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Uni degree, then what?

Meeting up with psychology students around the world on Twitter

A psychology student, Trudy, commented on my post about Work Psychology: 2008 AD. I first ‘found’ Trudy using Twitter, the micro-blogging service, where you say what you are doing in 140 characters or less. I ‘followed ‘her there, and from there to her blog psychology in real life.

Gen Y are proactive

Trudy is an example of Gen Y: connected and proactively connecting to the world by writing about what she is doing now. Blogging & twittering illustrates an important issue for work psychologists. The world changes and we need to be up-to-date about the way we work, communicate, and interrelate. Work psychology is as much about work as it is about psychology.

Now Trudy doesn’t want to hear about her – she has her own voice! She would like to know what I do. So with permission of my client, here is a case study of a project currently on my desk.

Case study

A graduate, let’s call him Tom, lives and went to university in a remote regional capital.  Tom always had very clear work ambitions and read far beyond his university studies about his chosen industry. Unfortunately, this industry (industry not function) doesn’t operate in his home town and ‘getting into play’ means applying for jobs thousands of kilometers away where he is unknown and unsupported.

Undaunted, Tom is setting off to a trade meeting where he hopes to meet people and circulate his CV as a committed wannabe that someone should take on as an apprentice production manager. This is pretty proactive by any standard. Understandably though, he is anxious, in rather a diffuse way.

There is plenty advice about networking and job hunting on the internet. And it is valid. Look the part you want to play (preferably one level up). Have a smart CV stating your achievements briefly and with numbers. Speak to the needs of your targets (whom he has researched). Circulate with copies of your CV. Keep conversations focused and sum up what has been agreed. Follow up with an email and follow up again when you get home.

What does a work psychologist offer that is over-and-above this advice?

1.  We are on your side

We know that only 1 out of 20 students leave university with written goals and they achieve as much in life as the other 19 do together! A ROI of 2000%! We also know that 1 person out of 100 creates content on the internet, 9 comment, and 90 lurk. What distinguishes active, proactive people from the passive?

Actually nothing. Achieving goals is very easy. Setting goals is the difficult part and we cannot be continuously proactive about everything!

A psychologist helps you to assess what is reasonable to expect of yourself, taking into account your life as a whole, and most importantly, stays with you during the whole process. A mentor and supporter is critical to Tom’s professional success.

2.  We take the trouble to understand your task

When I was growing up, career advice was a matching process in which we find appropriated holes for pegs of various shapes.. In this century, we understand careers as “discovering and shaping the place where the self meets the world” (David Whyte). We no longer believe there are holes or pegs. Instead we encourage students to make the place where they interact with the world.

Trudy does this very well with her blog. Tom is making that place by attending the trade meeting, but can he do more?

3.  We share with you what we have learned in other industries

The last ten years has seen growing tension on many fronts. Indeed, many people see the credit crunch and Obama’s election as two sides of this coin. Any one watching the Obama election will know he used Facebook, Twitter and a website where supporters (and non-supporters) could log on, make their own profile, and talk directly to each other.

This is not just a political phenomenon. We have all used call-centres and so, we know about out-sourcing. What has been less visible to the public is a move from ‘push’ management to ‘pull’ management. What this means is that, just like in the Obama campaign, we have added a third stream to management.

We still have people-2-purpose, we still have people-2-resources. Now we also have people-2-people. The fun part of people-2-people systems is that we can take the initiative. Moreover, because people-2-people systems use platforms similar to Facebook, Gen Yers are very comfortable taking the initiative.

My suggestion to Tom is that he takes the initiative hugely and sets up a social media interface for his trade meeting. In practical terms, all he needs to do is spend a couple of evenings activating a community on Ning, a hashtag on Twitter, and start connecting with people attending the meeting.

What would he expect to gain?

  • Early contacts whom he can follow up in person

  • Better conversations among graduates in the same boat as himself

  • A place for employers to ‘come out’ and engage at a deeper level with ‘wannabes’

  • Reputation as a project manager in the industry

I would expect that as he worked on the project that his goals would refine themselves quite fast and that would maintain my interest and motivation! I would be quite forgiving of phone calls and DM that have the time zone calculation wrong! I would not think it impossible to create the ultimate space where the self meets the world: a special assignment as assistant to the CEO.

This is an ongoing assignment: will it work?

This may surprise you. It doesn’t have to work. Tom is going to the meeting anyway. He will walk around introducing himself anyway. Twittering, Facebook, Ning cost nothing but “intellectual surplus” [TV time] and if he gets bored with the project, or runs out of time, he doesn’t even have to clean up!

Modern day norms allow this. That is the nature of “pull” management. Take part if you wish, don’t if you don’t want to. The world is our oyster!

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