PhD researcher John Mowbray loves social media and social media loves him. He talks more about his work on digital technologies and how it affects career management below.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current research and what it entails?
My research is about how young people find job search information from their social contacts, and the role of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter in this process. Specifically, I’m interested in finding out who young people ask for help, what the nature of these relationships are, and what type of information they are looking for. I also want to know if digital technologies are widely used by young jobseekers, and whether they are an effective source of job information.
Why do you love your research area?
It’s so diverse! It flirts with a number of research fields - sociology, computer science, information science, labour market research etc. It gives me the chance to learn about so many different things, which can be very empowering (and a wee bit scary at the same time!). But it is also very topical and necessary. Young people use social media all of the time, so if some of this usage can be harnessed to improve job search then it will be worthwhile.
How did your passion for your research area develop?
My career history has been a bit like a patchwork quilt. I’ve worked in retail, accountancy, information services, and I’ve even got a Class 2 truck driving license. I spent a long time trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and learned a lot along the way about becoming employable and how difficult it is to find a job. I feel as though my experiences really drew me towards the research project, and that I can make a genuinely useful contribution with it. Also, with a background in Information Science, how people find and use information online is of much interest to me. Information is so readily available to us in the western world, but that creates its own difficulties, and it is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Apart from your doctorate, what do you hope to achieve with your research?
My project is partly funded by Skills Development Scotland, who are the national careers information and guidance organisation. Teaching people to use the power of their networks is an integral part of their service provision, and they want to develop a better understanding of how social media can be used to increase the employability of Scotland’s workforce. I want my research to have a genuine impact on careers policy in this area.
Explain your educational background so far?
I did a BA (Hons) in Business Studies at Glasgow Caledonian University from 2004-08. I returned to full-time education in 2013 and did an MSc in Library and Information Science at the University of Strathclyde, and graduated with distinction.
Why did you choose Edinburgh Napier as your place of study?
My research centre within the School of Computing is called the Centre for Social Informatics. It is very highly regarded within the field of Information Science at an international level, with excellent research output. My dissertation supervisor at Strathclyde strongly recommended that I study here, and gave a glowing report of my current Director of Studies, Professor Hazel Hall. It was definitely the right choice - I’ve been given so many opportunities at Napier, which I think is a great institution with a very exciting future.
What would you say to anyone thinking about undertaking a PhD research project?
If you have a genuine research interest that you want to pursue then why not? Doing a PhD is a fantastic opportunity. It has given me the chance to present at conferences abroad (and elsewhere in the UK), become a published author, teach undergraduate students, participate in other research projects, and meet endlessly interesting people. It is challenging, but you are unlikely to replicate the experience elsewhere, and will develop your skillset immensely.