The use of social media in career development continues to grow. From college career centers using Facebook for marketing career services to career-seekers using LinkedIn for networking, social media sites are fast becoming a mainstay of the career development process for adults. However, only within the last few years has the use of social media for career development trickled down to K-12 public schools. To help close the gap, readers will be introduced to the use of Twitter for virtual job shadowing at a middle school, consisting of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students who learn through the experience of professionals representing several career clusters using 140 characters or less.
In the Beginning
The goal of this project was to design an age appropriate career activity using a medium familiar to students. To accomplish this goal, the author utilized a modified version of a Twitter-based virtual job shadowing activity developed by the Southeast Florida Information Network with permission from the Manager of Staff Development Services. The final version was tweaked to suit the needs and capabilities of the school and students.
The first stage of the planning involved identifying the resources needed. The project required participants to have access to the Internet and Twitter throughout the day to tweet about their daily tasks, special projects, etc. After reviewing the list of the 16 federal career clusters, the school surmised that careers within the Information Technology, Business, Marketing & Sales and Arts, A/V Technology & Communications career clusters would be appropriate. Likewise, students would need to have access to the Internet, so the Keyboarding classes were chosen to conduct the interaction.
To recruit participants, businesses were contacted through their Human Resources or Public Relations department. To promote the idea, the project was described as a way for employees to share information about their careers in a casual manner with little interruption to the business day, in ways that will allow students to broaden their knowledge of the World of Work without having to leave campus.
Next, the school corresponded with and secured confirmation from interested employees. Overall, seven businesses and 15 employees participated. Also, the school collaborated with the Coordinator of the local Regional Education Center (REC) for Greenville County South Carolina to offer an orientation. South Carolina has 12 RECs across the state to assist in the implementation of Personal Pathways to Success, the state’s interpretation of the Education and Economic Development Act (2005). Through the collaboration with the local REC, the orientation allowed the participants to learn details of the virtual job shadowing project and, receive a Twitter ‘crash course’, about setting up an account and sending tweets. Employees were required to make their Twitter accounts public for the duration of the project.
Each participating class received an introduction to the project and a 3-5 minute Twitter tutorial. Prior to tweeting, students conducted research, using O*Net, on a career of one of the employees by locating the following information:
Work Activities, Styles, and Values
RIASEC Interest Code
Median Hourly Wage (for South Carolina)
Projected Growth (for South Carolina)
The first class received an initial tweet from each participating employee that read:
“Welcome to my day! Just started (specific task) as (job title) for (company).” #GMSvirtualjs
Each subsequent class reviewed the timeline of tweets exchanged before sending new tweets. One by one, students came to the front of the classroom to send tweets from a chosen computer, as the Twitter feed was shown on the Promethean Board for all to see. The employees also tweeted pictures, so students could see their colleagues, office amenities and office spaces.
Participating employees were able to respond to students’ questions regarding:
how you got your start in this career- what or who encouraged you to pursue it
interesting things about your career
uninteresting things about your career
hobbies or extracurricular activities that can prepare someone for this career
high school/college classes someone can take to prepare for this career
The success of the project was measured by how well the students were engaged during the project and from feedback received from participants’ survey. It is our experience that the students were absorbed and challenged by the project. Students commented that “the project was a fun way to do virtual job shadowing, instead of just watching career videos” and many were excited to go home and show the tweets to their parents. The participants’ survey pointed out that the project was well organized.
Recommendations for future projects
Allow students to take ownership of the project;
Have fewer teacher prompts, more student-directed tweets;
A classroom environment, with no more than 35 students, works well and, tweets should be sent from one designated computer, with an adult supervisor present;
Spread the project across an entire day instead of a few class periods, to allow a larger number of students to learn about a greater variety of job tasks within a career;
Develop a clear explanation of what information employees should share and, allow employees to view the O*Net research activity being conducted by students, for an understanding of prior knowledge students will have about employees’ careers.
To view the students’ O*Net research activity and participant survey, email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Personal Pathways to Success, visit www.scpathways.org.
Allison Rosemondis the Career Specialist at Greer Middle School in Greenville, SC. She has a M.Ed. in Counselor Education with a Community Counseling specialty from Clemson University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor. She has attained Global Career Development Facilitator national certification. Allison can be reached at email@example.com.
Caroline Cleland on Friday 08/03/2012 at 05:15 AM
Thank you for sharing this activity and the accompanying materials. This information will help stimulate some professional conversations here in South Australia around the opportunities for using social media in career-related activities within school settings.
Michelle Mallen on Thursday 08/02/2012 at 11:35 AM
Thank you for sharing this project Allison! I wish my middle school had done something like this (but obviously it wouldn't have involved Twitter). This sounds like a great way to get younger students actively engaged in the career development process.