Is Higher Ed “linked”?



I realized I’m going to have to undergo a shift in perspective regarding job seeking and recruiting after reading this week’s material. Having spent the last 10 years in just one institution of higher education, I’ve been used to a certain laborious way of doing things.  I’ve probably been on 15-20 search committees in the past 5 years, and, as far as I know, we haven’t used any social media such as Linked In or FB.  We recruit via our website and some online newspapers and job boards, then we get electronic resumes, then we consider them individually, then we meet as a committee, then we usually conduct phone interviews, then on-campus interviews, and hopefully make a hiring decision.  This process is not very nimble and usually takes 4-6 months.

Since I wasn’t sure if this is just specific to my university or to higher ed as a whole, I did some research and found that we’re probably a little late in adopting newer methods, but our field as a whole is still lagging.  In “Web 2.0 in Higher Education Recruitment,” Rob Friedman explains only about 20% of recruiters look to social networks for recruiting and most job seekers are still looking at online job boards. The study also noted that most professionals in higher education are using Linked In to do their networking and the article echoed the cautionary tone of Qualman and Maggiani and Marshall (“Using Linked In to Get Work”) saying, “The utilization of social networks makes it more important for job seekers and representatives of colleges and universities that what people see about them personally is consistent with the image they wish to publicize” ( Interestingly, the other social media sites professionals are using are Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, and Second Life.


How would professional networking work at Second Life?

Second Life?  How would that work since everyone is a “persona” and doesn’t really know who anyone else is or what they do? Seriously, if anyone knows the answer to this, I’d be interested since I couldn’t find much in my research. Also, if anyone else is working in higher ed, I’d be interested to hear if you’re using SM in recruiting.

It’s hard not to find Qualman engaging, but sometimes his claims seem so contradictory. For example, regarding recruitment through social media, he says “all of this newfound transparency from social business networks is a godsend for employers” (225). Yet, just a few pages later he warns people that “unflattering items should proactively be removed from the public eye” (229).  Of resumes, he says that recruiters used to have to “read between the lines” (225) to get a good sense of the candidate.  How is that any different than reading between the lines of a Linked In profile that has been wiped squeaky-clean?  I think SM is probably more efficient, more convenient, and quicker (which we in higher education could use), but I’m not sure I’m convinced that it’s any more transparent.

Speaking of transparency, I’d hate to be in the shoes of that University of Iowa grad student who accidentally emailed naked pictures of herself to her students. When you think of the potential multiplying effect of those emails getting forwarded, that’s probably not something she’s ever going to be able to “scrub” from her public record (See the story by Lisa Gutierrez at the Kansas City Star/I

The “Human+Machine Culture” by Bernadette Longo probably took me to mental places I really didn’t want to visit. In her discussion of culture and community, she writes “Human+machine culture represents both the hope of freedom from inhuman work and the fear that humans will not be able to control the machines they had made in their own image” (166). She says that technical communicators are in a position of “knowledge making authority” (166) and earlier refers to “the scientific knowledge system sustained through technical communication” (165).

When I read material like this, I worry that I am pursuing the wrong degree.  I sort of “glommed” on to the “P” in the MSTPC Program, thinking more of developing myself as a “professional” writer rather than as a technical writer, but most of what I read in my classes seems to focus on the “technical.” Is that because the means by which we communicate are “technological” or do most people envision themselves entering a “scientific knowledge system”? Am I thinking straight in aspiring to the P rather than the T?

I sometimes worry that the "T" is both literally and figuratively at the center of my degree

I sometimes worry that the “T” is both literally and figuratively at the center of my degree

I guess I need to start thinking about these things if I’m going to get my Linked In profile updated and polished.  That reminds me of some other advice Qualman gives: “if job seekers share a common name with an individual that is less than scrupulous, then the job seeker needs to make certain the employer knows that the person is not them, but rather someone else with the same name” (229).

So, I guess I’m going to have to make a big note on my profile:



“Please don’t confuse me with Evelyn Martens, the serial killer.”

Posted on November 3, 2013, in Social Media, Trust, Workplace and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I’m with you in regards to Second Life. I think anyone using it for more than advertising or entertainment is fooling themselves. I have a hard time believing that some would represent themselves truthfully or accurately enough to consider that a recruiting source for a job.
    I think you’re dead on with your analysis of Qualman as well. Recruiters will still need to exercise the same skills they currently use to screen candidates, and will have to develop a few more to be successful. An online profile is easy to edit and update. Someone who is really looking for a job has the ability to tailor their profile to suit what they think a recruiter would be looking for. If only there was a history archive that would allow individuals to see what was present prior to the updates. That would go a long way toward screening potential applicants.
    I wouldn’t worry too much about the focus on the T over the focus on the P in MSTPC. We’re taking courses in communication, which is always a valuable skill. You might even consider it a bonus, since society’s degrading communication skills could only serve to elevate our degree and make us all more marketable.
    P.S. I like the profile note. I’m in the opposite category, there are so many people that share my name that the assumption will be that I’m not connected to things I did actually do.

    • Thanks for the T/P tip. I don’t worry about it too much, but sometimes it crosses my mind when I think about how I’m going to market myself.

  2. Thanks for posting your wonderful ideas! I am glad to know you are not a serial killer! You brought up a very thought-provoking idea, however: does our program focus more on the “T” or the “P?” I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. I think since technology is so engrained into the workforce, we must focus on the technology aspect in order to prepare ourselves for our careers. We can’t land a technical communication position without having experience in technology. Although the “P” is more subtle, we do use it as we develop efficient and effective ways of communicating ideas to our audience.

    Also, I have never heard of anyone, in fact, acquiring a job through LinkedIn. The process you describe sounds much more like the recruiting processes with which I am familiar. Perhaps in the future, LinkedIn will continue to grow and become the main outlet for finding a job,

    • Interesting that you’re familiar with the recruiting process I described because I thought this glacial pace was unique to higher ed. I will be interested to see what role Linked In might play in our future. I imagine some higher ed searches may use it for high-level positions. Not sure…

  3. I also found your point interesting that this program does focus on the T more than the P in MSTPC. I agree it’s a very technical focused program, but I do agree that technical details are a part of the professional side. I think maybe a course on presentations or business communications would be helpful. I find a lot of what we cover in this program is great information, but would have been very useful for me in my last job. In my current job I focus a lot on presentations. I wonder if the Visual Rhetoric class has some of “how to build presentations” built in.

    • I think it is an elective to take 415/615, Technical Writing, but I would think there would be a presentation component in that class. I can ask around because I think that’s a great idea, even if it were a 1-credit course that explored Prezi and creating infographics…

    • Both Evelyn and I are in Visual Rhetoric right now which is more about analyzing images (still very rhetoric focused, not about how to physically put together a presentation). I will say, because of this class and even with the focus on rhetoric of images/documents, the way I will prepare presentations in the future will be dramatically different (for the better).

    • I’m taking Visual Rhetoric right now and I do think you will find it useful. We haven’t discussed presentations specifically, but all of the design strategies we’ve discussed would be of great help in presentations.

  4. OMG Evelyn this post make me smile because I remember your point earlier in the semester about the “other” Evelyn Martens!

    As for the use of LinkedIn during academic job searches, I think you’re right in that we haven’t posted ads or searched for candidates that way. I believe last year was the first that candidates even electronically submitted their CV, letter, and references. I do think that corporate recruiters might look to LinkedIn, but given I’m in academia it’s hard for me to say for sure. I’m not sure what ideas you are thinking about for the final paper, but given your experience on hiring committees, you could discuss something like this, especially since you’ve already looked into a source like “Web 2.0 in Higher Education Recruitment.”

    And in my opinion, this recent incident at Michigan State is worse than the U of Iowa one but still speaks to transparency:

    • I will think about your idea. I have already found a bunch of articles on setting up a blog (for our Campus Read program), but I haven’t fleshed it out yet. If I get some work done on it today, I might email you to get your feedback about the relative merits.


  5. I really thought that you raised a lot of good questions. One of which was the one about Second Life…I am glad that I am not the only one who is baffled by it. It is funny, I had never heard of it before this class, and after hearing so much about it, I still do not understand the appeal.
    I thought that your comments on Qualman were really true. He does tend to go back and forth on things. I think it is simply an attempt to address multiple perspectives at once, but it does come across as being somewhat contradictory.

    • The Second Life idea–using it as a professional networking site?– really still baffles me. What would you accomplish for purposes of your ‘real” life if everyone you’re networking with is operating under an assumed identity?

      I enjoy Qualman, but I wish he was a little less “celebratory” and included at least a note of caution now and then (maybe not as much as Turle, though!).

  6. Loved your post, Evelyn. Funny thing – I came into the program wanting to focus more on the T and am now focusing more on the P instead. I still know I want to work in a technical environment but I want to be more in corporate communications or a more interactive form of communications than technical writing (the thing I thought I wanted to do when I started at Stout). I think this program is very evenly split between the P and the T – like anything it is how you plan on using it that you can have it swing one way or the other.

  7. True about the even split. Most of what I’m learning in all 3 of my classes focus more on “professional” than “technical” so far, but I worry about some of the more technical aspects to come. I think “worry” is overstating, though. “Pondering” is more like it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.