How Social Media Can Help (or Hurt) Your Career
Social media in healthcare sometimes gets a bad rap. After all, we’ve all read the horror stories about the mistakes that some people have made on various social media platforms that led to virtual career suicide.
They’ve complained about a boss or a co-worker, only to have it come back to haunt them later. Or they’ve accidentally revealed private information about a patient. Or they’ve created an impression that they’re irresponsible and unreliable.
But social media can also be a force for good if used correctly.
You can use social media to look for a job in your choice of allied health professions, to spread information about important healthcare issues, improve your own knowledge base, and connect with other healthcare professionals. You just have to be judicious when using this communication medium.
Decide what’s personal and what’s private
If you use social media for fun--that is, to post pictures of your dog or to keep up with old friends from high school--you’ll want to have a separate digital presence for your professional self. You might choose to use LinkedIn for professional purposes and Facebook for your private life.
Stephanie Yamkovenko, digital editor for the American Occupational Therapy Association, suggests setting some goals for your social media use as a professional. “Once you know your purpose for using social media as a healthcare professional, you can much more easily determine your privacy settings for different social networks,” she said.
Be cautious with the information you share
Even with those privacy settings, you should be cautious about any information that you reveal about yourself through social media. Someone could still take a screenshot of your personal Facebook page or Instagram account and send it to your manager or a future employer you’d hope to impress. A good rule of thumb is not to post anything that you wouldn’t want your boss or your mother to see.
“In the end, social media is a public forum,” said Jason Bellamy, director of web and new media for the American Physical Therapy Association. “Those who remember that and behave on social media as they would behave in public avoid embarrassing mistakes.”
Seek out the networking possibilities
If you haven’t dipped your toe in the water yet, consider the possibilities for building your professional network. You’ve got a great opportunity to connect with others in your profession through social media platforms.
“Every day, PT students and recent PT-school graduate are connecting with mentors,” said Bellamy. “Every day, PTs are engaging with one another about the latest evidence in patient care, the pressing issues affecting the profession, emerging trends in business and more.”
Be strategic when searching for jobs
Social media platforms can offer a wealth of information about potential employers, including job postings. They also provide an opportunity for networking your way to employment.
“I would recommend setting up a LinkedIn profile with your updated resume if you don’t already have that,” said Yamkovenko. “I would also connect with old and current co-workers and colleagues on LinkedIn and let people know you’re looking for a job. They might have access to information that could help your search, and you could also see if any of their connections work at a company or facility you’re interested in learning more about. You could request that your colleague introduce you to their connections.”
Check your employer’s policy
Does your current employer have a specific social media policy? If so, familiarize yourself with the guidelines so you don’t unintentionally violate the policy. You might be surprised to learn that your employer would prefer that you not list the name of the company in your Twitter profile, for example.
“You should not just assume that it is OK,” said Yamkovenko. “Check with your HR department and make sure you’re compliant.”
Leave your patients out of it
Even if your employer doesn’t have a detailed policy about social media use by its employees, this is definitely the time to exercise restraint. Don’t post anything online about your patients--their conditions, their names, photos, etc. You might not think you are revealing anything that might identify someone, but it could still happen.
Consult your professional association
If you’re a member of a professional organization, check out its resources on social media usage. For example, the American Physical Therapy Association maintains a special section on its website titled Social Media Tips & Best Practices, and the American Occupational Therapy Association’s website also has a special section on social media resources. You can also connect with your professional organization through social media and find resources for continuing education and networking.
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