To Get A Job You Love #HTGAJYL. It’s not sponsored content, but I will be in the book. I like John and his advice is #IMHO excellent.
2/11 Create a Twitter profile connected to your #LinkedIn (Facebook & YouTube) profile. Use the same picture and mission statement throughout for consistency. Put your Twitter name on your CV. Disable any settings that automatically tweet – be selective. #HTGAJYL
3/11 Follow target #employers, their followers, #job tweets, relevant bloggers and experts in the field. Following others brings you followers. Make sure they are real and don’t spout only promotional or fake content. Curate your followers, block bots. Be choosy. #HTGAJYL
4/11 Use #LinkedIn to update Twitter not more than once a day. Never push all updates via LinkedIn, only work and audience relevant ones. Choose your message of the day wisely – always ask – what’s of most value to my audience? #HTGAJYL
5/11 Tweet a lot, say about 5 times daily to keep a flow. Some still use email alerts for #socialmedia sites – so don’t flood them. Consider e.g. Hootsuite to manage multi-platform posts: E.g. five tweets, one to LinkedIn, some to your Facebook page. #HTGAJYL
6/11 Only tweet what you think is relevant to your audiences. Use #hashtags picked up in relevant discussions, e.g. #HTGAJYL. Twitter at its best is funny, a snappy comment, a funny (but relevant) animated gif or short video shows you are fun to work with.
7/11 If something good is not worth retweeting, like it. People react well to likes.. Adding value to their #professional Twitter feed will be good PR for you and the people you follow. #HTGAJYL
8/11 Don’t worry too much about your original content at first, focus on sharing and adding value to others. Your first own tweets will always suck a bit. Relax. Twitter is immediate and boring content will just flow away. Move on. Others will, too. #HTGAJYL
9/11 Find your own voice: Write like you’re in a #job engaging with peers: talk about topics relevant to #employers in twitter chats. It is OK to sprinkle in your own, even political opinion. But never be rude or spread #fakenews. Never #mansplain. #HTGAJYL
10/11 The Offline world just about still rules the online world: go #networking and meet the people you tweet. Also, live-tweet from events. Even better, post pics, use Periscope to live stream and share your own YouTube videos. Visuals beat text every time. #HTGAJYL
11/11 Check interviewers’ tweets in advance, quote or refer to them if appropriate. They will check you in advance, you can do the same. Follow speakers, but don’t be creepy. Never say anything you wouldn’t in front of other people and to their faces. #HTGAJYL
At a recent PlaceNet event, when we were talking about how we are using social media to cajole students to come to our service, someone from the audience asked a very pertinent question about what to do when our social media efforts to bring in the students … well … don’t actually bring the students through the door of our careers service. My answer was short: we shouldn’t try to bring them in physically if that’s not where they want to be. They won’t come however many viral videos we create and share. If we take the mission statement to ‘go where our clients are’ seriously, we can’t expect them to suddenly do what we may really truly want them to do – come into our cosy comfort zone on campus. So, where else do they want to go? Follow me, I’ll explain.
“We all need to be content producers now”
‘We all need to be content producers now!’ my colleague Adam said recently. It was during a discussion on how to make our service more accessible to students. The overall idea is to make sure that our students come to us – which quite simply requires us to go to them and make what we do as transparent and immediate as we can.
As per my last blog post, I’ve had a couple of epiphanies lately, and this is one: We don’t only need to go where our students are, we have to give them value right now, right here, or we lose their attention. Sounds like another rant about those so-called millennials, but bear with me – I’m happy about this. I don’t really care how our students learn career relevant skills, as long as they learn them in a way that is memorable and useful for them when needed.
This includes letting go of our fixation with physical attendance at workshops, events, masterclasses, etc. Of course, they are important, but sometimes I think they are more important to us as service providers, and we struggle when our students don’t value them in the same way. They would, if only we delivered them in a way they actually want to access them.
This is why we started providing short, improvised looking, three- to four-minute Facebook videos in which we explain topics such as self-perception and deception, professional identity, anxieties about what to do post university – you get the drift. No one will ever come to a workshop on self-perception at a set date on campus, however, we might want to bribe our students (and believe me, we have tried) – but a video about the topic garnered 400 views in less than 24h.
They are not uninterested in what we have to say, just the way we say it
Which confirms to me what I have suspected for a long time: They are not uninterested in what we have to say, just the way we say it, because our methods of communication are outdated. So my conclusion is that we need to produce that magical thing – relevant content.
The beauty of using social media channels to distribute that content is that they will tell – at least to some extent – what actually happened with it. That’s much harder to gauge when they leave your on-campus workshop bleary eyed, and no amount of filling in feedback forms will ever change that. If they engage with the content on social media, you will know.
Are we masters of this at our workplace? Of course not, but it’s a direction we are going down, as our first results are more than promising. As long as we can finally drop the assumption that online is less worth than online, I think we can win back their attention. They won’t come back through your door as much as they used to in those mythical better olden days – but they’ll look through your window if you open it wide enough.
Do you agree – or really really not? Tell me what you think in the comments.
When you follow this blog, you know that I am quite active in pushing the agenda for ‘young people,’ as they venture out into the world of work, and I often push the importance of digital literacy as a basic skill. This post is about older people though – my parents to be exact. Before getting on to my soapbox on how everyone needs to be able to use digital technology to function in this evermore digital work, I have point out that while the need for those two age groups may be similar, their interaction with technology will not be the same.
My dad vs. Facebook
When giving talks or seminars, I often tell the story when I asked my dad to become friends on Facebook. It got me into hot water, to say the least, and following an irate 20 minute phone call at a bus stop in south London, we’ve since been having a debate about this topic (i.e. for the last three years). The arguments against the usage of social media are plentiful (i.e. Facebook and Google being evil mostly), and mine (that the world is working this way now) are acknowledged, but ultimately countered with ‘I choose not to engage’. In that, they indeed have the advantage that they probably won’t need to engage with social media – as opposed to younger people who do need them almost to prove to an employer that they exist, or in some twisted sense, authentic. However, they are dependent on some online services, and will become increasingly so as they age – and the world changes around them. To be clear, my dad is no technophobe – he has worked on programmable ‘calculators’ since before I was born – and still does – but his approach is certainly very selective, in a sense that it is somehow ‘stationary’: The web is being used for email communication and finding information. From a piece of hardware. On the desk. In the study (even though it’s a laptop and there is WiFi). Engagement with e-commerce, flight bookings, and other forms of account management are outsourced to the younger generation (normally me).
However, in dragging them into this brave new world, I have chosen my battles well, and have pushed them to use first a tablet, and now smartphones. With the tablet I gave them two years ago, it was astonishing: my mother, who never has in her live used a keyboard, took to it much quicker than my father, who had used computers when they still contained tubes. It was interesting to experience in practice see what ‘intuitive’ really means in user interface design. She has now opened forms of independent dialogue with me that used to go through ‘the computer’ in the house – in my dad’s study. On another flo … you get the drift. The smartphones introduced the idea of the internet being available outside the home (even on another floor!), and them being reachable during their many travels.
There are a number of considerations behind this: being able to be contacted – and to reach out – when on the move becomes much more important when mobility impairments become the norm. There is also the aspect of being able to know where they are, and being able to support, or organise support wherever they are. This goes especially for the time when there will only be one left. Our and their mortality is a fact of life that has been on the forefront of my thinking ever since last year, I could reach one of my oldest friends just in time before he died – in no small measure thanks to mobile internet technology.
What have I learnt?
This is not easy to answer, as the learning is still going on: watching my parents calling each other and playing with the smartphones at the dining table at home is as entertaining as it is touching. It is also a phase of orientation and learning for them. In my view, in this post-modern world, digital technology and the mobile internet are life-lines, at least in a metaphorical sense. My parents will never become avid Facebook users, but we are able to connect to them, and they can use some of the technologies to reach out and stay in touch. And that is exciting.
Sue Thomas (@suethomas), from Bournemouth university, writes in The Conversation, that there is “Nothing wrong with a digital detox but wired nature is better”. She questions commonly held beliefs about the necessity of stepping back from technology to restore some kind of natural state – by immersing yourself into nature. It’s worth reading – I’ll wait until you’re back.
This struck a chord with me, as I’ve encountered this idea many times before: digital as opposed to natural, having per se a detrimental effect on our (social) lives, health, souls, etc. I don’t buy this. Sure, enjoying nature is patently good, and missing the advent of spring while being hunched over 450 levels of fruit ninja (I may show my lack of gaming knowledge here) is problematic.
I think our perception of digital as somehow alien to our ‘nature’ is a fallacy. Humans have not been in their ‘natural state’ since they developed means of influencing their surroundings, using tools and knowledge. Humanity is shaped by using them, and technology, including our digital tools, are the natural extension of this. Besides, most of our nature isn’t in its original, ‘pure’, state anymore either. It has been shaped by centuries of culture and technology.
As it happens, also in The Conversation, Vince Hendricks (@infostorms), from the University of Copenhagen, writes about how the humanities’ potential for understanding human nature is being helped by the Internet, as it is a true (and flawed) repository of human culture. I liked his perspective and the bullish stance he takes. I’ll wait again, just read it and come back.
Both pieces combine into my learning experience for the day (and therefore qualify for this blog): the seeming dichotomy of ‘human nature’ versus ‘technology’ is negated by the fact that technology is ultimately a result of culture – which is natural to you, if you’re human. Trying to escape from it for a while may provide some escapist pleasure, before returning safely into warmth of the post-modern world; but it ultimately is just a form of tourism. I would like a more balanced approach that lets you enjoy the benefits of both worlds – ideally combined. So, immersing yourself in nature, while making use of what centuries of human experience have led you to know and possess, is perfectly fine.
PS: Just to make sure I have some (potentially viral) video content in my blog, and because I think it supports my point – and because it has a cute baby sea lion in it, here’s a fascinating video:
Yesterday I spoke to student services professionals as part of an AMOSSHE continuous professional development day event (see slides above). In two 2h workshops, we moved through an overview of social media channels, and how to use them in the pursuit of improving the student experience. I like doing talks like this one, because they not only get me out of the office in a physical sense, but also in a mental one. I like traveling on trains as this allows me to gather my thoughts, and I like talking about my professional experience – not only to satisfy my considerable ego, but it gives me a chance to reflect on what I do as a professional.
And there were a couple of challenges, from which I’ve picked up some learning experiences. The first one was that I had to prepare more than I normally do. I tend to think that I’m a competent and confident public speaker (see ego reference above). However, the length of the session, the focus on student experience rather than employability, and the fact that one of the participants was hard of hearing, gave me additional challenges – and food for thought. I normally don’t use slides, but I learnt that in order make my talk more accessible, it was useful to send in a slide link in advance. That disrupted my preparation process (which normally entails drinking green tea on a train). And I’m thankful for this, as it helped me focus my effort more – I guess I normally impose my learning style on others, by choosing my specific presentation style. Probably not great pedagogy. Being disrupted in this way made me focus much more on being clear in what I was trying to say – and sticking to it. And that was a great learning experience.
Another learning experience was that social media in higher education seem to settle themselves. Gone are the days where I had to argue their worth in general, and that they are not a fad – but that they are now understood to be professional tools. The question is not if, but how they will be used. That’s a clear change from talks only about two years ago – and it’s a delight, as it is more exciting territory than showing people how to set up an account and explaining what a hashtag is.
The third one was a question I was asked: how do you make sure that every in a team picks up the necessary technical understanding to use these tools competently? The answer I came up with was probably not really satisfactory: you can’t. I have found that teaching people technology related skills is the hardest training challenge I have faced so far. I think that socialisation and self-perception play a role, but essentially, technical skills only ‘stick’ if you use them immediately and without giving up, even though you will fail – a lot. My overall personality (I’m nothing if not persistent), and my experience in learning martial arts have fostered this a lot: ‘try, fail, get up, try again’ is so ingrained into my personality that working with me must sometimes be frustrating – people probably think I enjoy making mistakes. But back to fostering technology learning – I think it’s all about patiently ‘enabling trying, failing, getting up and trying again’. It can’t be forced – but I think it can be fostered by building a diverse team with enough technology positive people who can help their colleagues along. And that doesn’t just mean ‘young people’ aka digital natives – as they don’t exist in my experience.
So, all in all, a stimulating day, and a great way to get to know others in related professions. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
PS: I’m also experimenting with a feedback form for participants. So if you were at my talk, give it a go here.
In the spirit of the new year, I have done some housekeeping: I have worked on my social media profiles, and there are a number of changes that I am implementing.
Firstly, I’ve decided to embrace Google+. Yes, really. Well, not really, because I’m not yet convinced it will give me much of a benefit. But, it’s one of those things you supposedly need to have to get noticed on the Internets. So, I’ve set up a page, and you can find it here. If you’re a Google+ user and you like it (and not only because you work at Google), then it would be great if you could give me some feedback about its benefits – this is after all a blog about my learning, and I’m happy to be taught.
Secondly, I’m making changes to my Facebook identity. After posting for many years professionally from this account, I am changing this into a page. This is simply a question of making things more manageable for me – I practice a very strict separation of my personal and private profiles and this helps me do that. The change is that I’ll be running a professional page, and will close my other account.
Just a few words on that: I don’t connect to colleagues (not even former ones), students, alumni or other professional contacts on my personal Facebook account. Nothing personal, it’s a matter of policy to keep my identities separate. I will still be reachable – actually with a much better response time as I won’t be juggling accounts anymore – to anyone wanting to get in touch via Facebook. I will send around an update notification to my current contacts, so they can find the page and stay in touch this way.
This is an experiential post – I’m writing about my learning as I learn. I guess it’ll cause some ripples in The Matrix (by reversing the polarity of reality or something similarly esoteric), but I thought as an experiment this should interesting. I’m currently sitting in a fascinating training by @case_europe on managing public affairs in higher education. Now before you go off to snooze, please hear me out: while learning about this…
Bit of a hush in the room at #public13 as we hear about Harvard’s crisis communication problems during the Boston marathon bombing
… I’m also contemplating how I handle broadcasting events like this – and why I do it. As my friend @kleinrules tends to say, during events, I take over his Twitter feed, pushing message after message on what I’m learning.
I’m not good with classic note-taking. If I write something down in a list or on a piece of paper, I will forget it. Being able to browse my tweets is to me almost as useful as creating a mind-map.
It enables me to share my thoughts, and open them up to scrutiny by you. And this instant feedback is then again archived, giving me a chance to record and later go back to the discussion in retrospective.
And it obviously gives me an opportunity to become more visible in my field. Not only for vanity’s sake, but also because my roles require a certain level of sector-based visibility, and this enables me to do just that.
As a professional in work (as well as for any job seeker) all the above are helpful. In comparison to the days of yore (before social media) I can also:
Look up (and connect to) the participants in the room. Trust me, I’ve done this today already: I’ve looked up all speakers on LinkedIn and Twitter, and have followed and interacted with a number of participants on Twitter. This creates better, and more active relationships than giving each other business cards and then losing them or forgetting to email each other afterwards.
Create a write-up on my blog – this is what you’re seeing now. Again, it helps me remember better, and gives you a chance, dear reader, to perhaps learn from what I’ve learnt.
It is events like these, and the connections I’ve made in the last three years, especially using Twitter, which have made the strongest and most beneficial impact on my professional life, and I can only recommend this approach to anyone.
The day before yesterday, I was in a great hurry on my way to visit a very ill friend. Writing this a day later, I was successful in my race against time. Now this was a bit personal, but I will stay true to what my blog is about – things I’ve learnt recently – often in the context of the ways technology impacts on our lives. So please bear with me in spite of me opening up so dramatically. Also, there is a nice little story at the end of this post, so please read on.
I received note recently that an old friend from Germany was terminally ill – and I promised I would visit. I was at a conference yesterday – the national destinations of leavers of higher education conference in Huddersfield. I think I would have enjoyed it, had I not received terrible news right at the moment when the first speaker started. Now here’s where technology impacted me right away: I always live tweet from events like this, so I’m the annoying kid in the audience juggling two tablets and a laptop. Yes, I can multi-task. However, that day it was a blessing as well as a curse, as I received an email telling me to come as soon as possible.
Now the idea of this always connected world, where I am only a few hours away from my hometown in Germany, was tested: I started right away to affirm whether it would be possible to organise a flight (the next day was feasible), get the next few days off work (a big big thank you to all my colleagues who will keep the ship on its course – and my dean, who kindly gave me permission), book the flight, organise transport to and from airports, and inform other old friends who didn’t know.
All this was done within a few hours, and without me moving from my seat at the conference. Yes, I was the annoying kid with the two tablets and a laptop buying tickets and sending emails and Facebook messages – and some people may have thought me rude. But it actually helped that I wasn’t alone, and that I could follow what was happening – keeping my mind busy in between messages was both therapeutic as well as informative (it’s funny how your professional identity kicks in, even though you’re in emotional turmoil). I apologised to the people I knew there that I had a crisis to manage, and therefore wasn’t my usual self – and they were fabulous about it.
It’s often said that technology isolates us, and yes, that is a danger. However, in a world without mobile phones and internet, I would have never known about this in time – and though I couldn’t guarantee that I would make it in time, I was able to make an attempt – successfully as it turned out. I am thankful for living in such a connected world in which that is possible, and I know I can’t ask for more.
I promised you a glimmer of hope earlier: here it is. It’s small, but that’s what a glimmer is. As readers of this blog you will know that I am keen on not taking part in the collective demonising of young people as hapless and ‘not ready for employment’. So, on the way back from the conference, I was sitting on a local train with a some other participants. We were surrounded by school kids, A-level, as it turned out. At one point, one of them, a girl, maybe 16, turned to me – seeing that I am a suit, and asked me what I would ask a candidate in an interview – as she had one over the phone that very afternoon for a retail job. Little did she know that she was surrounded by careers professionals, so I gave her, and her assembled friends, an impromptu workshop on phone interviews. I told her that it was good that she showed initiative and approachability, and we talked through her previous retail experience. I advised her to use her mobile phone for some more research on what her potential employer is looking for in applicants, and we worked out a short introduction and motivation story for why she was applying to this specific employer.
It was nice on a number of fronts: it felt good to help someone on a challenging day like this, and she and her friends seemed interested and open to learn. I don’t work in schools, but I have to say that most of the school kids I’ve met in the last few years were all wide awake, had a hopeful outlook and were curious for what lies ahead of them. Again some more, albeit anecdotal, evidence against the image of what is being often labelled a feckless generation. If that shouldn’t make us feel hopeful, then I don’t know what should.