Healthcare Networking: Leveraging Social Media By Christina Thielst, FACHE The pursuit of studies in healthcare administration involves learning about the field, career paths and trends that will impact job opportunities. Networking with those already working in the field is one excellent source of information and the insight can complement what is learned in class. The lessons learned from those who have traveled the path ahead will also help with the development of personal career strategies. It is never too early to start building a professional network for support as you embark on a new career, or to navigate the transitions that will come. Networking has always been an important part of finding great job opportunities and moving up the career ladder. And while the traditional methods of networking remain important, social media opens up broader opportunities for building new relationships and an online presence. The first step to any networking is to think about your professional goals and the types of people who can help you realize them. What qualities do they have or positions do they hold? Who do you already know? Who would you like to know better? Networking is about identifying common interests and building mutually supportive relationships with other people. Be thoughtful as you create a network strategy and keep in mind that it isn’t the size of your network that matters most but the quality of your connections and the relationships you build. Networking is about identifying common interests and building mutually supportive relationships with other people. Networking is also an ongoing process, not something you do and then check off as “completed”. The best networking and outreach also comes natural rather than being forced. Leverage opportunities to be where those you want to meet are present and have conversations that will help you both find shared interests and common ground. When it comes to social media, leveraging those opportunities often means starting a LinkedIn, and perhaps Twitter or Facebook, accounts. It might also mean following and commenting on blog posts that are relevant to your career goals. Again, where are the people who you want to connect with communicating already? LinkedIn can be viewed as the new Rolodex, but a self-updating one that also offers opportunities to join topic-specific groups for access to even more professionals in your area of interest. It includes job listings and lets others endorse you for skills or leave recommendations. All of this content is searchable, making it easier for recruiters and other networkers to find you. Twitter is a great way to connect with other professionals and learn of job opportunities. Use of hashtags will help target your tweets and refine your search results. Share the tweets of others and they will share yours with their followers. Blogs are a great way to learn from others and they provide opportunities for you to comment and share your perspective and expertise. Facebook may be appropriate for making professional connections, but be careful mixing your professional and personal contacts. No matter which channel(s) you choose, use your voice and post on subjects of interest to make connections and collaborate with targeted health professionals. Does the content highlight your skills, interests, education and goals? Share links to interesting articles, blog posts or other content and add something of value. Perception is reality, so no matter which social channels you choose, stay close to your area of expertise and offer your unique and individual perspective. Posts should be meaningful and respectful and not so frequent as to be judged as spam. Pause and think before posting and respect confidential, private and sensitive information. When a response to others is appropriate, do so in a timely manner and when disagreeing with the opinion of others, do so politely. The most important thing to remember about online networking is that it is about the conversation, not a one way push of information. So, where will you start the next conversation? Bio: Christina Thielst has experienced the evolution of the healthcare system over the last 30 years as both a hospital administrator and consultant. She received a bachelor’s degree in social science/management from Louisiana State University and a Masters of Health Administration from Tulane University, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.