SFU Career Practitioners – Fall 2014 Cohort

The Internet is Forever

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Learning about the wealth of information and assessment tools online, both Labour Market Information (LMI) and Computer Assisted Career Guidance Systems (CACGS), was immensely beneficial to me as I believe strongly in making well-informed decisions based on sound research. (Must be the Green and the Archivist in me!)

Of equal significance, however, is applying critical-thinking skills to the information and statistical data gleaned from those online sources. So, learning about different types of Employment and Unemployment, for example, was, and will be for me, key to properly understanding and interpreting government statistics, for example. Knowing who is counted as “unemployed” and for how long and under what category tells me a lot about the real state of the economy and specific industry trends, all critical to career development practice.

Learning about the multitude of Social Media tools, however, had perhaps the greatest impact on me personally, both positive and negative. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box. On the one hand, I am drawn to Social Media (such as Linkedin) as a powerful mechanism for communicating the value of one’s professional self to prospective employers and engaging the online world (using web-based platforms such as Twitter or WordPress) in discussions that both showcase one’s passions, interests, or subject- and/or industry-specific knowledge. From my observations and experience social media can be used as a force for good, educating people en masse and engendering positive change through calls to political action or bringing attention to issues of social justice in order to correct current policies and practices, for example.

However, I have also learned, the hard way, that what you say and how you say it will always be interpreted through a variety of lenses, all shaped through an interplay of nurture and nature. Depending from whose perspective you ask will determine what reaction you’re likely to receive. Put it on the internet and it can become a provocative tool that incites, potentially, negative and/or unintended reactions and responses from an online universe of people, most of whom you’ll never meet. That’s enough to cause me to leave my opinions in “draft” and never press “send!”

Although the majority of my own lessons come from personal experiences where the written word was misinterpreted and the receiver had only a combination of the words sent and her own lens to gauge the intended meaning of the content, I have learned over the years that if you’re going to put it in writing and send it over the internet (via email, Social Media or other online tool), always remember the old adage: If you don’t have something nice to say (and even if you do!) … The internet is forever.

My impersonation of a gloomy gus, aside, I will no doubt cautiously embrace social media as a tool for education and engagement because while I can’t control what other people think or how they interpret the meaning behind my words, in life or online, I can control the words I (carefully) choose to express myself with and focus only on subject matter that I feel I can speak to with passion, conviction and substance.

– Brenda Richmond

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