I recently revised my opinion of LinkedIn (see earlier blog posts). When I did Cam23 last year I couldn't really see the relevance of it for me personally but I have had a rethink in the last twelve months. My 'motto' for this year has been to get more professionally involved and start treating my job as a career. Consequently, I've participated in more activities that I think are worthy of mention on a profile such as LinkedIn.
Something that really struck me at Umbrella was a presentation by Phil Bradley in which he said that if we don't take the conversations to where our users are, then we may as well be invisible. I think the same is true of professional networks - if you don't have some sort of online presence in these communities then you're as good as invisible. I've set up a basic profile but I'm still working on the finer points (doesn't help that my CV looks like a tennis match with me hoping from one department to another and back again - long story!).
I read Sharlyn Lauby's ideas with interest and will be sure to take them on board when updating my profile. The first thing I need to do is find a photo that I'm happy with as otherwise, my profile will fail before it's even begun! I am a little worried about my lack of connections but as I say, I'm new to this so hopefully they will build over time (hint hint). I definitely like the idea that this network can be a completely separate work network, so that it doesn't get mixed up with my personal networks. I have connected it to my blog, since that's a professional thing rather than a personal thing and I want to encourage people to look at it.
I'm slightly daunted at the prospect of having yet another place to build myself up, sometimes I feel like I have enough trouble with this in the real world and having to do it online as well makes me want to crawl under a rock somewhere. But its something which I am rapidly coming to realise HAS to be done in the world that we live in now. There's no point in hiding from it. It's slightly scary to realise that potential employers etc. are searching for your profiles on these sites but that will give me the motivation that I need to keep it up-to-date!
Thing 6 has given me plenty of things to try out, which I hope to do in the next few weeks when real life isn't so hectic! Having said all of the above, I can appreciate that doing all this networking online has definite benefits - especially to the naturally shy like me. This was part of my motivation for agreeing to present a poster at Umbrella - I wanted to put myself out there a bit more and make myself talk to other people. Thankfully this worked and I hardly had a voice by the time I came back from Hatfield! I can sympathise though with people who find this sort of thing very difficult.
I would recommend that anyone in a similar position try contributing something to the blog of a network that they've joined. It's a really easy way to get started and poke your head out from behind the tree. And since most people reading this are participating in cpd23 then all of you are expert bloggers already!
I'm a student member of CILIP and I personally I have gotten a lot out of it in the last year or so. Being able to be a member of a special interest group has really helped me to connect with other people who are on my wavelength work wise. I think that being a member of a professional organisation has also really helped at work since it has given me opportunities that I didn't have before to get myself out there, for example at Umbrella and by guest blogging on a couple of sites.
My advice for anyone new to this is to persevere. I didn't want to know about any of this this time last year but now I'm really starting to see the benefits, and I even have a shiny trophy on my desk to prove it!
(Photo credit: unloveable Steve)