A recently unemployed graduate walks into a job centre to attend a work skills session, a condition of receiving unemployment benefit. As part of a new drive to integrate social media into the job search process, he is asked to create an online profile on the popular micro-blogging platform Twitter. The supervisor tells him that by interacting with the accounts of potential employers, he may land himself a new job.
Five years ago, this experience (recently relayed to me by a friend) would have been farcical. Twitter was considered just a fad amongst Silicon Valley early-adopters. It’s now used by every brand, institution or service, from Her Majesty The Queen to the shipping forecast, as well as the rest of us ordinary people.
Using Twitter to get a job is not necessarily a bad idea. It might work well for some people, in some sectors. Good luck to them. But when there is an expectation that we adopt commercial media platforms as a precondition of entering the job market, something has gone wrong. Amidst confusion over what constitutes our digital identity, we’re being encouraged to construct public digital selves in order to please potential employers.
We can do better. We need better tools to match jobseekers to appropriate vacancies, that protect individual privacy, and provide authentication of qualifications and work history. Twitter is an informal, ephemeral, public medium. It is no substitute for trusted, public, digital infrastructure fit for the 21st-century job market.