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social @ edu | Exploring strategies for social media in higher education

Yesterday, I returned from a trip to Orlando and an energizing conference where social media was ever-present.  I served as a guest blogger for the event, and doing so really got me thinking about social media’s role in conferences; how all of these ways to communicate amplify the professional development.  If you haven’t jumped in to social media at a conference yet, I strongly recommend you do.  Here are some of my observations in support of that recommendation:

If you can’t go to the conference…

You can still feel a part of it with social media.  Especially if the conference has a hashtag which you can use to follow the conversation. Also, you don’t even have to be on Twitter to search or tweets with the hashtag.  Just go to search.twitter.com and give it a spin.  This is a great way to find out what’s really going on at the conference.  You may get a silly tweet or two here and there, but many people who use the conference hashtag tweet about what they are learning.  Then, you can, too.  If the conference has a blog, check that out as well for continued learning opportunities and to get involved in the discussion.

If you are at the conference…

conference-illustration-2-7555302

How can I connect with people at a conference this large? Social media.

You can amplify the professional development opportunities at a conference using social media.  At the conference I just attended, there were well over 1,000 people there.  It would be impossible to think I could meet and speak with them all personally.  There’s also no way I could ever have that many conversations on social media either, but if I follow an event hashtag or communicate on it myself, there’s a good chance I will be able to find others attending who have similar viewpoints to mine.  Then, we can easily find a place & time to meet, and all of the sudden we are connecting in person, taking ideas to the next level.

I know there’s much more to it than this, so how have you seen social media amplify professional development at a conference?  Later this month, Shannon and I are the kick off speakers (virtually) at the Minnesota College & University Career Services Association, talking about “Emerging Technology, Social Media, and the Modern Career Center” – we’re looking forward to another opportunity to get social at a conference, even if we can’t physically be there.

Bonus to this post: I’m publishing a part of a post I wrote as a guest blog entry for the conference.  I was at the National Association of Colleges & Employers conference this past week, and here’s a part of an entry I wrote where social media comes in to play:

The Future of Career Services

This conference presentation centered around three major points, and I’ll give you the cliff notes version here to help you get a flavor of it.

The higher education landscape is dramatically changing.  Colleges & universities have limited resources and revenue.  The growth period for high school graduates is officially over, and will be in a decline for the next 10-20 years.  MOOCs, social media, and other technologies are shifting how work gets done and the expectations of students.  On top of that, there are several initiatives at the state and federal level that seek to define the outcomes or “ROI” of higher education.

Sounds pretty grim, yes?  I almost hid under my chair (…kidding).  In challenge, lies opportunity, and that’s there we, career services, come in.  Cue emphatic and uplifting trumpet sounds.

Now, we have the opportunity to define ourselves as campus-wide career services leaders, partnering with faculty who may need us more than ever.  For many, we may want to consider focusing on more than just the first-year experience, but consider the sophomore experience.  How are we providing support to students at a critical time in their academic lives – when many choosing or honing in on majors and some of the tough decisions?

Where could this all be going?  Tom Devlin provided some of his thoughts going forward, which included: online appointment scheduling with an interactive and customized response to the appointment scheduler’s needs.  So, when a student consider pre-med enters that in to their appointment notes for the counselor, a sort of “road map” for exploring pre-med options appears and suggests ideas for the student.  Tom suggests we may be focusing as much or more on internships as we are right now on post-graduate opportunities.  They are becoming the “first job” for everyone.  Perhaps we will develop better relationships with third-party providers who can help us perform some tasks we need to complete, but are not as high on our list of priorities.

What I thought was most interesting about this session was that Tom, Tom, and Marilyn opened up the floor to hear our thoughts and “predictions” for the future.  I’ll share mine and hope that it allows you to share yours on this blog in a comment.

One of my specialties is definitely social media.  Yes, I am a millennial, but no, I don’t spend all day on it – I promise.  Anyway, I teach a 1 credit class I created at Villanova on how students can use social media in their job searches.  What I am noticing from that, when I reflect on the bigger picture of a lot of their questions and concerns, is this.  We need to help students jump this psychological hurdle of looking at themselves as students to begin considering themselves as professionals.  With social media, the “personal” and “professional” world collide, and it happens for students faster and sooner than ever before.  Whereas one funny, perhaps not most impressing moment was private before, now it might be public and online for unknown others to view via social media.  If we can help students understand themselves, their skills, and their experiences as professional and valuable, they are much more likely to feel proud and confident talking about all of this online.  Then, they attract others with similar professional interests to them, and thus become better networked and viewed more favorably by those in seats of recruiting.

(For the full blog post, visit the NACE blog)

By: Kevin

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