For students wondering how to make themselves seem like decent people worthy of employment, Dalhousie recommends you visit Jobs4GradsNow.com, a website featuring a Flash game where watching videos about social networking earns you points to put towards items like a yacht or a briefcase full of money in your virtual workspace.
The site offers a 10-step system for “taking the guesswork out of finding a job.” The first step, “Assessing Who U R,” features a video of your virtual career counselor with advice on how to manage your online image:
“Next, reconsider your online circle of friends. You may have a soft spot for the good-hearted slacker who can’t seem to keep a job, or dress neatly,” she says. “But an employer or prospective employer may not like the fact that you hang with someone like this.”
“Is this fair? Probably not. Is it reality? You betcha. So reevaluate your online circle of friends.”
You are not provided with criteria as to what someone who “can’t seem to get a job” looks like. Because no consideration is given to the possibility that you’re one of these people, this advice could only convince students they are more entitled to positions of higher status than the people they’re now unfriending.
Are students actually watching this video and falling for it? That’s beside the point. Rather, it’s concerning that Dal’s website recommends Jobs4GradsNow as a resource on personal branding. On its recently created page, Dal poses the question: “Are you ‘digitally dirty’?”
Dal specifically recommends a few sections of the website, including “Your 30-second elevator pitch.”
Their example of a 30-second introduction you could make to an employer goes like this:
“I have 2 years of experience with X corporation, which have exposed me to different approaches. In that time I saved the company over $200,000 in audits.”
If you’ve already saved a company $200,000, why are you not working for them any longer? Did they decide you were a liability after they realized you’re Facebook friends with someone who wears basketball jerseys?
It’s easy to pass on taking a site like this seriously. But what happens when, through silence, we accept our school citing Jobs4GradsNow as a moral authority? Dal’s “digital dirt” page tells you “a digital footprint can last a lifetime” and can cost you admission to graduate schools or job opportunities unless you “effectively manage your online reputation.”
Another page on Dal’s website says you must assume everything about you online will remain there forever. It does not, for example, say what your options are if someone has spread explicit images of you online against your will, but it does end with the message: “So ask yourself: how do you want others to perceive you?”
Is constant self-surveillance from the perspective of a prospective employer actually something people are saying will lead to a healthy future? A survey by Dal Health Services found a third of students interviewed expressed feeling “too depressed to function” within the last year. Should students struggling with mental illness try to brand themselves as calm and confident online because an employer who knows the truth could decide to hire someone who seems more reliable?
Well, intimidating, unrealistic demands are easy to make. Jobs4GradsNow suggests you should follow and become followed by 20 new people on Twitter every day, but as of writing this, they haven’t tweeted in nearly three years.
While Dalhousie has the site as a trial now, it otherwise costs about $100 to register an account.
Is it fair that this resource is being offered to us as a guide for our futures? Probably not. Is it reality? You betcha. But binary questions don’t lead to insight—in any unfair situation, the next thing to ask is, why is this a reality?
Jesse, editor-in-chief of the Gazette, is a fifth-year student of journalism at Dalhousie and the University of King’s College. He started university with three years of experience writing for Teens Now Talk magazine, where he is now copy editor. Before writing a story Jesse likes to think about how his metal detector could finally be useful in researching this one, but there is never a way it could be. Jesse has produced writing and interactive features for Globalnews.ca and The Chronicle Herald. He may be followed on Twitter, @RealJesseWard, or from the Gazette office on Mondays around 8 p.m. to his home in West End Halifax.
Email Jesse at firstname.lastname@example.org.