Motivating job-seekers in the library:
Gamifying the job hunt
Moreland Libraries, consider this your official invitation into the gamified world. This invitation asks for your work, your investment, and your bravery to tackle something new. It may be intimidating. However, if you can overlook the intimidation factor, the work ahead of you, and the fear of the unknown, this invitation offers a lot more than it asks. This is an invitation that offers you the opportunity to support your community more than you could have imagined, being a part of their personal development even when they leave the library walls. This is an invitation that offers partnerships with council and other community services, the opportunity to create engaged and motivated job-seekers, and the chance to be on the cutting edge.
This is an invitation to gamify the job hunt.
This chapter will outline the arguments behind gamification and will present suggestions for implementing a gamified job search process. The City of Moreland has an unemployment rate of approximately 6.43% (.id, 2016), which is 0.59% higher than that of the Greater Melbourne area (.id, 2016). Research shows (Bertot et al, 2012; Feldman, 2009; Hill, 2012; Larson & Minor, 2009) that public libraries are a crucial resource for job-seekers, whether it be printing resumes, using the computers and wifi to search for job advertisements, or using library resources and services to improve their chances of a successful application. There is also research (Jerrard, 2009a) to say that the job search process is a difficult, stressful, self-esteem battering, motivation stripping experience. However, at Moreland Libraries there are no services aimed at job-seekers, no independently-created resources for job-seeking, and only links to other council, book, and general resources to help with the process (Moreland City Council, 2017). Moreland does subscribe to Australia-wide online tutoring service Your Tutor (2016) which can assist with editing written work such as cover letters. However, for a community with such high rates of unemployment, this is not enough.
It is understandable that the library may not be the place for job-seeking services in Moreland, with the council providing assistance to young job-seekers through Moreland Youth Services (Oxygen, 2015), and supporting local employment advertising through Moreland Job Link (2017). Centrelink offices and their affiliated businesses, too, are often considered the go-to place for job-seeking assistance. However, Moreland Libraries are missing a chance to make a positive impact, and all levels are failing to support the mental and emotional well-being of the job-seeker. With unemployment and underemployment at such high levels in Moreland, it is the responsibility of community-central institutions to take care of their community members; libraries should “respond with all the help they can offer” (Jerrard, 2009b).
This gamification model for job-seeking aims to provide one way of doing just that.
The key argument behind gamifying the job seeking process is that job seeking is an exhausting and despiriting venture, and game based learning has been shown, again and again, to increase motivation (Evans, Jones, & Biedler, 2014; Richter, Raban, & Rafaeli, 2015; Toprac, 2011; Zusho et al, 2014). Toprac (2011) argues that motivation is made up of five key sources: challenge, curiosity, control, fantasy, and the interpersonal (Toprac, 2011, p.287). Toprac (2011) suggests that to design a task to bolster intrinsic motivation, it would position the learner as a problem solver of challenges equal to their level of competence, information processor who resolves disequilibrium, voluntary actors with a sense of control over the task environment, players of characters in a story, and socialisers in a collaborative environment (2011, p.287). Extrinsic motivation operates when rewards are offered for the task, such as prizes or points in a game, or wage at a job (2011, p.286). For both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, gamified tasks encourage motivated participants on all fronts (2011, p.288).
Meanwhile, the MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation (Evans, Jones, & Biedler, 2014) argues that motivation is created when learners perceived themselves as “eMpowered”, the information as “Useful”, the possibility to be “Successful”, the task to be “Interesting”, and that they are “Cared for” by those in the environment (2014, p.278). These five elements mirror Toprac’s (2011) five sources of motivation, supporting the view that gamification increases motivation. Other researchers (Zusho et al, 2014) find gaming to be motivational through the satisfaction of basic needs, the wholly engaging experience of flow as defined by flow theory, and the perception of achievement created through game design.
Watch this video (Extra Credits, 2012) on motivation, agency, and creating games that increase both to great success.
Hand in hand with increased motivation is the degree of engagement in the topic, or process, that gamification provides. Whether this is due to the experience of “flow” (Evans, Jones, & Biedler, 2014, p.274), interest in the game story, or the “cool” factor (2014, p.281), gaming has a way of engaging players in the world of the game to an extent that has captured the attention of educators and academics (2014, p.273).
One way gamification increases engagement is the aspect of flexibility (Spina, 2014, p.64). Game players are able to choose different paths to success in the game, which encourages engagement in the manner most rewarding to the individual (2014, p.67). Similiarly, gamifying the job-seeking process in the way suggested in the following section allows job-seekeres to choose to attend activities and workshops to increase their likelihood of successful applications, and be rewarded for this self-development behaviour instead of only rewarded for the number of job applications sent out. This means job-seekers would see reward for other aspects of the job-seeking process, leading to increased engagement and self-esteem across the whole process.
Rewards are a form of extrinsic motivation that can help boost self-competence and self-efficacy (Richter, Raban, & Rafaeli, 2015, p.34). They measure progress, help in goal setting, and through competition with other players can increase intrinsic motivation (2015, p.33-36). In addition to the benefits of incentives and rewards, the immediacy of the feedback is a valuable learning and motivational tool (Spina, 2014, p.64). Immediately being made aware of any failures mean that errors can be corrected quickly, and re-approaching the task “can be made less intimidating than it often is in real life” (2014, p.64). In fact, it is argued that negative feedback, when delivered immediately and in the right manner, can be its own reward because “if we fail, and we can try again, then we still have a mission” (2014, p.64). In this way, even failures in the gamified job-seeking process can be viewed as opportunities to try and try again. Engaged and motivated job-seekers are also likely to see benefits to their self-esteem, whether due to increased successes in their applications, the influence of immediate feedback, or due to the reinvigoration of a new approach.
As a service and space central to the community, and in particular a home to resources crucial to many job-seekers, the library is the ideal place from which to launch a job search gamification model. Due to its position in the community and in the council, the library is able to liaise with council services, Centrelink offices, and the job-seekers themselves to create a system that connects all three, and more, outside the traditional services. The value that the library can give to the local economy, helping job-seekers improve their job-seeking skills, find matched work, and upskill in their field is not a unique concept: many libraries provide extensive job-seeking services (Feldman, 2009, p.4; Hill, 2012). The library is a place for enlightenment, learning, and self-development, and is therefore ideally suited to the role of minding the social and emotional impact that the job search process has on job-seekers. Libraries have seen success being centres for technologoical innovation, and this reputation makes this innovative gamification model an excellent fit for the library of the future. With the benefits of gamification to motivation, engagement, and self-esteem, and the library’s position as a community centre and a crucial job-seeker resource, accepting this invitation to gamify the job-seeking process is a fantastic opportunity to change the lives of the unemployed and underemployed in Moreland.
The invitation has been made, and the argument laid out, and hopefully this has seen some convincing take place. Hopefully you are ready to consider the possibilities that gamifying the job-seeking process can unlock. In this section, suggestions for implementation will be put forward. Below is a mock-up of a hypothetical advertising poster for the hypothetical job-seeking game. The game, in this scenario, would be called ‘Hunt & Catch’, referring to the hunt for a job and the hopeful end goal of securing employment.
The implementation of a game such as this will combine a number of factors: partnerships with relevant authorities, such as Centrelink, Moreland City Council services including Your Tutor, Oxygen Youth Services, and Moreland Job Link, and creating links with Seek, Indeed, and government job advertising sites; creation of the game itself, whether through an in-house employee with game design skills or employing an agency to design the game; and advertising it to the relevant job-seekers. Job-seekers are often users of the library already, making them easy to reach, but through partnerships with other agencies a wide range of job-seekers would be able to register with the Hunt & Catch program. Partnerships with Centrelink would open up possibilities such as allowing Hunt & Catch participants to automatically sync their job application information submitted in-game through to Centrelink, satisfying any welfare requirements. Partnerships with Moreland City Council services provides opportunities for participants to be made aware of services, workshops, and seminars that may be applicable to their job search, and partnerships with Moreland Job Link, Seek, and other job advertising sites allows participants to receive the widest range possible of job advertisements, increasing their likelihood of finding the right match.
It is important that the game is well-made and enjoyable in order to truly engage participants, as it is only the “well-designed” games that enhance engagement and contribute to “flow” (Evans, Jones, & Biedler, 2014, p.274). Important elements to consider when supervising the game design is for it to be “useful”, not losing the purpose of increasing motivation in the job-seeking process, “beautiful”, not skimping on graphics quality as that can disengage game players, “easy to use and learn”, so that players with limited game experience can still immerse themselves, and “efficient”, taking the suggestions made in this chapter and creating something clear and simple out of them (Burgun, 2012, p.24).
The game should ideally involve a number of environments in order for participants to get the most of the experience, with areas for character creation, player interaction, story and fighting, brain training mini-games, and exchange of in-game goods. Player interaction speaks to the importance of social support and competition in game based learning, as discussed in the Extra Credits (2012) video above, as well as put forward by Richter, Raban, and Rafaeli (2015, p.29). Using forums as one form of player interaction can allow job-seekers to support one another in the job-seeking process, as well as in the gameplay process. When considering the creation of a well-designed game, the story of Hunt & Catch is importantly one of good and evil, with the participants squarely and comfortably situated on the side of good; of overcoming obstacles, just as the job-seekeres must do in real life; and combined with a graphically appealing game environment and well-executed fight mechanics. The exchange of in-game goods enhances the experience of the game, allows for game-to-real world transactions as described below, and provides a homepage of sorts to advertise jobs and services and keep track of applications. The importance of the personalised, customisable avatar to successful learning is recognised amongst gamification supporters, such as shown in Peggy Sheehy’s discussion of her journey designing games for the classroom. Lastly, the brain training mini-game environment is suggested in line with Miller and Roberston’s research (2009) about the influence of playing daily brain training games on self-esteem.
In order to achieve these objectives, the following game mechanics are discussed as suggestions.
XP: XP, or Experience, is gained by fighting and killing pre-boss ‘evil creatures’, and is purely an in-game mechanic. XP improves the player’s character statistics, making battling bosses easier and enabling the player to level up.
LEVELLING UP: When a player’s character levels up, the player is able to choose what character statistics improve and what bonuses the character receives.
REWARD POINTS: Points are awarded for playing brain training mini-games and attending job-seeking services for workshops, seminars, or advice. Accumulation of points leads to extra in-game money used to buy in-game items and clothing, or can be traded in for library printer cost (something like 100 points = 1 page of printing) or to cover overdue library fines (something like 200 points = 1 day overdue fine wiped).
BADGES: Badges are given for specialising in one or another type of achievement, for example a badge may be awarded for attending three workshops or seminars, for completing five brain training mini-games in the dojo, or for responding to three queries in The Pub. Badges do not give reward points on their own, but rather they are a symbol to other players of specialised success.
THE RED SANDS: Here is the primary ‘game’ section of the Hunt & Catch program, wherein evil is defeated, bosses are battled, and players’ characters can interact as teams to beat ‘evil creatures’.
BOSS BATTLES: To battle a boss, the player must submit three job applications to advertised roles (SEEK, Moreland Community Job Listing, Indeed). They must write the business name and contact number, job description, method of contact, and time and date of application submission in the Battle Bars. Battle Bar input is stored in character page, and monthly Battle Bar information is synced to Centrelink to comply with job application welfare requirements (if this setting is selected by the player). On completion of task, boss battle ensues. If the player fails the boss battle, they must submit one new job application on every attempt to re-battle. Winning boss battles gains you XP and scores you reward points. Applying to more than the required number of job applications before beginning the boss battle gives the player’s character a boost and makes the battle easier.
THE PUB: Here there are forums where troubles with the process, issues with the system, tips for job seeking, and general discussion can take place. A forum containing links to job-seeking websites and other assistance may be monitored by the library.
THE DOJO: Brain training mini-games which earn reward points
THE MARKETPLACE: Where in-game items and clothing can be bought, points can be exchanged for library credit, listed seminars and workshops are displayed, in-game and game-to-real world settings can be adjusted, and applications can be tracked.
This chapter hopes to encourage Moreland Libraries to create their own gamification of the job-seeking process, whether using the suggestions above for their basis in academic literature or creating something more basic, and hopes that the minds of other librarians have been sparked. The benefits of gamification to motivation, engagement, and self-esteem are so clearly documented, and the role of the library at the centre of the community and the job-seeking process so central to librarian values, that even if these particular suggestions are too ambitious it is greatly hoped that some aspects will be taken on board. The potential to improve the lives of so many job-seekers in the community is one invitation hopefully too glittering to ignore.
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