Campus News

Pilot program on digital media literacy aims to enhance students' job opportunities

Jeff Polish speaking to students in the Hadley Common room as part of the Telling my story series.

Jeff Polish, founder of The Monti, an organization whose mission is to create community through storytelling, talks about "Shaping Meaningful Events into Memorable Stories" at the first workshop of the "Telling My Story" series held last month in the Hadley Village Common Room. Photo: Douglas Levere


Published March 7, 2017

“Having a good presence online can really help to give students an advantage over other candidates. ”
Jenna Smith, coordinator of assessment and marketing
Career Services

It’s not your parent’s job search anymore.

Career Services has begun a pilot program emphasizing the importance of digital media literacy in the modern day job search for UB students approaching graduation.

“At Career Services, we work directly with employers, and one thing that is constantly a hot-button topic is the increasing importance of digital media literacy in the hiring process,” says Jenna Smith, coordinator of assessment and marketing at Career Services.

Students hunting for a job need to recognize a new job-application reality: Employers consider much more than how the applicants looks on paper.

“In the past, it was just the resume and cover letter that employers were looking at,” says Smith. “But now they will Google applicants and look at their LinkedIn page, Twitter and Instagram accounts. So having a good presence online can really help to give students an advantage over other candidates.”

As the Internet reaches further into people’s lives, a potential employer can learn nearly everything about prospective employees before they even walk into the interview.

With this in mind, Career Services collaborated with the Center for Education Innovation and the Department of Communication to develop “Telling My Story,” a series of six workshops, each focusing on a different aspect of digital communication and storytelling. Fifteen students from a variety of disciplines and chosen by faculty are taking part in the workshops.

Workshops are led by presenters who showcases an area of their expertise that they believe will be useful to students looking to make themselves more engaging to potential employers.

Following the workshop series, students and facilitators will return for a final session in which participants share their stories in a recorded TED Talk-type presentation.

Workshop sessions tackle such topics as the power of narrative, public speaking, creating effective images and producing successful videos.

A session on the principles of social media-based communication is being led by Michael Stefanone, associate professor of communication.

“My presentation will focus on the technological differences between social media platforms, audience issues and other communication-related issues effective storytellers should consider,” says Stefanone. “I think this program is valuable for students because there aren’t any classes or programs like this one ‘on the books’ here at UB.”

Career Services officials have heard of numerous examples of applicants not getting hired, in part due to an unprofessional or inappropriate social media presence. Using the same reasoning, employers say a professional-looking social media profile can actually be an asset for an applicant and help them stand out.

Students need to understand that if something on social media is out there for friends to see, it’s also out there and visible for employers.

“What we are hoping to do in this project is demonstrate to students that having some advanced skills in the areas of digital and social media could be a great benefit to them when searching for employment,” says John Wild, interim associate director for the Center for Educational Innovation, who came up with the original idea for the project.

“All businesses today are involved with digital and social media in some way,” Wild says. “Having advanced knowledge and skills in these areas to add to a resume or talk confidently about in a job interview can help raise an applicant’s value to an employer.”

The project team says the goal of the program is to give students a good grasp of how to present the story of who they are to an employer — in a digital way. Students can do this by producing a short video and/or a collection of photos, using a social media site creatively, or simply giving a talk and using some digital materials to highlight their narrative.

The team hopes to learn from the program and eventually expand on it to emphasize the importance of digital media literacy to all UB students starting the job search.