Job for sociology majors: online “community managers”

Rawn Shah, “an expert in collaboration and social computing methodologies within organizations and on the Web,” suggests that sociology (and other social science majors) can fill some tech jobs:

Social science brings much more than just this one technique; it reaches particular personalities who are keenly interested in understanding human relationships in its many forms. By interacting over online environments, we lose some key elements of how we communicate and understand each other, in particular, body language and facial expressions. Instead we have to discover the new ways of understanding communication; rediscover the hidden conversations, feelings and emotions in verbal communication now that non-verbal signals may be missing. This leads to just the kind of personality characteristics and skills that are crucial to Community Manager job roles…

Consider this, jobs that involve relationships with groups of people, whether customers, employees, partners or otherwise, are rapidly on the increase as more companies build online communities and participate in social environments online to interact for business reasons. They aren’t simply looking for people who know how to use Facebook; they need people who can interact well, understand relationships, and in particular understand what is not being said, and sense the feel of others. For businesses, these are the roles that make collaboration on the larger scale across the organization happen.

However, I have yet to see the art and science of managing online communities become a regular aspect of college curriculum. I should say I have tried: in 2006-07 I taught the subject as a guest lecturer at the Eller College of Business at University of Arizona. However, the college did not continue the subject after I was not available. In discussing this point with other Social Business and community thought-leaders, they suggested that it was just too early then. Five years later, the demand is there and we don’t seem to have enough of a supply to fill it.

Certainly any company wants candidates who are well experienced with being Community Managers because the best ones have fine tuned their skills through the many interactions. There are many hard skills that you can definitely apply to the job, but quality comes with experience. Every community is different and hence the job can be very pragmatic and audience specific. However, to get to this point we need community managers who understand and practice the basics first. Let’s really start looking into social sciences as one source of supply for the future of work.

I would suspect that many sociology majors wouldn’t even know that these sorts of jobs are possible. But the description should fit what sociology majors can do: “people who can interact well, understand relationships, and in particular understand what is not being said, and sense the feel of others” and promote collaboration within organizations. These are marketable, practical skills that sociology majors should know something about.

Shah suggests there is a matching problem: sociology students and tech companies need to develop a method by which they can find each other. Perhaps it is because there are not many college courses that make this clear, as Shah suggests, but I wonder if it could also be that sociology as a discipline is behind the curve in tackling the burgeoning tech realm.

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