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We often tend to think of social media as a means of keeping in touch with friends, showing off our latest holiday photos, or following the ups and downs of celebrities. But many health care professionals forget that they can also use social media to boost their career, find jobs, identify opportunities, network, grow as a professional and market themselves. 

The digital world is your oyster, and can offer you so much more than a flurry of likes and shares. We’ve come up with some top tips to ensure you’re maximising your professional opportunities.

Number one - Get a Linked In account

For those of you who don’t know, LinkedIn is a global professional networking site where you can create and maintain your own professional profile and portfolio, which you can then share with potential employers, useful contacts and peers. Include your clinical interests, list your work history and duties, and record your courses and learning. 

It’s great to pop the link to your profile in your CV. That way if employers are curious about you, they have the option of reading more about your professional history and accomplishments. This can often mean you end up gaining more exposure than other candidates and become more memorable in the shortlisting process.

LinkedIn also allows you to:
 engage and connect with fellow professionals in your field or industry
 search for and research jobs, industries, employers and job markets
 keep up to date with the latest news in your clinical area
 participate or contribute to articles, news and groups. 

Number 2 - Follow influential professionals

If you aspire to learn and grow within your career, listening to what the leaders within (or outside) your industry have to say can be an essential aspect of your professional development. You can easily do this on platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn. From observing how leaders express their opinions and, in turn, how people respond to them, you can learn a lot about communication, leadership and influencing. 

It’s worth engaging with them as well as following. It can be as simple as commenting that you welcome new guidelines, love their article or agree with their opinion, asking them a question (“what’s your top tip for aspiring nurses?”) or even simply taking the time to like or share their posts. 

Number 3 - Join the RCN Forums

The RCN has several professional forums aimed at different specialties or clinical areas within nursing. It’s free to join a forum and once joined, you can share knowledge and ideas, and contribute to the professional voice of the RCN.

The forums each have their own Facebook page as well, which is a fantastic way to get to know your peers, get more involved, talk about the issues and challenges relevant to your field of practice, or ask for help and advice.

Number 4 - Follow organisations in your field

“Follow” relevant regulatory bodies, charities, organisations and medical/nursing journals on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. They will share interesting information about industry news, campaigns, initiatives and opportunities, meaning you can easily stay up to date. 

Following prospective employers is also a fantastic way of getting to know about job vacancies and opportunities. Never be afraid to reach out and ask questions. For all you know, commenting with a simple question such as “I’d love to know when your next open day is,” or “I’d love to come in for an informal visit. Do you know who I could contact about this?” could end up landing you your next job.

Number 5 - Stalk yourself

Research conducted by Monster and YouGov showed that 36% of UK employers turned down candidates because of their social media profiles, with 65% of HR professionals admitting to Googling a candidate during the hiring process. To avoid being tossed in the “no” pile, it’s important to constantly study and review your social media presence, and check your privacy settings for sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter too. 

Search your name and use inverted commas to search for combinations such as name and town (e.g. “Jane Doe” Cardiff). You can also run a search on any aliases, common usernames and images as well. All too often we can forget what’s out there or be oblivious as to what’s on show. You might find an old cringe-worthy blog from your teenage years, or questionable photos that you’d rather not risk your next employer seeing. 

Number 6 - Give positively

Go into the social media world with the aim of “giving and spreading positivity”. This could be something as simple as sharing posts, congratulating others on their achievements, commending an organisation or charity on something they’ve done well, offering advice, perspective or insight to others, helping to raise awareness of a good cause or rallying for a petition.

Plus, the more you give, the more you’re likely to receive in return. Acting this way will also help you feel happier and more positive. As well as generally making us feel good, positive actions reduce stress and can equip us with a brighter outlook on life.

Number 7 - Remain professional

Imagine you’ve just spent three hours writing a job application emphasising how passionate you are about the nursing profession, only for an employer to run a search and find a reel of your posts moaning about it.

If you’re going to be discussing or debating the wider issues and challenges that the nursing profession faces, always be professional. Demonstrate good diplomacy and leadership qualities with your online presence by focussing on positives, actions or solutions. E.g. instead of saying “The whole nursing profession is pathetic at the moment. It’s no wonder students aren’t applying,” you could say “The nursing profession is going through one of the most challenging times ever. I’m really concerned the removal of the bursary and increased pressures are putting future nurses off applying. I’ll be writing to my MP to demand answers.”

It goes without saying that it’s never OK to criticise patients, colleagues or your employer, and such actions could put you in breach of your employment contract, staff policies or the NMC code. Make sure you’ve read your employer’s social media policy carefully and understand your obligations.

Number 8 - Aim to engage

Encourage your audience, friends or peers on social media to engage with you. You’ll learn so much and widen your viewpoints as well as your network. For example, rather than just posting your opinion, aim to invoke discussion or open up a debate. E.g. “For me, the most important aspect of nursing is X. What’s the most important aspect of your nursing practice and why?”

Number 9 - Say cheese

If you’re using social media accounts for professional purposes, make sure you have a professional photo to match. Photos from nights out or layered with snapchat filters can give an unprofessional impression overall and put employers off if you’re scouting for jobs.

Number 10 - Create and contribute

Consider writing for the web. There are loads of ways to do it and it’s not as scary as it sounds. You could write a professional blog, submit an article for a nursing journal, or craft a well-thought-out opinion piece and share it on your social media platforms. In order to write content, you’ll usually need to do some research on your subject first, meaning you’ll not only hone your research skills but learn a lot in the process. 

You then also get the benefit of listing your work(s) within your CV or LinkedIn profile, referencing it within your job application or talking about it in an interview. Either way, it could be a means to really impress your prospective employers, and show you to be a proactive, creative and inspiring professional.

Find out more

For more advice and guidance on maximising your career opportunities, visit the RCN careers services page

The RCN careers service has a wide range of advice and resources with careers information specifically tailored for nurses, health care assistants and students. As well as accessing sample CVs, sample supporting statements, and sample interview questions, the careers service also offers one-to-one careers coaching for members who need additional support.

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