How to use social networking in your job hunt

A practical look at information technology issues and usage

By Pamela Lewis Dolancovered health information technology issues and social media topics affecting physicians. Connect with the columnist: @Plewisdolan  —  Posted Dec. 28, 2009.

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"It's all in who you know." That phrase is often attached to someone who got a job after a face-to-face meeting with a key person. But today it also could describe someone who got a job because of connections made through social networking sites.

Groups set up within such online sites as LinkedIn, Facebook, ResearchGATE and others allow physicians to mingle professionally within their field, or their desired field, potentially expanding contacts by hundreds or thousands of people. Recruiters also peruse popular networking sites to identify job candidates, and there are tools that allow you to use online connections to get the introductions necessary to land an interview.

Using social networking to get a job is not only based on how you look online, experts say. It's also about getting out information to increase your chances of getting your foot in the door.

Physicians may view such sites like an online CV, "but really it's an extension of that," said Jamey Morgan, president of Concorde Staff Source, a physician staffing firm for both temporary and permanent positions.

Morgan said Concorde is using social networking sites to build up its referral base, which is key to the company's business strategy. "We use it somewhat to identify people; we also use it as a way to develop people we work with. For example, if we're working with a doctor who has done work for us on the temporary side, and we are really happy with the doctor and the clients are happy with the doctor, we're going to trust their recommendations of who they think are other good doctors."

The company has a profile on LinkedIn, a business social networking site, and invites doctors it has worked with to join. This opens a connection between Concorde and all of the networks created by physicians they have placed in jobs. It also opens a connection between all the physicians themselves, and all the people with whom those physicians have connections.

Many professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, have community groups for members to exchange ideas, post interesting stories or research projects. Activities on these sites not only present opportunities to connect with other physicians but also can be used by recruiters to find a candidate who meets specific criteria.

Profession-specific groups also exist in broader social networking sites such as Facebook, which was created for social networking among friends but is slowly evolving into a professional source as well. Physicians can share research, stories and ideas in groups like "I am Doctor" or on pages belonging to specific organizations. Participating in discussions on those sites not only helps to raise your profile but also allows others to get a better feel for who you are, experts say.

There really is no limit to how many groups you should join. The more you participate, the more information is out there about you and the connections you have, according to experts. When someone Googles your name, the more results -- assuming they contain positive information -- the more well-rounded and valuable you will appear.

How you look and interact on social media isn't a final impression, but it makes a strong first impression, experts point out.

The more valuable a company thinks you are, the more they might be willing to pay, said Gary Zukowski, founder and president of TweetMyJOBS, a job board and distribution portal hosted on Twitter, a social networking and micro-blogging site.

"Whether it's totally true or not, it's the perceived image that you have on social media that makes the big difference," Zukowski said. "A recruiter may not know you from Adam. ... The only things they have to go by [are] your resume and the reference checks they may do on you, and nowadays your social media blueprint or DNA. That gives any recruiter a much better flavor of who you are."

To help control that flavor, a physician can use social networking sites as a repository for career accomplishments. You can distribute research you've conducted or papers you have written. You also can use "status updates," a popular feature on many of the sites, to broadcast any seminars or conferences you're attending or speaking at.

"Professional details are especially important in the scientific world," said Ijad Madisch, PhD, CEO of ResearchGATE, a social networking site for researchers, doctors and scientists. "You can get a pretty good first impression by looking at publications and conference abstracts [that are posted by community members]. Nevertheless, a personal meeting has to follow, but it can be more efficient and filtered by looking at this community profile."

And it's not just those with whom you have a close relationship who can help you. Broader online connections also can help you get the introductions you need in the company for which you are applying.

SimplyHired, a job search engine, now has a tool that lets you cross-reference job postings with your LinkedIn profile. The tool searches your LinkedIn community for connections to people in your network who either work for the company you're applying to, or have someone in their own network who works there.

This tool and others are starting to "change the paradigm of how people do their job searches," said Francis Larkin, product manager for SimplyHired.

While participation in online communities should remain professional, that's not to say physicians can't reveal more, Morgan said. "It's a balance. ... You want to see they are engaged in their profession, and then they do also have a personal life."

Pamela Lewis Dolan covered health information technology issues and social media topics affecting physicians. Connect with the columnist: @Plewisdolan  — 

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