14 May 2013
The internet can be a valuable tool when it comes to your Continuing Professional Development, particularly through the use of social media sites. It greatly facilitates expanding your network and keeping on top of industry developments.
If you are looking for ways to network online, there are a number of sites that I am sure you are all aware of:
- LinkedIn.com is a popular choice of site for professional networking. You should fill out your profile with your work history, skills and interests as you would on your CV. You can include a link to your profile in your email signature or on letters so that new contacts can find out more about you if they wish. Build your network by inviting friends, work colleagues and university alumni. Through them you can be introduced to other professionals working in areas similar to your own.
- Twitter has strong networks in many career areas where you can follow professionals in their day-to-day working life.
- Sites like Facebook and MySpace are more informal environments, useful for maintaining contacts with university friends and personal contacts as they too become professionals. Some graduate recruiters will have pages on there for you to ask questions about their graduate schemes. While valuable on a social level, pay careful attention to privacy settings and regularly review the content on your pages to ensure it matches your professional image.
- Discussion Boards and forums can also be helpful. The websites of professional bodies often have forums relating to their particular companies, and you can find active discussion groups within LinkedIn.
Whilst the emphasis on these kinds of website often focuses on networking, be aware that they are also an invaluable source of information. LinkedIn’s forums will be the obvious place to start when checking on what people are talking about in your industry. Since the information is online, it is likely to be far more recent than anything published in print.
Twitter can also be a great tool for keeping up to date with recent developments. Think of it as a highly focussed newspaper, tailored only to your industry, that collates links to articles from around the web so you don’t have to track them down yourself. (This may involve setting up an exclusively professional account if you are easily distracted, or you can use its list function to group together accounts relevant to your industry in order to filter out any other feeds that you follow.)
The potential of social media to expand the reach of your network, to facilitate access to new information and simply to save time makes it something very much worth further investigation if you have not already had the chance.