A Dialog about the Future for Students and Employers: The Upcoming Social Workforce

To best see what’s coming next, it’s helpful to examine the next generation workforce.

Right about now it’s spring break, and that means that some students finally have enough time to shake off the late night party buzz and think about their careers. I know this, as I’m getting more emails from students and college professors that are teaching our young minds about social media, marketing, web marketing and other related topics.

More than ever, they need to think their career through as they’ll be competing for entry level positions with more qualified individuals. In my opinion, where they lack in experience they can make up with enthusiasm and perhaps even more relevant. What would that be? Being digital natives, they’re born with technology and specifically, the web in their hands, this could be more natural to them than a CMO. (take a look at their technographics, they lead in adoption)

Perhaps they’ve seen this list of professionals that are either corporate social media strategists, or community managers, or want to work at a social media vendor, interactive agency, or are enamored with the thought of working at a top blog like Techcrunch, RWW, or Mashable.

Let’s kick off a dialog, one that can both help students understand a career in this space, as well as help future employers understand what to look for.

Students and teachers, let’s hear your thoughts:

1) Are you interested in a career in social media, or a related field? What attracts you?
2) What are you doing now to get skilled, experienced, and educated in this field?
3) What will you look for in an employer? What would make you not want to work for an employer?
4) Feel free to leave your contact and school info

Professionals and Employer, let’s hear your thoughts:

1) What attracts you to the social media space, why do you do this for a living? Sure, you may not have ‘social media strategist’ in your title, but you’re certainly involved.
2) How should students prepare for a career in this social space?
3) Please give your title, industry, and number of years working, followed by number of years (or months) in the social space

I hope we can both learn a bit from both of us, heck, perhaps some may find some job or internship opportunities.

Update: LinkedIn has this site for students who want to build their career.

24 Replies to “A Dialog about the Future for Students and Employers: The Upcoming Social Workforce”

  1. Jeremiah,

    This is an interesting post, but you are taking it a little bit too far. The issue here is whether they are interested in a career on social media or not, SM will play a significant role in their careers. They are, as you say, digital natives and the technologies and tools are so embedded in them (whether they are explicitly using them for SM strategies or not), that they have become second nature. Maybe not for this wave of graduates, but the next few. They will expect the organization to have something in place already, or they will hastily push something for them.

    This is the same setup we had when the first graduates (our generation) came out of school having used PCs through their college years. They expected PCs to be available at work – not mainframes. This drove the world where we live today, essentially, by making organizations go out and buy PCs, deploy networks, move away from mainframe, etc. And, it was a very short time.

    I think that if you expand your point a little bit beyond their potential careers to accommodate their enormous potential influence in the workplace, that is a much more interesting question. As well as a more scary proposition. I still remember some of the people who used to bring their own computers to work… or the ones who would ask at the interview what computer they would get — worse, the people who had already made up their minds in the Mac vs. PC war, or even the DOS vs. Windows war.

    I think that we are seeing the same start to happen in the corporate world, where Chat and Email use for customer service (yes, small world – but my world) has been steadily going up due to adoption by the “new” customers that organizations are getting as a result of these same people entering the consumer ranks in numbers.

    What do you think?

  2. My generation lives and dies by the web. When we need information or ideas, Google is our muse, and the reviews and opinions of other users have become critically important in the decisions and purchases we make. I feel that everyone entering the job market at this point absolutely must be aware of and embrace social media. The space is attractive because it allows brands to truly exist within the context of people’s lives. A brand is no longer limited to a poster on the subway; it can now become a central piece of users’ identities. And as the web becomes increasingly localized, the possibilities are truly limitless.

    I’ll be graduating from NYU in a few weeks, and Jeremiah is spot on: I can’t wait to get started. Enthusiastic doesn’t even begin to describe it. In terms of skills, experience, and preparation, I’ve had several internships with companies including eMusic, RCRDLBL.com, Downtown Music, and Doubleday Entertainment. I’ve had the opportunity to create and sustain a successful business development pipeline and to manage the production end of a dot-com property. In addition to this, I’ve worked with experienced entrepreneurs to develop and pitch a new venture to several venture capitalists and angel investors. I’ve even been managed directly by the cofounder of Engadget, Peter Rojas. In short, New York has been good to me.

    I’m really looking forward to starting my career with a company setting its sights on reaching and conversing with consumers through social media, and I’m currently seeking employment in the NYC area following graduation. Please don’t hesitate to contact me by email: kevin.j.dalias@gmail.com. I’m happy to provide recommendations on request, or you may simply have a look at my LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/kevin/dalias

    Thanks very much!

  3. Jeremiah;

    Some interest points. Right now I find myself fitting into all 4 of your categories. Student (working on PhD in eCommerce from Northcentral University), Teacher (teach classes at Southern State Community College), Professional and Employer (Director of eCommerce).

    From an education standpoint – students are learning social networking better on their own now than the teachers that are teaching them could teach them. The unfortunate part about any educational system – public, private or higher is that the academic world is always behind the real world technology. That is especially true today with the fast speed of change in the groundwell arena. A student will be luck if they see anything about the “social workforce” in the classroom.

    As a professional and a possible employer – a true ROI on social network marketing has to be proven for the “typical” company to create a position specifically for that function. In the current environment social network marketing will be an add on function to a current position.

    Now that all that “downer” stuff is out of the way. I see the great potential. Communication, not only personal but marketing is going to need to be immediate and communal in the future (if not now). Email is old school for the younger generation. My kids are using their Nintendo DS to communicate with each other. Think what it will be like when they stop taking my wife and my computers and cell phones and have their own!

    This is the wave of the future and there are so many possibilities for all stakeholders involved.

    This will be an interesting conversation and journey.

  4. Jeremiah I totally agree! While I work, I am still a student and one of the many challenges is that corporates sometimes see our passion for social networks and the web as disadvantage – that we would rather spend time ” messing around” than working. What they should also realise is that these techno-savvy people often learn more whilst surfing the web ( as I do when reading your blog ), and often are keener to explore new ideas.

    Social media is definitely a career avenue I am keen to explore and wish that in our market there was a greater need for it. These are tools and expertise which I foresee becoming a key component of anyone who is in marketing / pr as a key to engaging with our market.

    At the moment one of the main points of education for me on social media would be blogs of a similar nature to yours and in-house training that is offered. In terms of employers – there is a vast variety who operate in the market and it would be hard to pin point exactly what to look for when they all share similar characteristics.

    Many are willing to push the envelope in terms of their strategies – which I love. What I would look for in the company – is are these companies offering further education on social media and equipping their employees to keep up to date with what is happening in their field.

    Those are my thoughts!

  5. I agree with you wholeheartedly… “Being digital natives, they™re born with technology and specifically, the web in their hands…”

    Each generation brings a new skill set to technology, each generation brings a different view, speaking in terms of cultural distinction; ie, where have they traveled, where did they grow up, did they expand their peer group to include other parts of the country, or even other parts of the world (through social media; facebook, myspace, IM chat; through the advantage of having gone away to camp)… learning, even as parents set ridiculously strict guidelines for computer habits, & this exceptional group of ‘children’ defy, rebel, modify, & access, with more ability than prior generations…

    I have a daughter looking into options for college right about now… I’ve watched this group of kids as they’ve grown up with technology, how it’s affected their families, lifestyles, friendships… these groups of kids have so much more experience with social media, so much more connectedness through these channels of friendships & an elevated understanding of human nature due to the prescribed diligence of needing to be aware & wary… this understanding will necessarily affect future business habits, & will undoubtedly be an attribute for all business in the future.

    I’m perplexed by your questions with regard to social media as a ‘career space’… I don’t see it as a space, but as an essential element for all career opportunity…

  6. From an employer/professional standpoint, I have the luxury I guess is the best way to put it, that Social Media Platforms intersect with the general medai landscape, as a Media Director at a marketing firm I simply have to know what is happening around me. As a consumer (we all are and forget it sometimes in marketing) it is simply an amazing time to witness and observe. The combination of both angles makes Social Media Platforms a natural perfect storm for my interests.

    As far as how students should prepare themselves, they need to form opinions and have a feel for why what they do with their social communication is important. Simply saying I have a facebook account or signing up for linkedin is not a differentiating point. I see people right now, in college, and even in high school who have begun demonstrating how they have “created” and “implemented” concepts and ideas on Social platforms, not just have active profiles on them. There is an enormous opportunity for students getting ready to move into the workforce to leverage these tools to standout and create an impact with perspective employers.

    Finally, if you can do code and network simaltaneously you are essentially a buy one get one free candidate. Learn a little code or show that you know how to break it down. Widgets and gadgets are an serious piece of the equation.

    Patrick Boegel, Director of Media Integration @MediaLogic, 13 years in marketing & communciation, last 2 years heavily investing time and energy into social platform awareness and knowledge.

  7. I agree with Patrick that a code/network dual threat is a real asset for someone entering the workforce but the real dollars will be there for those who can demonstrate and deploy the knowledge they have in understanding how social media changes everything else. That is why I have focused my Baruch class on developing the muscles to create business strategy inspired by the transformation. A triple threat, I’m hoping.

  8. Esteban

    Yes and no. Yes social media is a channel and will impact nearly every career in the future, even doctors, lawyers, and politicians.

    But there is a need to call out there’s a definite need for social media specialists, (see that list of social strategists and community managers in my post) where it’s their full time job to understand this medium.

  9. Jeremiah,

    While I agree with your statement, I would not want to see colleges and universities take on the role of “teaching” social media through ad-hoc courses. We saw that fail big with CRM, ERP, etc… Would not want to have someone come to me with a degree in Social Media Engineering who may not be qualified due to lack of additional knowledge beyond SM.

    I think you make a great point, but I also think that growing up and living with SM and its related technologies will do more for these new workers than any potential ROI model (as someone pointed in a previous comment) that could be taught in school.

    That, at least, is my 1.5 halfpennce.

  10. 1) What attracts you to the social media space, why do you do this for a living? Sure, you may not have ™social media strategist™ in your title, but you™re certainly involved.

    My title has changed a lot over the last few years; for want of a better term, I am now working as a freelance social media consultant. I’m helping clients understand that social media is not just about setting up a Facebook page, hoping people will come and then watch it die a slow death. I’m really surprised that people are still specifically saying ‘social media’ in job titles — as communications was a few years ago, it is an integral part of a brand’s strategy now. No need to highlight it. Which brings me to …

    2) How should students prepare for a career in this social space?

    I think that most students of today are already prepared with the tools of social media. They use Twitter et al, but they still need to prepare themselves with how they interact with those tools. Just don’t dive into them because a client wants it. Show them where the people are they should be talking to, and lead them into that segment — then let them take over.

    3) Please give your title, industry, and number of years working, followed by number of years (or months) in the social space

    Media, editorial, PR, working since 1995, set up my first travel community website in 1997, actively using social media since 2003.

  11. I think we need to go this route as a school.

    We are launching a huge social media startup within the school right now using the academicearth.org viewpoint. Free stuff, blogs, podcasts, video, and linking them into linkedin, facebook, friendfeed, and soon social median and other systems. We are going to launch a blogging service, and generally use social networking to help students make decisions about the school, cityu.edu CityU of Seattle.

    I have been blogging for 7 years collectively right now, so I am using my expertise to help bring about these changes. Changes are always difficult to implement, and in academic circles probably more so. We have the “ivory tower syndrome”. Social networking breaks down those barriers, and people are rightly fearful of that. But as we socialize the idea, I am finding that fear is not so much the issue, nor is the ivory tower syndrome an issue. It is more one of reputation, what will people think of me.

    We have been working with a number of social media groups, and plan on bringing in social media experts to help out. But a full course design, with what it is, how to manage it, how to build it, how to bring about the conversation is what the program will be about. There is still much to discuss on this one, but if we build out a social media management program, I think we will do good for us internally and externally. It is going to take at least a year (Fall 2010) to get the program grounded and developed. But think this is the next big thing we need to do with management training. The more folks know how to use the tools and what they can and can not do, the better off we all will be in the longer run.

    If anyone wants to contact me, feel free to do so. http://cityu.edu. rmorrill@cityu.edu

    Would love to get everyone’s ideas on what we should be doing in this space, and what would make quality relevant education in social media.


  12. I initially started using social media for personal branding. I am passionately driven to be a positive influence in other people™s lives, no matter how small the impact may be. Social media is a great way to go about it. My mission is to give value, there are various tools to choose from. I try to implement it into my normal routine, am open-minded, and strive to continuously improve wherever I can.

    I read blogs from popular social media sages like Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki and others. I learn from their use of Twitter, Facebook, and other tools. I try to emulate the basic fundamental principle: giving value. Like @pistachio mentioned in a webinar one time, Influence was attracting attention to yourself. Influence [now] is providing attention and value to others. Both Facebook and Twitter are used to communicate useful information that I come across, whether it™s a random personal experience that causes an impact or relaying useful media sources that I felt useful to share. Like @jowyang and others have touched on, personal minutia is stale and not very intellectually enlightening. Among the student body at Kingsborough Community College (KCC) in New York, not many seem to be thinking about what they can do for others; always about what they are doing. The constant spam of not wanting school to start tomorrow and is¦ummmm¦? are not my idea of being progressive and informative with the people that are in your immediate area of influence. Creating awareness is a first step in communicating the message across; providing value as opposed to creating attention.

    I want to work AND continuously learn about social media trends. It will never be static, so I would like to work with other professionals in social media to learn more. Knowledge helps me give value, which is my fundamental principle.

    I am highly interested in internships while continuing my education. If there is any room for growth in social media use and your company has a foward-thinking and progressive attitude, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am based in New York.

    Thank You for your consideration,

    Steven A. Rodriguez

    Email: steven.rodriguez[at]student.kingsborough.edu

  13. 1) What attracts you to the social media space, why do you do this for a living? Sure, you may not have ™social media strategist™ in your title, but you™re certainly involved.

    I’m in this because it’s one step further down the path of transparency. Working in and around social media helps minimize marketing double-speak which is harmful to companies (marketing promises more than engineering can deliver, for example). It just seems more comfortable to me. And I have fun in changing environments, meeting people and learning constantly.

    As a web analytics geek, use of social media helps me learn about audiences for myself and clients. Measuring social media is helping to end the old “50% of my marketing budget is wasted, but I don’t know which half” situation.

    The way social media permeates organizations, crossing divisional lines, also has some promise for making more integrated firms. I tend to work in small companies so I don’t get to experience this first hand, but I have been able to help companies I advise accept/adapt to this and that has been a fun challenge.

    2) How should students prepare for a career in this social space?

    If I was hiring right now (which I’m not, but I could maybe take on an intern) I’d want someone who was capable of producing readable, spell-checked, clear writing. That’s probably the hardest part. Beyond that, a level of comfort with constant/rapid change and/or adaptability would be required. Everything else (use of specific software/services/tools) is just gravy.

    3) Please give your title, industry, and number of years working, followed by number of years (or months) in the social space

    Strategist at my own web content agency, blogging for five or so years but got serious about social media about two years ago.

  14. A different angle on this dicussion is whether the “generation that lives and dies by the web” (to quote one of the replies) will expect to find the same experiences at work. And the answer is simple: it will. Which means that the business world better be closer to the Enterprise 2.0 state once today’s students start looking for jobs. Companies that are looking for E2.0 ROI today should just look 3-4 years ahead — and realize what exactly they risk should they fail to adopt E2.0 principles and practices in this timeframe.

  15. Jeremiah:

    Great questions that both educators and professionals need to be asking.

    I’m a full time college professor at Champlain College (http://www.champlain.edu) in Burlington, VT. We are a professionally focused small private school with a wide range of interesting degrees (from e-game design to early childhood education). I’ve done research (for my Ph.D.) on teaching technology to college students who don’t self-select into technology oriented fields and what I found was that just because a student knows how to use a tool (such as a cell phone for texting, or an iPod for getting music, or FB to connect with friends and family) it does not mean they “get” social media. I caution all small businesses in the area that you cannot assume that students will know how to best leverage these tools and they certainly aren’t ready to do so with your brand. It has to be a partnership where the employer learns about the tools while the student learns about the brand and the company.

    Which means, we as educators have an even more difficult job. I teach Marketing, Internet-Marketing, Non-Profit and Social Marketing and Marketing Management. I have developed and taught intensive tactical courses in Social Networking and Online Visibility and we have experts in the field teaching Google AdWords and Google Analtyics. I also teach a course in Social Interaction in the Digital Age.

    I have been teaching “internet marketing” for 10 years now. It’s a course that has seen rapid change and an evolution (when I started it was all about SEO and Banner Ads…Google Adwords hadn’t even started!) that continues even during the semester (FB business profiles as an example).

    What I continue to find is students who come into my class who use FB and might have some knowledge of search come out of the course exposed to a whole new level of how the online communication tools impact traditional marketing and public relations. They come in knowing how to use one or two of the tools because they play with them. They come out understanding the business context of the myriad of tools, when to use them and when NOT to use them.

    My challenge is to help students to see the possibilities, to be ready to adapt to change and to understand that you can’t jump at every new thing if you don’t have a clear strategy, can set goals and monitor your success (or failure).

    I started showing my students Twitter last year. It was a brief conversation with them — letting them know it was out there and they should pay attention. This fall I had my students sign up for Twitter and “hack the debates”. This semester I showed my students Twitter applications and have pushed them to get on Twitter to learn how to use it, to know how to add value and get value and how to listen so they can learn what the best practices (so far) are. Who knows what I’ll be doing next fall!

    I believe that I am preparing MARKETING professionals to understand multiple media options. Just like they learn how to leverage traditional outlets they now need to learn how to leverage online tools in a consistent, integrated campaign.

    I’m not convinced I’m teaching anyone to be a “social media professional”. I think I’m teaching someone to take what they learn in Marketing and apply it to many different contexts and be ready for whatever may come next.

    I’ll be telling my students and my colleagues to read your post and the responses. It will make for very interesting in classroom and out of classroom conversation.

    Dr. Elaine Young
    Assoc. Professor, Marketing
    Champlain College
    Twitter: @ejyoung67

  16. Jeremiah,

    As a pr professional for close to 19 years now I view social media and its applications through the lense of someone using it for a specific, directed purpose; as a channel, to communicate ideas, build brand preference and drive commerce. I know it has far greater applications as it relates to social sciences, crm, marketing or to simply connect.

    We all have a different approach to this media and use it for a variety of reasons. What I find fascinating is the line between professional and personal is so blurred now. I listed to a Garyvee presentation at Inman Connect last year where he said, “I pee’d the bed until I was 14. That’s right, might as well get it out there he said because it will come out onlne anyway.”

    It is counter-intuitive to someone who has worked in strategic communications that you should be so transparent in your business and personal life and I think this is where the real differnce lies between the next generation of professionals. The young professionals of today are more willing to share of themselves fully online. I for one am very thankful that digital photography did not exist when I as in college.

    I understand the Cluetrain crowd, but it is a big adjustment to simply let down your professional guard and vault into the social media space.

    It reminds me of the first time I visited California and asked someone at a party in Marin Co., what they did? Their response was, I snowboard in the winter, surf in the summer and listen to music. All I really wanted to know about was what they did for a living, as was custom where I was from (D.C.) at the time. We are just not used to sharing the personal with someone who I’d only just met. I find the same dynamic online.

    As a brand, CENTURY 21 is getting ready to do some fairly groundbreaking social media application. I believe the transparency is a good thing, particular in the real estate industry. For the recent college grads, my advice is to learn how to write regardless of the field you select. Understanding social media is second nature by now I would think, but having the vision of how social media may be applied to business is of even more value.

    Keep up the thought provoking posts.

    Best Regards,

    Matt Gentile, Director, PR
    CENTURY 21 Real Estate

  17. Jeremiah,

    At Auburn, we incorporate social media activities in our existing classes. It has served the students well. Employers are seeking our students.

    At PROpenMic.org, we recently began a project where college classes take turns managing the 4,400+ social network of PR students, faculty and practitioners. Auburn students did it last week. Oklahoma State University students are running the site this week. Other schools will follow into the Fall semester.

    Here is a sampling of the duties we ask the students to explore:

    (a) find and evaluate the job descriptions for community managers [I think many will be a bit surprised by how many are out there online now],
    (b) write stories [interviewing existing members or PR leaders],
    (c) create videos/audio podcasts,
    (d) actively recruit new members, and
    (e) welcome new members while
    (f) engaging the existing community members in discussions.

    This type of experiential learning is, IMO, the key to helping digital natives think of social networks in a business sense. Yes, they have experience existing within the environment, but I’m not so sure they’ve given full consideration to the role of actively managing and developing/growing such a network.

    These are just some of the ways we’re trying to help students prepare for the world you describe. We are open to other ideas, too.

    Robert French
    Auburn University

  18. Hey Jeremiah,

    As a graduating student looking for a place to start my career, I could not identify more with your post.

    I agree with a lot of the above comments. For myself, I am an active user in a number of social media communities, but not a creater. Creating and managing is the more important tool from a company’s perspective. This is something I want to change in the coming months once I finish exams and get back to Canada from England.

    For my fellow classmates, I think that their social media experience is lacking compared to the student described above. Their experience revolves around Facebook. They see companies trying to get at them still through banner advertisements and fanpages. Not many of them are engaged or brand advocates. But more of them are stating to join Twitter. Even so, they might not grasp the power and potential necessity social media might have for them in the workplace.

    But from the employer perspective, there is still no focus on social media. In my interviews this past fall for marketing positions at CPGs, there was not one mention of social media. This could be that their focus for entry level positions does not require it or they do not yet value social media that other readers of this blog do.

    I spent this past summer as an accounting intern at Ernst & Young. The only chance I had to talk about social media was at their intern conference. I had a brief conversation with of their recruiters from New York about Twitter. However, Ernst & Young does have an amazing social media recruiting program, as you have mentioned before.

    I have to agree with the first comment that in a few graduating classes, it will be more valuable. But there are students out there, who understand social media now. However, for myself, I find it difficult to project those skills and knowledge, unless I put it on my resume with a creditable reference (I must create something).

    And this my first comment, and I would like to thank you for this.

  19. John Coates That’s interesting a out E&Y, we regularly reference them as doing a good job with their facebook recruiting efforts, did you get hired through that program?

    I’m very thankful for all the thoughtful and insightful comments from everyone.

  20. Hey Jeremiah
    1) Are you interested in a career in social media, or a related field? What attracts you?

    Im verry interested, Im attract cos everything is quite new and there still a lot for research and do, spetialy here in Chile.

    2) What are you doing now to get skilled, experienced, and educated in this field?

    I worked for a online game publisher company and i get experience in online business and comunity managment, also im finishing my career in Information Technologies and my tesis is about how efective is social media for marketers. So i have speended a lot of time reading about PR and social media.

    3) What will you look for in an employer? What would make you not want to work for an employer?

    Im developing my own social media niche web, so i hope i will work for me

    Sergio Muñoz
    Pontificia Univercidad Catolica de Chile

  21. As a marketing student at Stockholm University Sweden, I got a huge kick when I first got in contact with the social media world. Just the fact that something is happening in our world, in a context that we grew up in, is amazing. It has completely opened up my mind of the challenges but more importantly the opportunities that I can work with at my future workplace. It enables me to work with companies that want to change something instead of just fall in line.

    To answer your questions:

    1) Are you interested in a career in social media, or a related field? What attracts you?
    Absolutely! It would be a dream.

    2) What are you doing now to get skilled, experienced, and educated in this field?

    It feels like most of the debate and articles has moved out to the web, due to the speed of development. I subscribe to a multiple of RSS feeds; try to use as many social media tools as possible.
    By doing this you get a head start. The broader media in Sweden are starting to pick up the twitter trend just recently. It feels like we read about them years ago.

    Inspirational books such as, Wikinomics, Long tail, Groundswell, putting the public back in Pr, et cetera also works well.

    I™m missing a good social media book review page? Any suggestions?

    3) What will you look for in an employer? What would make you not want to work for an employer? Openness, transparency and the ability of my employee to let me grow as a person.

    4) Feel free to leave your contact and school info

    Social media engagement is very low at my university. And it is a struggle to find academic guidance in this area. But hopefully this is changing. I showed a page that I made in Google sites that I hooked up to Google analytics and my professor hit the roof when I shoed all the variables I could extract from it.
    We wrote our Bachelor thesis in the subject Wikinomics and found most of our data online. We are currently writing our Master thesis regarding how the measurability of a marketing effort can be helped by social media. (Thanks for all the valuable inputs)

    If anybody has any interesting ideas of ROI and ROE in marketing please feel free to contact me.

    Best regards and thank you for some fantastic inputs

    / Hampus

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