The end of the first chapter of Fieldworking, a research and writing guide by Bonnie Sunstein and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater, provides a few steps to think, choose, and write about a potential field topic or site. In particular, steps three and four on page 54 (which focus on thinking about problems and drawbacks of picking a topic), was something I found useful in thinking about my field site.
After listing the subcultures and groups that I belonged too, I wasn’t sure about what I really wanted to explore or spend the last few weeks of the semester researching. But after getting to the third and fourth steps–questions focusing on practical issues of doing research (drawbacks, objections by people within the group, benefits to its members and yourself, and the possibility of giving back to a group)–I realized that the topic I wanted to write about and would be the most useful for these last few weeks of the semester was something I didn’t think of listing at all: job-seeking seniors (who are about to graduate).
What I’ve been largely thinking about (like many other seniors) these last few months is, “How am I going to find job between now and graduation?” While we job-hunt and prepare for graduation, we’re listening to various media outlets–blogs, news articles, TV broadcast news, etc.–repeat the same, overused line: this year’s group of graduates is still facing the hurdles of the previous graduating classes — with more difficulty. In choosing this topic, the main questions I’m wondering about right now is which aspect should I focus on? Should I focus on observing a physical site, like the CareerCenter, and watch the practices and methods of jobseekers? Or should I try to mine online jobseeking communities to see how posters interact online? Which methods work the best? Or is it possible to try to research both?
I’ve wondered how the rise of unpaid or extremely low-paid internships replacing entry-level positions is affecting jobseekers? Which online jobsite is deemed more effective? How have online jobsearch practices changed or adapted to the ongoing recession? In addition, there are many drawbacks to this fieldsite/topic, since the CareerCenter is only open during certain hours — and for a good chunk of those hours, I’m in class or running an errand. When at the site, who would I talk to? Besides the the obvious people who work at the CareerCenter–how comfortable would jobseekers be in talking about their job prospects or employment status? And in online communities, how verifiable would online posters need to be? Would just using their screen names in the research project be enough or would I need more in-depth identification, such as a full name and general location?
Although, undertaking this topic sounds daunting and will require a lot of research, at least I’ve chosen something that will probably give me greater insight into how the Great Recession, Internet jobsites, physical job centers, and millenial jobseekers are affecting each other.