Workforce development professionals should know the dangers of an echo chamber and do whatever they can to help job seekers avoid it. Echo chambers provide a safe haven for agreeability and strengthens shared views, often at the expense of job seekers' access to new and better opportunities. In the echo chamber, one distrusts outside sources and the information they bring, even when that information has the potential to positively impact their life, freedom, and future economic opportunities.
As the President of Social Capital Builders, I spend a lot of my time giving workforce development programs guidance on how to help job seekers overcome the impact of echo chambers through the power of social capital building.
My previous article on this website spoke to the dangers of echo chambers on youth economic opportunity. In this article, I'm going to teach you how to use it as a powerful force for change. I call it Echo Fishing. This social capital building technique leverages social media and personal connections for job opportunities, career advice, and support, making it a great approach that respects social distancing.
Echo fishing involves posting something on a social account that relates to a career goal or other milestone. I get young job seekers in my social capital summer job programs to write something like, “Just got my first paycheck. Any ideas on how to use it?” Those who respond to their post by commenting, liking, or sharing it make up our targets for our intense social capital building efforts.
Social media generates an echo chamber because it controls what young people see. If young people make the mistake of following a gang fight video (like young people must) they run the risk of getting stuck in a rut of reinforced meaningless likes and everlasting loops of negativity. However, you can help them break out of the chamber by teaching them how to fish in it.
At Social Capital Builders, we implemented echo fishing into our Social Capital Summer Youth Programs within the first week. Students receive feedback almost immediately.
“It was an Instagram post on my story and it was the first echo fishing we did in the program and all of the people that responded were like, ‘Oh, why didn’t you tell me that you were looking for a job’,” said one of the students in our program sponsored by the Howard County Workforce Development Board.
Echo fishing launches young people deep into their existing network to find the true sources of social capital. The key difference between a network and social capital connection is the reciprocal power of intention. Followers don't mean "jack." Social capital connections are people who truly care for young people's positive growth and development, but they aren’t the ones who are usually aware of all the positive moves young people make. Not until now.
Posting positive life updates is an essential part of the social capital building process. It opens up opportunities for the giver (young person sharing positive information) to become the receiver (assistance from their social capital connections). How can you help your nephew, if you don't know that your nephew is looking for a job? Echo Fishing signals to social capital assets that here's an opportunity to lend a compassionate helping hand. It also proves a key part of our philosophy--the relationships you already have are valuable.
Echo fishing also boosts personal confidence through positive feedback and engagement. This is important for low income or otherwise disadvantaged students who don’t have all the necessary resources and supports to get ahead.
“I really appreciate the people who take time to respond to my posts,” said another Howard County student. “It’s only five or six people but it still means a lot to me that they answered my question.”
Using pre-established connections to build social capital works because social capital relies on meaningful links to gainfully employed individuals. With friends and family, the meaningful connection step is already covered.
“I posted it on Facebook and there are a lot of my family on my Facebook,” said another student in the Howard County program. “I asked my uncle and my aunt if I could update them on my progress and they said of course.”
And update them he will. We may not give them a fish, but we'll teach him how to be an Echo Fisher.
by Edward DeJesus, author of Workforce and Summer Job Success and the founder of Social Capital Builders.
Interested in learning more about the power of social capital, check out our upcoming webinar on August 25: Building a Social Capital Framework to Mediate the Effects of Racism on the Labor Market Opportunities of Youth of Color. Register for Free Here.