Several months back, Sarah Fudin and I exchanged emails about the possibility of her writing a guest post related to online professional development. As the Social Media and Outreach Coordinator for the University of Southern California’s MA program in teaching, Sarah’s post is a reminder of the many ways social media can serve mental health professionals in continuing to develop both our networks and our competency.
(If you are interested in writing a guest post, check out the guidelines here.)
A Guest Post by Sarah Fudin
Professionals in any field can benefit from sharing knowledge, experience and resources with peers. One of the best ways to keep your career on track and stay current within your field is by developing a professional learning network, which is essentially a group of professionals who exchange information, answer questions, and share the benefits of their knowledge and experience. By providing an environment for learning, sharing, mentoring and collaboration, your professional learning network can help you expand your knowledge base and broaden your professional perspective.
Today it’s possible to build a professional learning network from any location. Opportunities for making both face-to-face and online connections can be found by visiting professional websites, blogs, forums, social network sites, like Twitter and Facebook, and professional directories, like LinkedIn.
Here are some tips for growing your professional learning network:
- Join a professional social network. Professional social networks are web services that provide forums for discussion, links to resources, online classes and webinars. They may also host conferences and other events in the real world. Examples of professional social network for physicians and other health care professionals are Social Media for Health Care, Sermo and Medscape, online communities with more than 100,000 members. Find out more about professional social networks in your field by searching online and talking to colleagues.
- Join Linkedln. This popular platform for professional networking allows you to create a profile that will help you connect to peers in your field who share your interests. You can also join professional LinkedIn groups and participate in online professional discussions. For example, there are currently more than 300 special interests groups related to the mental health profession on LinkedIn.
- Join Facebook and Twitter. Any professional who wants to network online needs to be familiar with these two. You can join professional groups on Facebook and post information about your professional status and achievements. On Twitter, you can participate in focused chats through hashtags (such as #mshm for Mental Health Social Media and #mentalhealth for Mental Health). To learn more about using Facebook and Twitter for professional communication, read this blog post.
- Join the blogging community. Professional blogs are easy-to-access resources for information and contacts. By following blogs and adding comments, you can become part of an informal online community that shares information about your field. The professional social network that you join should provide links to popular blogs related to your field, and you can find others through online searches. Many blogs will allow you to become a subscriber and follow the conversation via email updates or RSS feed.
- Create your own blog. Establish your online professional presence by creating your own blog. You can register for a free blog on Blogger or WordPress, or integrate a blog into a professional website. Establishing a regular schedule for posts about subjects that are relevant to your field will help attract readers. It’s also important to use other online platforms, like email, Twitter and social media sites, to let people know that you’re blogging. When you comment on posts by other bloggers, be sure to include a link back to your own site.
There are times when the amount of professional information available online seems overwhelming. Avoid information overload by seeking out professional resources that inform, instruct and inspire. Most importantly, don’t forget the importance of face-to-face contact. As you develop your professional learning network, don’t forget to get in touch with colleagues in your local community.
Sarah Fudin currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s Master of Arts in Teaching program. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.