The link between social media use and employment

I have submitted a paper to the 2nd International Data and Information Management Conference, which is hosted by the Centre for Information Management at Loughborough University in January 2016. The conference theme is “Exploring our digital shadow”.

The paper analyses secondary data taken from Understanding Society: The UK household longitudinal study1, relating to the use of social networking sites (SNSs) amongst a stratified sample of 18-24 year olds across the UK. Some other key variables were also considered – of particular interest was the employment status of the respondents, and determining if a link exists between the use of SNSs and being in work.

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The short answer to the above is yes: at the time of the survey (2012) there was a statistically significant relationship between membership of SNSs and being in paid employment. Specifically, 92.0% of those in employment were members of SNSs, compared to 83.2% of those who were unemployed.

To give more credence to the finding, a logistic regression was performed to predict the likelihood of being in paid employment. This included the variables (1) membership of a SNS, (2) number of close friends, (3) age and (4) sex. The model successfully predicted those in employment, thus confirming the association.

The above exercise was useful in a number of ways. For example, it allowed me to carry out some empirical work, and analyse actual data which is relevant to my PhD project. If my paper is accepted to the conference, it will give me the chance to discuss the findings in relation to the wider context of social media use during job search, as tools for sourcing information.

One of the key aspects of this discussion is the need for a holistic project, which implements a mixed methods approach to data collection. In my opinion, qualitative data is an absolute necessity to understand the use (or the non-use) of social media tools amongst young jobseekers.

The results of my analysis suggest that there is a link between the use of SNSs and being in paid employment, but even if this is the case (there is no guarantee, as unknown variables may explain the association), then this knowledge is merely the tip of the iceberg. There are a multitude of other questions which must be answered:

  • What tools are being used?
  • What is the nature of the use?
  • Who is in these online networks?
  • What information is being sought?
  • What barriers prohibit use?

Those are just off the top of my head.

My literature review unearthed a great deal of scientific work which relates to the adoption of social media tools in various contexts. However, perhaps due to the speed at which these new digital platforms have pervaded our existence, knowledge on their impact still seems to be very scattered and shallow.

I’m hoping that by writing this paper I have given myself a decent springboard from which to research the use of social media tools in more depth, and from a perspective that has received scant prior attention – job search.

[1] University of Essex. Institute for Social and Economic Research and National Centre for Social Research/TNS BMRB, Understanding Society: Innovation Panel, Waves 1-7, 2008-2014 [computer file]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], July 2015. SN: 6849

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