We were talking in the office about interns and social media. Here are some of the thoughts I brought to that conversation. Social media can be a powerful tool for connecting, potentially scaffolding for future job acquisition and fulfillment. It can also be a means for future challenges with job acquisition. So, a little guidance from mentors might be helpful.
Given how few jobs are available in the field, with the competition as it is, and the fact that most managers are tech savvy enough to give a little Google search of applicants a try, it would be bad management not to mentor your students. You should offer mentorship for students in the best ways to comport themselves in the virtual environment. If you don’t, it’s a little like knowing teens are having sex but not telling them how to put on a condom.
As managers, it is useful to start this conversation in a positive proactive way. Share what has worked for you. For me:
- As a museum professional, I love the chance that social media gives to interact with the global environment. I like when people tweet me back. I love when institutions communicate back. I love a repin. I love a comment/ like on an Instagram account. And, well, don’t let me start about Vine. I would encourage interns to be interactive, and tweet people back. Favorite items that you have read/ seen.
- Being in social media is a way to indicate to the museum world that you are an active participant.
- Twitter is a real-time conversation. So, you do need to tend it. Check in periodically. This makes the tool feel immediate.
- Hash tags are a great way to connect to surprising people. For Vine, I find that my hashtags bring me to surprising people.
- In Twitter, include questions, when you have them. People will answer them. It is a tool to do real work, and people can help point you to new research.
- I use Twitter and Pinterest as ways to track ideas that I want to keep track of. (though hashtags help in both tools.)
As a manager, tell people when you might have screwed up. And, share challenges that might come up.
- There are real challenges about having a “work” account. You will need to decide how much personal info is appropriate. And, different social media services can brook different amount of personal sharing. On Pinterest, you can have work and personal boards. Your work colleagues can choose not to participate in your obsessions with Japanese furnishings; crafty banners; or juice cleanses. (I only have two of those by the way.) But, on Twitter, you might choose to have separate accounts for really personal stuff, or do that on Facebook.
- Some museums are really serious about confidentiality. Often all meetings notes, checklists, packing crates, etc. are confidential. Photography rules are often very strict in galleries. You need to conform to that.
- Pictures are often the thing that can get you in trouble. You might be shooting a selfie, thinking about your image instead of the background. But, in the background, you might have a work that has yet to be released to the public. So, if in doubt, ask.
- Finally, remember social media is at its essence social. It is a two way street. When you say something, people can hear it. This is not unlike being in a museum and saying something personal in the galleries. The public can hear you.
Your social media presence should be an extension of yourself and the personal brand that you hope to project. If you are a little irreverent, you account can show that. If you are very studious, that too is fine. If you are like many of us, and you are both studious and irreverent, well, then we should connect.