Social networking has been around for a while, but until more recently, has been often considered to be largely simply that – i.e. social. As with any network, however, certain relationships have at times led to professional contacts. It is upon that realization that many have utilized the social networks available and have tailored them to address garnering professional connections.
Teachers, for example, have not only used social network platforms to keep track of their personal professional development, but have also utilized it to share their thoughts, ideas and relevant information. This combination of information – when done right- can attract the attention of a multitude of connections, on a variety of levels, and across different audiences. While a story pertaining to a personal experience would likely never come up within a job interview or a professional event, when appropriately shared on a blog or other social networking site, it may appeal to fellow professionals in a way that makes one stand out from the proverbial pack. One’s simple dedication to maintaining a blog or one’s style of writing, may also capture someone’s attention and lead to another professional connection in one’s network.
Other skills that are difficult to translate into a paper medium can also be much more successfully highlighted, and once again, can open the doors to a different type of audience, which could translate to new contacts that likely would never have been established through more conventional measures. The scale of social networking and in turn its options, is a key factor that is providing a change. While teachers previously were more dependent on face to face contacts, social networks have broadened the scope of people that can be reached and impacted for the purpose of professional connections.
I agree with much of what you have to say, especially on the point that social networking provides a place where professionals can get a glimpse of one another as actual people. It is a different experience from traditional networking, getting a glimpse of a person from something like their writing style and personal thoughts as opposed to a list of accomplishments on a resume.
But I would like to bring up a sweet and short point that you raise, how social networks can benefit professionals “when done right.” This line makes me think about what I hesistate most about with social networking, when it can be ‘done wrong’. For example, sharing thoughts and ideas on relevant issues; can it go too far? If one shares on their social network an opinion on current events like the no-zero policy, teacher strikes, etc., could that have the possibility of deterring fellow professionals as opposed to appealing to them?
Of course, I don’t think there is an easy answer to this question, but it is something I think about with social networking online vs. traditional means. I wonder about situations where a possible professional connection or opportunity could be deterred by an impression from reading a personal opinion on a blog post, whereas simply looking at a resume or having a face-to-face conversation would likely avoid these more sensitive topics.
Thanks so much for your response! I really appreciate knowing that I am not the only one slightly terrified to do the ‘wrong thing’, when it comes to social networking. I, perhaps like you, have hesitated using social networking for professional purposes, largely because of the many ways it could potentially go ‘very wrong’. While I tend to be fairly cautious about what I post on the web in general, I still constantly grapple about how certain opinions could be interpreted when commenting on instances, such as those you mentioned above (i.e. current issues: no-zero policy, teacher strikes, etc.). I often struggle with questions such as: What if people misconstrue my intent? What if I am misinformed? What if people pigeonhole me, due to one comment? And so on and so forth…
To be honest, I still have yet to come up with good answers for these questions. I did, however, appreciate the recommendation put forth in lecture last week, advising us to tailor ones’ comments to a student audience. That is, if a secondary or even elementary student at a school (i.e. your present/future school) came across one’s posting, there would be no significant backlash. I am still not certain, whether this guideline will help when it comes to people approaching one’s ePortfolio from an employer-to-be angle, but I can only hope that it will be beneficial. I suppose, in the long run, employers (and other people) are bound to make judgments, online or in person. Therefore, all I can think to do is to put my best foot forward in all situations, while trusting some people will give me a chance, and then hope for the best!
Wishing you all the best in your social networking endeavours!
Wow Christina, this is a really insightful response, thank-you.
I think I can really relate to lots of the ideas that you have identified. Your example, I would not fair very well if all I could hand to a potential employer is a piece of paper with my qualifications. First of all, my ability to articulate what I need to say on paper is not very good. Also, how can I describe my life on a piece of paper? What does that mean anyway? I can make up whatever I want and write it down. However, being able to have a solid social network could enable me to go way beyond pen and paper and make connections and show who I am for real!
Furthermore, I think that building a social networking community can ultimately push us to greater success. As you have mentioned, it allows us to share our thoughts and ideas and in return helps us connect to professionals in the same field or interest. I would also add, that one way social networking is changing how we make connections, is the simple fact that it is free and very convenient (Couros, 2011).
Couros, G. (2011, March 25). Why Social Media Can and Is Changing Education. In Connected Principals. Retrieved September 20, 2012, from http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/3024
Thanks for your feedback! I would have to agree with you and say that for me, one of the most significant benefits social networking offers, is the possibility to map out one’s professional accomplishments or activities in various mediums. Rather than being strictly confined to a couple 8.5 x 11 inch pages, which admittedly would likely list achievements (typically unsupported) in 12 point font, one is instead free to combine various elements (written, visual, verbal etc.) to provide a more complete representation of one’s capabilities and viewpoints. This is particularly useful for me, as I think I tend to come across rather reserved (due to my cultural background) when meeting new people. Hopefully, developing a solid social network, where I can interact with others and share thoughts/ideas, will help offset this weakness.
The fact that, as you mentioned above, using social networks for professional connections is relatively convenient and free (for those with computer and internet access) is really the ‘icing on the cake’ for a student. Although the time required to develop an effective PLN still a challenge, I look forward to connecting with others via the available networks to get a better sense of what others are interested in, what their expertise is, and what I can learn from them etc. I hope your PLN efforts are going well!