I am not a techie geek... okay maybe I am, but I'm not in the tech industry. Like most, my job description mentions nothing about social media. However, social media has been a real benefit to my professional life. The following is a list of ways social media has helped my career.
1. Getting connected to people
Getting to know the right people is the name of the game. Before social media, many professionals relied upon conferences, committees, and golf games to make new connections (or at least that's what I learned from Mad Men). Nowadays, leave the putter at home; social media is a great way to meet new people. Niche communities make this a breeze. I've met a number of like-minded professionals through niche communities. I've been a part of Classroom 2.0 and the Future of Education ning. Through these connections I've been able to test out google wave, try new ipod apps, and prepare a conference presentation.
However, it’s not only about meeting new people, most of social media's prowess lies in the ability to cultivate a relationship that was already established. I live in Northern Quebec and have very few professional peers in my physical community. Conferences, workshops, and other events that I attend in larger cities enable me to meet people that are passionate about the same things I am. Luckily, social media allows me to take that initial contact and develop it into a mutually beneficial friendship.
2. Receiving feedbackI have some crazy ideas. I don't think I'd be able to handle a job where I couldn't express and explore off-the-wall ideas. My blog and twitter account has been a great place for me to get feedback about crazy ideas. I've written about how textbooks are near extinction and why students should be on twitter. Whenever I blog, I always get some reaction from those who read it. For the most part, the feedback I get is reassuring, which is great. But sometimes, I get an email from someone who challenges me, which is even better. The feedback I receive from my social media citizenry is far superior to that I get in my actual workplace.
3. Expressing myselfSometimes work can be confusing, disheartening, or just plain frustrating. Once awhile I have to sit down and write about it. Talking it out can be really cathartic. The idea of an always-available sympathetic audience is reassuring even to the most stoic. Be careful though, complaining too much will be frowned upon in most online communities.
It's also feels good to share successes and humorous moments. Last spring, after I corrected a student, he replied, "You owned me Mr. Kent... in a school way." I found this hilarious and later facebooked the comment and amused many friends in the education field. Being able to express myself through social media has allowed me to enjoy my job even more.
4. Getting knownIt's a small world after all. It's not just an annoying song that you hear at Disney world; it's kind of true thanks to social media. When I attend conferences I meet a lot of people. Once in awhile, I come across someone I already know but never met. Participating in online communities has put my name out there. Last year when I presented at a conference, I was amazed that some of the attendees there knew me from my twitter account.
5. Communication with clientsI don't really have clients. I know I'm a liar, but if I put number five as "Great way to talk with young teens" you might get the wrong idea. I'm a teacher and frequently use blogs to share information with students, parents, and the school community. It's a great way to keep in contact. I have a blog for every course I instruct and blog nearly every day.
I also know a few teachers that are exploring more contemporary social media avenues as well. Last year, a friend of mine used twitter to post homework and to respond to questions. There are also a number of social media sites that are now catering to classroom communities, but I'll have to discuss them on a later date.