Social media skills required: Are schools listening?
A recent analysis conducted by Moz of 75,315 job listings on its job board showed that the keyword used in the largest number of job listings was “social media”. This means that the majority of employers are now looking for people with good social media skills. Social media is clearly not a passing phenomenon and its role in our lives is growing and deepening exponentially.
Teenagers are taught how to drive safely and properly before they are allowed to navigate a car. Yet, parents and schools are not teaching young students how to smartly navigate social media, in a responsible and proactive manner. The consequences are immense: every use of social media is discoverable and permanent and students can benefit enormously or be harmed for life by their social media engagement choices.
Schools and school admins have their rightful concerns about social media, so let’s look at them:
Cyber bullying: This is a real concern, but social media doesn’t create cyber bullies. Proper social media training teaches students how to use social networks responsibly and safely, and how to navigate social media for college and career advantage. By understanding that their digital footprint is permanent and always discoverable, students develop an awareness of how damaging cyber bullying is to their own future. When learning positive usages of social media students are presented with a road map that helps focus their efforts online.
Privacy: Schools and parents are concerned with students’ privacy. Shutting down social media for students is mostly impossible, since most students use social media nowadays. By hiding their identity and not showing an authentic presence online, students create an impression that they have something to hide. If students learn to use social media to showcase their achievements, accomplishments, interests, community involvement and true character, they have something to be proud of, that sets them apart from the crowd.
Facebook: Many teachers think that social media means Facebook. This is why they need training too! Social media includes LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and many other networks. Each network provides a unique set of opportunities for students to leverage their presence for college and career advantage.
Waste of time: Universities and companies invest millions of dollars on their social media presence. Being on social media allows students to research and interact with influencers in colleges and in jobs that interest them. It also allows students to build up an impressive digital footprint. Think about it as creating a resume and attending networking events. Would you consider this a waste of time?
Now, let’s look at what social media education for students should include:
Good social media etiquette
Teaching students good digital citizenship and social media etiquette will benefit them for the rest of their lives, and will help their future employers too. Employers suffer daily from employees who use social media unthoughtfully and make serious mistakes online (they end up being fired from their jobs). Due to its public visibility, good social media etiquette helps a student be an asset to their entire environment, whether it’s a high school, college, company, or community.
Creating an authentic digital footprint that showcases achievements, interests, community involvement and true character
Students learn which social networks are best for showing their goals and aspirations, their interests, their talents, and their character. They need to learn how to create digital portfolios and how to present themselves with a cohesive voice that would create an impressive picture of their abilities, talents and character.
Teaching students how to network on diverse social networks is empowering and future-building. Students learn how to be found by college and job recruiters, how to interact with influencers in the fields and institutions that interest them, how to demonstrate an interest in a specific college, internship or company, find a job, raise funds for startups or charity, organize events, get a message spread, get introduced to other people, network with their local community and with business groups, how to pitch a project and how to join an open discussion. This paves the way for confidence in the real world.
Employers and recruiters use social media regularly so tap into candidates for their job positions. Students need to be discoverable and identified in order to be found and recruited. Schools can’t be ignoring what employers and recruiters are saying and doing now every day: finding candidates on social media is an extremely cost-effective way to learn much more about a candidate than a resume and cover letter can ever convey. Students can learn how to market themselves in order to source good employers and recruiters and attract them to their profiles, how to interact properly online, and how to research a company’s culture.
In order to ensure their students’ college and career readiness, schools must start to include comprehensive social media education programs as part of their mandatory curriculum.