Karen Innocent is director of continuing education and conferences at Wolters Kluwer Health—Medical Research in Ambler, Pa.
The author has disclosed that she has no financial relationships related to this article.
ELECTRONIC NETWORKING is no longer just for staying in touch with friends and family—it can now be an important facet of your professional life. Maintaining a professional presence on the Internet could be a means of advancing your career.
You can develop a network of colleagues, including current and past coworkers and supervisors, and fellow members of professional organizations. Then as you attain higher levels of education, achieve certification, or earn promotions, you can keep your network of colleagues informed.
This article describes professional and social networking sites, how recruiters are using them, and how you can maximize your next job search. First, consider the differences between social and professional networking.
Comparing the networks
Social networking is a broad term that applies mainly to websites where people communicate primarily for personal and social purposes. Facebook is an example of a social networking website.
Professional networking is intended to give you a career-oriented Internet presence that allows you to communicate with colleagues and customers. LinkedIn is gaining popularity as a general professional networking site, but many professional networking sites are specific to nursing. The largest site for nurses is Allnurses.com. Over the last decade, this website has grown to more than 1 million unique visitors each month. On Allnurses.com, nurses can discuss clinical issues, workplace conditions, and educational and job opportunities. Professional nursing organizations are also gradually adding social networking features to their websites.
Recruitment on social networking sites
Social and professional networking sites now include advertising for open positions. Some social networking websites have features that allow recruiters to target members whose profiles meet certain criteria such as their profession, role, or educational level. When recruiters have positions that are difficult to fill because very few candidates are qualified, they can actively search professional networking sites to identify candidates.1
Law firms looking for expert witnesses may use the profiles on professional networking sites to find nurses in a certain location or those experienced in a particular specialty. Recruiters and hiring managers may also use social networking sites because members of generation X and Y tend to use social media and the Internet for their primary job searches.1
Employers may also use social and professional networking sites to check on your reputation and other qualities when you're a job candidate. For example, recruiters may review the recommendations from colleagues on your professional network posted to your profile. You may find it very helpful to ask reputable contacts in your network, such as former professors, supervisors, or fellow members of nursing organizations, to provide positive endorsements.
Tips for networking safety
Before you post an online profile, you should understand the permanent nature of Internet posts and consider how you may be viewed by colleagues or potential employers. Establish an online presence that will enhance and protect your identity and your career. Never post images, text, or videos that may be potentially embarrassing. Choose a social networking site for personal use and a professional network for career-oriented activities. Then keep personal and professional contacts and profiles separate.2
Remember, too, that whatever you post for the public to view is also available to potential identity thieves. Don't post confidential identification such as your date of birth, Social Security number, or financial information. You may also wish to establish privacy settings to limit your profile and photos to trusted friends in your social or professional network.3
Benefiting from networking
The most effective way of using your profile is to list your membership affiliations, keep your certifications and other credentials current, and notify others of awards, promotions, or other honors you've received. Nurses seeking leadership and education positions may also benefit from updating their status when they've published an article, presented a lecture, or participated in research or other projects. These activities demonstrate professional qualities that may be desirable to employers. You can be proactive by having references or endorsements of your work readily available.
Maximizing your job search
As you navigate the social media, you'll find groups with related interests that you can join, such as nursing specialties or alumni organizations. As a member of these groups, you'll be able to read and actively participate in discussions about new professional opportunities.
Staffing agencies, healthcare systems, and nursing organizations are supplementing their main websites or job boards with social media such as Twitter to keep members and other followers aware of new job postings. Twitter sends short messages of 140 characters or less (called tweets) to your Twitter page or directly to your mobile phone as a text message. You choose the setting for each person or organization that you're following to receive tweets as often as you prefer, such as daily or as messages are posted. You can also log into twitter.com and search for relevant posts or tweets. During an active job search, Twitter feeds may give followers an advantage over candidates who don't receive instant notifications of new positions.
Social and professional networking can be used to enhance your next career move. Although you'll need to take some precautions when using social media, the process of using electronic networking for career advancement can be a rewarding experience.
© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.