Since the rise of the internet and personal computers in the 1990s, technology has been shaping careers guidance. Yet the advent of social media and mobile computing in recent years has created a series of fresh challenges and opportunities which the careers guidance industry has not yet fully got to grips with.
Many of our current projects (Prometheus, ICT and LMI in Lifelong Guidance) are looking to understand these developments in order to develop tools which better equip advisors to deliver effective support in the digital age. Yet technology is changing so fast that these projects often identify as many different new routes of investigation as they do solutions! Nevertheless we can not help but be extremely excited about the possibilities open to careers guidance if these technological developments are properly harnessed.
Broadly speaking the different options and developments naturally divide into two strands – the potential of technology and the potential of social media. This post outlines our thoughts and experiences but we would also love to hear from others on where they think the opportunities and challenges lie.
Potential of Technology
The days of static information hidden away in dark recesses of the Internet are long gone. Technological advancements (such as open access data) mean that information can be easily shared in appealing, interactive ways.
For careers professionals this can be a blessing in disguise. Whilst resources such as LMI for All in the UK mean that finding usable and useful information for use with clients is now simpler than ever, there is also a certain expectation that technology not only needs to be embedded into the guidance process, but that it needs to be used in an attractive and engaging way. Websites soon look outdated, whilst making sure they are mobile friendly etc. takes on going commitment and investment.
Similarly the rise of mobile apps has revolutionised the way guidance can be delivered to clients. For example, mobile gaming presents a whole new way of engaging with people about careers – through a fun medium which they are comfortable with using. Similarly tests and assessments (which previously needed a trained professional to mark and analyse the answers) can be taken via a tablet or a mobile phone, with results given almost immediately.
Careers advisors may see this digitalisation of the careers process as a threat, but it does not have to be. We are still learning how best to bring together careers information, apps and gaming but if done correctly it can provide a time effective way of engaging with (particularly younger) clients, who are put at ease through using something familiar. Careers apps are not going to disappear. Indeed, the potential of emerging technologies such as virtual reality only adds another exciting dimension which advisors can exploit to add value to their service.
Potential of Social Media
Social media, as well as related websites such as Skype, have revolutionised the way we communicate. People are now more liberal about what they share with the world and this means they expect the people they interact with to be similarly available and open.
The communication channels which social media creates means that careers advisors can reach clients outside of traditional sessions far more easily. This is particularly useful for people working with young people (many of whom see digital communication as the default option) or across geographic areas which makes regular face to face meetings difficult.
At the same time the wealth of information which is openly shared across social media by colleagues and careers companies means that these sites also create interesting personal development opportunities for advisors. If managed correctly, the flow of posts across social media can be used to learn, to share new ideas and to network.
However these technological developments are not without their risks. The most obvious of these is the fundamental shift which delivering guidance online causes within the guidance process. There has always been a personal element to careers guidance, with a good advisor knowing how to read body language etc. in sessions in order to understand the needs of clients. By placing a screen between advisor and client, this personal connection is lost and so advisors need to develop new skills to make sure that their guidance is not adversely affected by this.
Another issue relates to the quality of information available on the internet. Whilst we can now access more information than ever online, the ease with which anyone can post articles etc. means that the accuracy of source material can not always be trusted.
The key for careers advisors is finding online resources you can trust and this is something we are keen to help with at aspire-international. As we invest more and more into online tools to help us disseminate our own resources, we are careful to make sure that anything we produce maintains the same level of accuracy and quality which has defined our work for almost 25 years. We hope that advisors feel the same and are always open to hearing any feedback which can help us improve the online service we offer.
You can read more about the challenges and developments linked to online guidance in the Prometheus Online Councelling Guide