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Social climbing

An online presence is becoming an essential career enhancement tool. 

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – are you on board?

Recent statistics reveal more than 13 million Australians are on Facebook, 3.5 million have a LinkedIn profile and 2.5 million tweet on Twitter each month.

No longer the domain of bored teenagers on their iPhones, social media has become a powerful tool that, used correctly, can enhance career progression and open up new networks.

“Statistics continue to show that the number of people engaging in social media and their frequency of use continue to rise,” says Jackie Poyser, manager publications and communications at the Australian College of Nursing.

As a result, she says, the opportunities for nurses to tap into social media, whether it’s to seek employment, build a virtual network or share information, are endless.

“The potential is boundless,” she says. “By having a presence on social media, you are cementing a visible and virtual online identity; if used wisely and with foresight, this provides an ideal opportunity for future career progression and professional growth.

“Through social media, a nurse can develop and foster strong relationships with colleagues and other health professionals, not only domestically but internationally as well.”

With information and a world wide web of potential networks, the latest techniques and developments from around the globe can be accessed in real time at the click of a button.

“No longer do you have to wait for the release of hard copy reports and journals,” she says. “For example, you might follow a nurse in the US who tweets about an innovative essential care model being implemented in their hospital. Through the digital world of social media, you are able to gain access to the model and the concepts behind it immediately – something that would have been unheard of even five years ago.”

Professor of nursing Philip Darbyshire agrees social media has been an invaluable tool for reaching clients and sharing information. The global healthcare consultant is active on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

“I run an international consulting business and without an online presence I could be talking to an empty room,” he says. “An online presence means being connected to my network, [expanding] my network internationally, having a mechanism for sharing content and ideas, being connected to the world’s best repository of news, new ideas, new thinking and new opportunities to support and serve the clients I work with – and much, much more …”

He adds that it’s a must-have commodity in today’s highly competitive environment.

“Being the best-kept secret in your chosen area isn’t an achievement – it’s a sign you’re not doing your job properly,” he says. “We may hate the term and concept, but let’s face it: we’re in the marketing business as well as the healthcare business.

“I think that one day – if not already – your social media presence and activity will be every bit as important as any other item on your CV. Employers are already checking out social media profiles and presence and why wouldn’t they? I’d want to know that I was hiring – or appointing, or inviting, or approaching or enrolling – the brightest and the best and social media gives a glimpse of what they may look like.”

Darbyshire adds that in his opinion, nurses have been some of the most proactive adopters of social media.

“We have some true stars in the field,” he says. “I’d say without a doubt, most of the engaging, enterprising and effective nurses I know are active on social media.

“I think the question of ‘Will I, or won’t I?’ has been replaced by ‘What kind of social media presence do I want to create and how do I want to continue to be part of this new world of nursing?’ ”

5 steps to boost your online presence

Use it wisely: “Postings across any social media channel have a long life span, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t post something you wouldn’t want current and potential employers to see,” Poyser says.

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Careers recommends keeping your personal and professional lives separate.

“Make sure your personal life stays on Facebook and off LinkedIn and [your professional life stays on LinkedIn and off Facebook]. Ensure your LinkedIn profile and posts are professional in content and context,” the department advises in its handbook, Your Career in Nursing 2014 Edition. “[And] remember when commenting on other people’s social media pages that they might not have set their content to private – your comments may stay online forever.”

Keep it current: “Just as you would update your CV, update LinkedIn and Twitter profiles,” Poyser says. “No one wants to read a CV two years out of date; the same can be said for social media presence. Keep it current!”

QUT Careers also advises untagging yourself from any old photos. “What you were doing in 2009 may not match the professional image you are now aiming for,” it writes.

Talk about what you know: “Work from what you know, value and are passionate about and want to share,” Darbyshire says. “Always believe that keeping something great or valuable [to yourself] is a professional abrogation. We get smarter, more valuable, more connected and richer by what we share rather than what we keep from the world.”

Be considerate: “Don’t be rude, obnoxious or abusive online, just as you wouldn’t be face to face,” Darbyshire advises. “And never compromise patient or client confidentiality – ever. If in doubt, don’t post and ask advice. That Jiminy Cricket voice you hear [in your head] asking ‘Is this OK?’ is there for a reason.”

Breaching confidentiality can result in complaints to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, involvement of the privacy commissioner and legal action.

“Read up on the various social media guidelines for nurses,” he advises. “Most are just common sense.”

The Australian College of Nursing Social Media Guidelines is available on its website, acn.edu.au. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia also has a set of guidelines, at nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au

Have fun: “Social media is not meant to be a chore,” Darbyshire says. “Take the leap of faith and just get started. Join Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook and gradually move from just watching to posting, sharing and joining in. And don’t forget to enjoy it.”

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