From our experience of speaking to students, PR isn’t something they’re familiar with, which can be problematic when teenagers are being asked to map out their future while they’re still at school.
Students are often only exposed to the careers that are shown on TV and in films (a journalist, lawyer, astronaut, secret agent, genetically altered superhuman), or the career paths of people in their networks (teacher, doctor, vet), which can make it difficult for them to choose their subjects if they don’t want to do one of those jobs.
Our survey says…
While at a recent careers fair at Walton High in Milton Keynes, we ran a quick post-it note survey with some of the students. We asked anyone who visited our stand to pop their age on a post-it note and stick it on a wall chart under the social media platform they used most.
Some got very scientific about it, using their iPhone to check their screen time (ah technology) and others used the opportunity to promote their own Snapchat names (which I pointed out was technically PR…).
Overall, our survey showed us that:
- Snapchat was by far the most popular platform among 12 – 17 year olds, with 39% choosing it as their favourite platform
- Just under one-third (30.4%) of the students used YouTube the most
- And Instagram was only just in third place with 29.72%.
Unsurprisingly, poor old LinkedIn took a bit of a battering. Barely anyone (including adults) could identify its logo, and no-one voted for it as their most used platform. Facebook is “what old people use”, and most were just indifferent to Twitter.
With this in mind, if you’re planning to use social media to communicate directly with students, the usual channels of Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook may not be the best way to reach them. That said, while students are still at secondary school, communicating with parents is often just as important, and Facebook can be one of the best ways to reach this target audience.
What have we learned?
Over the years, we’ve spent a fair amount of time talking to students at careers fairs and events. In that time, we’ve learned not just how, but also what to communicate with young people about careers.
Here’s my advice:
Tell them the good bits about the role, but be realistic too. Don’t just sell the best parts of the job, let them know the core skills they’ll need, including the less exciting but necessary skills. Things like good timekeeping, attention to detail and strong interpersonal skills. These are things they already do day-to-day without realising, and, when you point this out, it can be a real confidence booster.
Let students know that it’s OK not to know, that it’s OK to study for a qualification in one thing and then change course. So many skills and qualifications are transferable.
Give them something to think about or take away with them. Not a physical thing (although a free pen always goes down well…) but something that they can carry on thinking about or remember at a later date.
To get them more engaged with PR, I like to chat to students about campaigns that they might have seen. If they have seen them, we can have an engaging conversation. If they haven’t, I hope that they might go away and try and find out more, or stumble across them at a later date and think, “Ah, this is what that lady was talking about”.
Tips for getting the most from careers fairs
Advice for school staff
- Give students tips about how to approach companies and help them to prepare a list of questions to ask so that each conversation can be productive, both for students and employers.
- Also, give students enough time to visit the stands and find out more about different career paths without any time constraints.
Advice for students
- Take some time to prepare before the fair. Think about the things that would be important to you in a career; for example, are you happy to be desk based or would you prefer a more active role? What sort of tasks do you not want to do? What are your biggest strengths/weaknesses? This preparation will give you an idea of the questions that you can ask employers.
- Remember, if you are looking for work experience this is your chance to make a good impression. Ask about the work experience process, get contact details for someone at the company and follow up the request soon after the careers fair.
- And finally, for students who are still unsure about which career path to take, I would suggest starting by ruling out what you don’t want to do. While that still leaves quite a long list of potential careers, it does help to clear the way a little bit.
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