Job Shadowing on Twitter

JobShadow_Twitter_1.18.15I’m always looking for a new way to incorporate Twitter into my social work courses.  So I was pleased when my colleague Joy Jones with UAB’s Career and Professional Services suggested a new idea to me – a virtual job shadowing experience on Twitter.  The event goes like this – a professional agrees to tweet about her job during a set date and time, students can follow along via Twitter, and then tweet back questions or comments to the professional.  Similar to a live twitter chat, students can use a computer, tablet or mobile device from anywhere, offering flexibility and the opportunity to engage with others who are also following the job shadowing. Joy had all the details worked out for an event including the job shadowing candidate, logistics, and a hashtag.  All I had to do was recruit the students.  I offered it as an extra credit opportunity for students in my two classes last semester.

The event happened on 11/18/15 from 1 – 5 pm with Madison Darling from Blanket Fort Hope, a local non-profit agency in Alabama fighting child human trafficking.  Madison agreed to tweet every 30 minutes about what she was doing that day and answer questions from students as frequently as possible.  We had about fifteen  participants total, along with myself and Joy.  Questions ranged from “what is like working with children” to “how do I volunteer with your agency.”  Madison and one of her colleagues did a great job answering questions and sharing about their agency and their job duties.  Not only were my students able to network with professionals, a connection was created between my academic department, our campus career services and a community partner.  Click here for a link to the transcript from the event, where you can read the tweets.

Joy and I will working on more of job shadowing events in the coming semester, and here are some suggestions I have for other social work faculty interested in hosting a similar event and/or incorporating this type of job shadowing into a learning activity:

1. Find partners – Social work educators can reach out to their institution’s office of career services, the local NASW chapter, and their alumnus.  Between these three groups, you will find people to help organize and promote the job shadowing as well as professionals who are willing to be shadowed for a day.  Also, consider partnering with educators and professionals from other disciplines to create an interprofessional event.  For example, if you have a hospital social worker as your professional, encourage students from nursing, medicine, and other health care programs to tweet their questions.

2. Locate Tech-Savvy Professionals – When looking for someone to tweet about their job for several hours over the course of a day, look for someone who knows how to use Twitter in the context of their job and understands how respond to questions and comments professionally via social media.  Posting a comment about what someone ate for lunch is very different than tweeting about the mission statement of one’s agency or ethically discussing a typical day at work.  It is best if the professional has permission from their agency, and that they follow the NASW Code of Ethics and Netiquette guidelines when tweeting.  Any comments about clients should be very general such as “The most common issues clients at my agency face are substance abuse and poverty” or “We see lots of kids from families that are experiencing homelessness.”

3. Pick a really good Hashtag – Pick a hashtag that can be used for multiple job shadowing events (i.e. No dates) and is FERPA compliant (i.e. doesn’t identity a specific course at your institution).  For our event, UAB Career Services selected #UABWorkIt, which they had been using for other career focused events on campus last semester.   If you are hosting an event with faculty and students from multiple institutions, you may want a more neutral hashtag such as #socialwork or #swjobs.

4. Structure your Tweets – To help the event go smoothly, you and your partners should prepare some tweets with questions and comments in advance.  You can have some general tweets written out in a word document or with a third party platform such a Buffer or Hootsuite.  Start the job shadowing by introducing the event and your professional. Let participants know the parameters of how often the professional will tweet.  Ask your professional to also prepare some tweets such as an introduction about themselves and examples of typical work tasks.  You should also prepare questions for the professional, just in case you have more lurkers than tweeters.  Re-tweet students’ questions and help make sure the professional answers them.  You will also want to close the event with lessons learned from the job shadowing, overview of the event, and thanking the professional for their time and tweets.

You can also find other tips that may be helpful from my blog post on how to participate in a live Twitter chat.

Here is an example assignment that could be added to almost any social work course for a grade or extra credit:

The purpose of this assignment is to help students connect with the social work practice community and network with practitioners using social media.  Students will participate in a live job shadowing event on Twitter with a social worker from a local agency.  This is also an opportunity to conduct an informational interview so professionalism is important.  The event will last four hours and students will be responsible for tweeting during this time frame. Students should plan to tweet at least five times during the event and their posts should include:

1. At least two questions to the social worker about his or her job and/or the agency where employed.
2. At least three reply tweets to the social worker and/or other participants during the event such as a fellow student or the instructor.
3. The event’s hashtag.

Students are encouraged to re-tweet others’ comments and include appropriate content from other sources (such as statistics, professional organizations or current news items) with hyperlinks.

Following the job shadowing experience, students will write a brief reflection essay, outlining what they learned from the experience and compare the virtual job shadowing to an in-person experience such as a visit to the agency.

Possible Learning Objectives:
1. Demonstrate how to ethically and professionally communicate with social work professionals using social media
2. Develop informational interviewing skills to learn about community-based agencies and social work practice
3. Practice professional networking skills using social media
4. Summarize the advantages and disadvantages of using social media for professional networking

Social Work Competencies addressed by the assignment:
Competency 1– Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior
Competency 2 – Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice
Competency 6 – Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Here are details about our  job shadowing event that  student found helpful to know in advance:

Announcement for about Job Shadowing Live Twitter Experience on 11/18:
Want to learn more about working with children who are victims of human trafficking?  Got a Twitter Account? Then, join Madison Darling, the Education Coordinator for Blank Fort Hope in Alabama, on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 from 1 – 5 PM CST for a virtual Job Shadowing Experience on Twitter.  Ms. Darling will be tweeting about her work day and her agency, and will be answering your questions.  Here are the details:

– Tweets will be made from the Blanket Fort Hope Twitter handle @BlanketFortHope
– Please use the hashtag #UABWorkIt when tweeting questions and comments or just to follow the conversation.
– Time: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 from 1 – 5 PM CST
– To learn more about Ms. Darling & Blank Fort Hope, please review the following:

Blanket Fort Hope (http://www.blanketforthope.org/): Our mission is to love and care for child trafficking victims through housing, services, and long-term commitment, and to prevent children from becoming victims by educating children, and professionals who work with children, about human trafficking.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/blanketforthope
Twitter – @BlanketFortHope

Madison Darling, Education Coordinator:  Madison studied Social Work at the University of Alabama. In 2010, she created and ran the Suicide Prevention Organization that was recognized by the Alabama Department of Public Health, picked up for continuation and implementation across Alabama, and is still thriving today. Madison has given more than 120 presentations on “Teen Suicide Prevention in the Educational Setting,” and has been a keynote speaker at the 2013 ASPRC Conference, the 2013 Into the Darkness Rally, and many more. After writing the educational curriculum for Blanket Fort Hope, she has joined the staff as Education Coordinator. Madison has a passion for service, a heart for others, and is grateful for the opportunity to make an impact in the movement against human trafficking.

This event is being sponsored by UAB Career & Professional Development Services.

The next step for Joy and I will be getting more formal feedback from students and the professionals who participate in our future job shadowing events.  Has anyone else participated with a job shadowing on Twitter?  It would be great to hear about your experience or any other advice.

Author: Laurel Hitchcock

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