TikTok inundates students with 'career guidance' videos

By Hoang Nguyen   March 12, 2023 | 04:16 am PT
When Linh Anh checks her TikTok feed these days, it is filled with hundreds of videos providing career advice and guidance for high school and university students.

Linh Anh, a third-year student at the Hanoi University of Business and Technology, says she started watching the clips because she had no clue what kind of job she should pursue after graduation.

She describes her major in Business Administration as not very helpful because it is "pretty popular and generic."

"I’m not really sure about my next career move," she says. "When I was on TikTok a few weeks ago, I accidentally came across a career guidance video and found it interesting. After that, these kinds of videos kept popping up on my feed. Now I’m watching them every day."

It is not hard to find such videos on TikTok these days, especially when the university admission season is approaching. All it takes is a few simple keywords and thousands of results on career advice videos will appear.

A man opens the TikTok app on a smartphone. Photo by Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

A man opens the TikTok app on a smartphone. Photo by Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

The most popular of such clips originate from accounts that have large numbers of followers and videos with millions of views. The TikTok users behind these accounts also present as having desirable jobs.

"The videos are pretty useful and easy to understand," Linh adds. "After watching them, I’ve learned how to analyze my strengths and weaknesses to identify a suitable job for me. I feel more secure now."

One TikTok video by @huydao explains why, in the creator’s opinion, a number of university majors that students pursue "have no value." The clip has attracted 4.6 million views and nearly 8,000 comments.

A video by @huymaketa with 3.8 million views and 4,300 comments lists five professions that in the content creator’s opinion are bound to "disappear in the future."

Another video titled "Top six majors that can earn a lot of money" by @hocdinhingii has also drawn 1.4 million views.

In Vietnam, the number of TikTok users in 2022 is more than 27 million, according to the statistics of marketing platform b2bhouse. In addition, a survey conducted by market research firm Decision Lab in the fourth quarter of last year found that 67% of GenZ (aged 11-26) used TikTok.

Phung Quan, who holds a master’s degree from Vietnam National University’s University of Science in Ho Chi Minh City, says students are drawn to these career guidance videos on TikTok because they are short, relatable and follow popular cultural trends.

But he warns that some of TikTok’s advice clips can do more harm than good.

"The problem with TikTok videos is they are too short, so the information is often incomplete and can be misleading," Quan says. "It’s also difficult for students to tell who [which content provider] actually has the expertise and experience that qualifies them to be a career coach."

Minh Ha, a high school student planning to major in English major at university, was shocked after a video on TikTok argued that English is one of the three most useless majors, next to Business Administration and Psychology.

Although the clip is less than one minute long, it has millions of views and thousands of comments. The video simply stated one or two reasons why each major is failing students, without citing any sources or statistics to back up the opinions.

A screenshot of a video on TikTok that listed useless majors in university

A screenshot of a video on TikTok that listed useless majors in university.

Another problem is that habitual TikTok consumption drowns the viewer in too much conflicting information, and it becomes difficult to identify a trustworthy source from an untrustworthy one, just as it becomes difficult to determine opinion from fact.

"That video said everybody knows English nowadays and people should not select it as a major, and that less popular languages should be chosen instead," Ha said.

After that, Ha was then confused when another video argued that studying English could land graduates a variety of good jobs in an array of diverse fields.

"I honestly don’t know what to believe," Ha says.

With over seven years of experience as a university admissions consultant, Phung Quan says that guidance is not simple. In order to consult on admissions, he must understand all the characteristics of a major, the job opportunities it brings, and what it’s really like to hold that degree after graduation.

Quan recommends that students find credible sources of information via official websites or television. He added that many universities have now created their own TikTok accounts offering career guidance.

According to Dr. Tran Dinh Ly, Deputy Headmaster of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Agriculture and Forestry, many personal TikTok videos don’t even meet the most basic requirements of "career guidance."

"Some career guidance videos on TikTok have been made carelessly and mainly present the personal opinions of the content creators without revealing any knowledge, research or clear evidence behind them," says Ly. "These videos provide falsehoods and mislead students, parents and the community at large."

In order to obtain the most accurate and trustworthy sources of information on career guidance, Ly advises students to speak with people who work in their fields of interest. This can include teachers, parents and relatives. For sound support and advice, students should talk to reputable career guidance experts who are recommended by credible organizations, according to Ly.

"University and high schools also need to regularly update the information they provide about admissions and career guidance on their official websites, social media and forums so that students can easily access, reference and exchange [meaningful advice], instead of going to TikTok videos," Ly adds.

In addition, it’s necessary to manage career advice content on TikTok to minimize the number of videos disseminating false information, which does more to confuse students than it does to guide them, Ly says.

According to media expert Vu Ngoc Long, management agencies need to boost their presence on TikTok to levels that allow them to have more control over this specific type of content.

"Content can affect students' choice of major and career," says Long. "So official information providers should use popular platforms to create credible sources of career consulting."

After spending time doing his own research and seeking advice from family and relatives, Ha decided to skip the career guidance videos on TikTok and follow his intuition when he begins university next year.

"I'll stick with English because it’s my favorite field. I believe finding a good job is not going to be a problem if I'm good at doing what I love," Ha says.

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