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Published 06 June 2023

Career Advice: Has Social Media Replaced the Mentor?

With billions of views for #careertok and #careeradvice on TikTok, NerdWallet asks – has social media replaced the mentor? Read on below to find out more.

Social media is full of unsolicited career advice, from interview tips to how to handle a job offer. And it’s not just on professional networks such as LinkedIn. TikTok videos tagged with #careeradvice have over 3.9 billion views collectively, while #careertok is at 1.4 billion. But is the algorithm feeding people what they want – or need? And how much value do people place on career advice sourced via social media?

Despite those billions of views, it seems people aren’t completely ready to turn to social media when making career decisions – that’s according to an exclusive online survey from NerdWallet of 2,000 adult social media users in the UK. 

While 37%  of respondents said they trusted career advice found on social media, over two-fifths (42%) did not. Well over half (59%) rarely or never used social media to prepare for an interview, while 72% had never sought advice on switching jobs on social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and TikTok. 

So who is the target audience for this online content? Are the billions of views a sign that there is a strong appetite for career advice, even if social media isn’t trusted by everyone? And what can your business do to be part of the conversation and offer a helping hand to those seeking career advice? 

The generation gap

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the younger you are, the more trusting you are of career advice on social media.

Close to two-thirds (64%) of 18- to 24-year-olds trusted career advice on social media, dropping to half of those aged 25 to 34. That figure continued to decrease the older the respondents were.

At the same time, 42% of 18 to 24-year olds and 40% of 25- to 34-year-olds thought the idea of a real life career mentor was outdated, higher than the 30% average. Not only that, nearly half (47%) of 18- to 24-year-olds and those aged 25 to 34 (46%) actually felt more comfortable using social media than a career mentor when seeking advice. 

Based on these trends, one can only imagine these numbers will grow as Generation Alpha – that is those born between the early 2010s and mid-2020s – enter the workforce. But does this pose a problem for businesses? 

Typically, those doing the hiring will be older than those being interviewed. Do Generations Z (now around the ages of 11 to 26) and Alpha run the risk of following advice that key decision-makers don’t agree with? Will older business owners miss out on strong candidates because they have different expectations around interview etiquette or career progression? 

It is something for both sides to be mindful of. Not every viral #careeradvice TikTok will be worth watching – going viral is often about the boldest take, not the best. At the same time, businesses should be open to new approaches, whether that’s in an interview or as someone progresses through their career. Perhaps they should even explore such platforms themselves to promote their business and reach a wider audience. 

Where do people go for career advice?

So if people don’t typically turn to social media for career advice, who do they approach for guidance? According to NerdWallet’s survey, almost a third (30%) turned to family and friends.

Job search websites were then used by over a quarter (27%) of respondents, followed by industry professionals at 24% and colleagues at 23%.

It appears, then, that people seeking to advance their career want a mixture of personal advice from people they trust, such as family, friends and colleagues, alongside ‘expert’ guidance from industry and career specialists.

The latter doesn’t automatically rule out social media as a source of advice as some of the savviest experts use TikTok and LinkedIn to increase their profile and be part of wider career and industry conversations. However, the volume of guidance available on these platforms can perhaps make it hard to separate sound advice from viral noise. 

It also, potentially, leaves a gap for business owners and decision makers to step in.

What can my business do to help?

Given how high the cost of hiring someone in the UK can be – and it can run into tens of thousands of pounds – if you’re involved in hiring staff, it makes sense to be actively engaged with how and where people seek career advice. Not only because it may help you select the best candidate at the interview stage, but because it may keep ambitious, high-performing employees at your company.

Creating internal processes for career advice and guidance is an excellent way of signalling to your employees that you are interested in their personal development, and not just for what they can add to your bottom line.

This can result in more well-rounded and engaged employees, while also potentially ensuring people stick around for longer – which can save you money on hiring, training and lost productivity costs. 

Hashtags with billions of views perhaps give a false impression of what people want when it comes to career advice. If you scratch beneath the surface it seems that people still appreciate in person advice from sources they trust. With that in mind, there is probably more all businesses could do to meet this appetite for advice and mentorship.

» MORE: How to interview someone

About the research

The survey was conducted online by OnePoll on behalf of NerdWallet, polling 2,000 UK adults who use social media (excluding retirees and homemakers). The survey was conducted between 26 and 30 May 2023.

OnePoll is an MRS Partners Company and its employees agree to adhere to the MRS Code of Conduct and MRS Company Partners Quality Commitment while undertaking research.

Image Source: Getty Images

About the Author

Connor Campbell

Connor is a lead writer and spokesperson for NerdWallet. Previously at Spreadex, his market commentary has been quoted in the likes of the BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Reuters and…

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