To use social media or not, that is the question. And if you use it, which platform should you choose? Researchgate, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook … ? How much time should you spend on social media? How will it benefit your career? In this month’s blog I’ve listed some positive reasons to encourage you to take part in these colourful worldwide networks:
Social media helps you to get better connected and even to find your next job
I posted this graph on LinkedIn last week and, so far, it’s had over 20,000 views and more than 250 ‘like’s.
That means that I’ve managed to disseminate this information to a huge international community who otherwise would not have known about it. Furthermore, everyone who viewed and commented on the post is now more closely connected, even if it is from a distance. Scientists post news, infographics and links to their publications on LinkedIn, highlighting their work as well as sharing news to those interested in their research discipline and a more wide-ranging community – I hear about really fascinating information I would never have come across outside of the usual more inaccessible research networks.
That’s me. I like to keep in touch with the wider world. Not only for my own sake, but also to help me to support PhD students and researchers. LinkedIn is the most amazing database in the world – a google search tells me that it has over 500 million users. It’s searchable so you can find and connect with people doing the same kind of work as you. You can look for people doing jobs and working in sectors you want to work in when you finish your PhD or leave academia. You can search for jobs and companies, filter according to region and even number of employees.
Sometimes I wonder how we ever managed to search for jobs and create new networks in the past, before this amazing tool was invented. I know it’s not comfortable for everyone, but you can always opt for quality over quantity by linking with just a few targeted people. Recently, a postdoc aiming to change careers into medical science liaison searched LinkedIn for possible contacts, only to find that a former fellow PhD student was already working in this area. She intends to ask him for tips on how he managed to transition into this new career, and who knows what other information and contacts she may find out in the process.
Social Media creates happenstance moments
I remember when I first heard about Twitter – it was a colleague who told me about it. He had 100s of followers, which I thought was a bit weird – how can you engage with that many people I thought? That was 7 years ago to the day and now I have over 3000 followers myself. During that time, Twitter has opened up a whole world of interesting people, facts, photos, humour and loads of useful information which I can pass on to students and researchers to help them with their careers – even job vacancies. Twitter is quirky and fun. It’s essential for attending conferences and if you’re not able to be there in person you can follow the # and watch from a distance. There are facts, photos, citations (helping to promote largely hidden journal papers), videos and all sorts of fun and games to cheer up your day. You don’t have to read for detail. You can search it if you’re looking for something specific, otherwise treat it like the radio – it’s playing in the background and from time to time you hear something that catches your attention.
Social media serves different purposes
I always recommend Researchgate for those planning an academic career. Here, academics, researchers and students can share their papers and other research publications with each other. Even careers advisers like me have a page and a rating on Researchgate (mine is 17.85 but I have no idea what this means!). You can find out about research news, ask questions, respond to others and generally engage with those in your own research community.
At the other end of the spectrum, Facebook is more relevant for personal connections and, for this reason, most people like to hide their FB content. However, bear in mind that FB is used by many organisations such as charities, associations, learned societies and companies. Conferences usually set up a Facebook page to provide information to delegates and companies post jobs and other news about themselves. If you feel uncomfortable linking to professional FB sites with your personal page, why not set up an alternative account for professional purposes.
Social media is not the only fruit ….
Remember, whatever you’re doing, people will Google you. Whether you’re trying to connect, applying for a job, setting up a new collaboration, giving a talk at a conference, or just minding your own business. Make sure you’re presenting yourself professionally on line according to your particular career interests: think about promoting your creativity, conventionality, innovation, analytical or problem solving capabilities and so on and make sure you have a good photo and profile.
Related information: Doing more with LinkedIn