Career services is competing with YouTube and influencers

UPDATE: This post blew up. Here’s part 2: What if students created online content for career services?

More than 500 million learning-related videos are viewed on the platform every day. These videos are made and shared by a highly-motivated group of creators, such as Linda Raynier, whose videos teach job seekers how to nail an interview or write a resume that gets noticed; or Vanessa Van Edwards, who helps people master soft skills like how to use body language in an interview or communicate a great elevator pitch.

How YouTube can help people develop their careers and grow their businesses

I just came across a job posting for a job in career services supporting online students. Online learning for higher education has grown significantly in the last few years. Inside Higher education reports that in 2017, “The proportion of all students who were enrolled exclusively online grew to 15.4 percent (up from 14.7 percent in 2016), or about one in six students.”

So it’s heartening to see a position that’s dedicated to supporting online learners. It was, however, disheartening to see the job description.

The primary goal of this job is developing online career content for online students. Yet they’re not hiring someone who has experience designing online courses, teaching online, or even creating online learning experiences. Those terms never appear in the requirements, even as a nice to have.

That’s a huge problem because the content that career services produces is competing with a world of career content that’s entertaining, accessible, and located in the spaces where students spend most their online time: YouTube and Instagram.

If career services want to invest in online career development resources, they need to hire people who know how to create it.

YouTube is a learner’s best friend

Career service offices are competing with popular career channels like Self Made Millenial, Intern Queen, Linda Raynier, and probably a whole bunch I don’t know about because I’m not 22 and job searching. (and that’s not even considering all the career influencers on Instagram)

For example, consider what you get out of watching this video on how to network:

The speaker is inspiring, practical, and tells a damn good story. While that’s certainly next level because it’s a Ted Talk, there are plenty of other videos that deliver high quality information in easy to digest nuggets of advice. Like video on how to answer one of the trickier interview questions.

Asking the hard questions about online career content

Career services leadership needs to ask the hard questions: How does our content stack up to this?

Then go further: How can we incorporate this content into our own training to help students learn strong job search skills? Is it worth recreating the wheel? Better yet, how can we add value to this content? How are students consuming this type of content and how can we build on that?

When I was in career services, there was a constant compliant about students not attending workshops. Many people were divided on the idea of making attendance mandatory. I cringed each time it was proposed. If students aren’t showing up at your sessions, it’s not always because of them. It could be because the content isn’t valuable enough for them.

It’s the same thing with online videos. When our office launched an online program, the metrics weren’t there either. So much work went into that effort by talented people. And yet students didn’t watch.

That’s painful to write. I know how much work goes into making this content (I run an online school full of global career content – some content does extremely well while other content doesn’t, despite the fact I think it’s all valuable to learn).

But so much career content in career services seeks to reinvent the wheel. If career services wants to design career content for online learners, they need creative people who understand how online content is consumed.

YouTube is the competition and so are the influencers who use these platforms to teach about careers. It’s not just job search videos either. Students can easily explore career paths and jobs from their favorite people online:

Career services for online learners

Online learners definitely deserve dedicated staff who can support their online learning needs. But the quality of content needs to be solid. Consider this: What’s a better use of a student’s time: attending a 60 minute workshop on how to use LinkedIn (in person or online) or watching a 10 minute YouTube video:

There’s value in discussion and Q&A, full stop. Students should have space to ask questions about the profile and get feedback on the profile. They should be taught how to find and reach out to alumni – and that’s where career services really shines.

Career services needs to create content that differs from content on YouTube or Instagram. Imagine offering a webinar where students learn how to find alumni on LinkedIn, write custom messages together, and then actually conduct the informational interview with the alumni in the workshop? That’s a unique learning experience that’s harder to find on YouTube.

To create that kind of engaging content, career services needs to hire people who understand how students consume existing online career content. They need people who can create content that adds value to what already exists. Creating online content, teaching online, and creating engaging learning experiences is a skill. Career services leadership needs to hire for it.

The office that posted the job above isn’t going to get a person with creative online learning and design skills because they don’t ask for it in their job description. Just because a person can coach doesn’t mean they can create engaging content online.

Hire for humor

One last thought. Career content can be quite dry. While I am passionate about this space, it’s hard sometimes to see the cringeworthy content that comes out of it (and I’ve definitely produced a few cringeworthy videos myself – online content creation takes practice!)

Career services should strive to hire engaging, creative people to ensure their learning experiences actually engage students. Ask applicants to submit video examples of career curriculums they’ve done. Or ask them to create a short explainer video on an upcoming topic. Ask them to get creative. Then have a few students give feedback on the videos as part of the candidate evaluation process.

Because this is what we’re up against (this is also an excuse to drop my favorite career-related videos)

While you’re here, did you know there’s a new career book out? If you’re a career coach, you’re going to want to dive into it. I get behind the headlines about robots taking our jobs and take you into the near future of work, covering emerging career paths, hybrid jobs, and in-demand skills. Explore the book here.

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