Can Social Networking be Good for your Career?

That’s the question being asked in the latest Vista News newsletter. After recounting some of the horror stories of people losing their job because they, apparently, didn’t understand the public nature of social networking sites, Deb Shinder does explain how having a professional profile and connecting with smart people in your field can be very helpful to your career.

On the other hand, I do disagree with this statement:

First, then, you should be careful about which sites you join. MySpace and FaceBook are seen by many employers as the equivalent of online singles bars or at best, somewhat juvenile past times. Please don’t write to tell me how wrong this perception is, because when it comes to the impact on your job, it really doesn’t matter whether the perception is accurate or not if your boss (or your boss’s bosses) see it that way. If you want to be seen as a professional, you’re probably better off joining more business-oriented networking sites such as LinkedIn, and/or those that are specific to your occupation or industry.

Wrong. You should have a professional presence anywhere you are likely to encounter people who can be helpful to your career. If that happens to be a Facebook group for Litigation Support professionals, then so be it. Just because a site has a reputation for being “somewhat juvenile” doesn’t mean that everyone on it is, and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t have your own, professional, presence there. As a blogger, and a professional, I keep Facebook and MySpace profiles so that people there can keep updated on my writing and on me on whatever social networking site they choose to be involved with. I don’t spend very much time interacting with either site (none during work, as they’re blocked anyway), but it never hurts to put yourself out in a professional manner in a variety of places. You never know where a good contact is going to come from, why limit your opportunities just because you don’t want to be seen as using a juvenile networking site?

That being said, it’s about time we started taking back the reputation of social networking in general, and Deb’s article can help. Surely your organization wouldn’t discourage you from attending networking events and building relationships with other folks in your industry, whether they be peers or potential customers. Why should on-line networking be seen as any different? If you treat your on-line identity as an extension of your professional identity, it can bring a world of knowledge and expertise right to your fingertips.

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