Using Social Media in Career Services – Thumbs up or down?

Posted by: Dawn Schell on December 11, 2013 2:11 pm

The British Journal of Guidance and Counselling recently published an article[1] reporting the outcomes of a study conducted by the Finnish Institute for Educational Research.  This study looked at how career practitioners view the use of social media in career services.

As the authors state, “The use of social media in career-related activities has increased dramatically in recent years, leading the career service sector to acknowledge the need to expand its understanding of new technologies and to modernise its services. Several researchers have emphasised that it is important that career practitioners gain competence and confidence in existing and emerging technologies in order to consider their usefulness and potential for clients…”

While it may seem obvious that we need to “gain competence and confidence” in new technologies in order to better serve our clients it is clear that how we perceive the usefulness of those technologies will impact our willingness and ability to learn about them.  This article was a salutary reminder to me to take into consideration others’ perceptions of the usefulness of these tools when I am expounding the delights of using a variety of social media in career counselling.

The analysis of the data collected in the Finnish study revealed five categories, which I found illuminating.

Social media is unnecessary having little or no importance or relevance to career services

Social media is dispensable – question its role or necessity

Social media is a possibility – potentially useful

Social media is desirable – positive attitude and interest

Social media is indispensible – viewed as an increasingly important way to extend career services

In addition to these five categories, “Eight dimensions of variation were identified: attitude; role in guidance; settings; perception; guidance locus; guidance paradigm; role of practitioner; and nature of interaction.”

One of their findings was an interrelation between practitioners’ approaches to their practice and how they conceptualized social media.  A more directive approach was interrelated with a more negative view.


The research was done in 2010/11 and upon reflection I can see my own views of the utility of social media have changed since that time.  Maybe it’s because of my approach to career services.  Though I suspect it’s more related to the increasing social media use by employers.  I also think my continually deepening understanding of what it means to be digitally career literate and the importance of that for my clients and myself has shifted my views.

In conclusion the authors note, “The results of this study show that if the career field is to develop career practitioners’ understandings of technology and social media in a more complex direction, it has to take into consideration not only their practical knowledge, but also their prevailing personal conceptions.”

In Canada we are revising our Canadian Standards and Guidelines to reflect the need to develop competency in the use of technology.  This study suggests we will need to consider how Canadian career practitioners view social media and other new technologies in order to move forward in the best possible way in building competencies.
Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online


[1] Kettunen, J., Vuorinen, R., & Sampson, J. (2013) Career practitioners’ conceptions of social media in career services. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 41 (3): 302 – 317.


*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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