As a student, what are your preferred methods of networking with your peers and professionals in the field? Well, if I asked students this same question about five years ago my guess is I would get different answers. The main difference is previous networking opportunities were mostly limited to face-to-face interactions, such as scientific meetings or job fairs. While these are still very important modes of meeting new faces, the good news is as technology progresses, so do the capabilities of meeting other people with similar interests and aspirations. In today’s fast-paced, tech savvy world you can converse with another exercise scientist on the other side of the world from the comfort of your home at no cost. Anywhere the Internet is accessible so are the networking possibilities!
Social media has made this possible. In simple terms, social media is the use of technology for social interaction and the sharing of information and resources. For example, are you a Facebook fanatic? Do you like to Tweet or blog? Do you have a Linkedin profile? Well these are just a few ways to use social media for networking and in particular, ways to connect with other ACSM members or students in your regional chapter.
Here are five examples of how you can use these social media avenues to expand your professional networking:
- Did you know there are currently over 5,000 fans of the ACSM Facebook page?! Not to mention the new page especially for students – the ACSM Student Group – which already has about 250 fans! What a great way to keep up with the organization’s latest news and events, participate in discussions or connect with other fans of the page as a way of networking. Current “wall talk” includes exchange of tips to help prepare for ACSM’s CPT and HFS exams, formation of study groups and sharing of information about professional meetings. If you plan to attend the annual meeting in Baltimore in just a few months, becoming a fan of the ACSM Student Group will help you to stay “in the know”. For 2009’s annual meeting in Seattle, students used the group’s wall to plan meet-ups, coordinate hotel accommodations and announce student focused activities.
- Another benefit of social media tools like Facebook is the ability to cross-network with students in other related professional organizations who share similar interests. For example, you can become a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association or American Dietetic Association Facebook group and invite their fans to join ACSM’s page as well. What a great way to expand opportunities.
- Tweet! There are also about 900 followers of ACSM on Twitter. Try this to join discussions on hot topics and current events in the field of exercise and sports medicine, learn about live chats and get up to the minute information about ACSM’s latest announcements.
- Linkedin is another terrific example of how the Internet can be used to increase your circle of colleagues and build your professional reputation. According to the home page, “Over 60 million professionals use Linkedin to exchange information, ideas and opportunities.” It’s a way to “stay informed about your contacts and industry, find the people and knowledge you need to achieve your goals and control you professional identity online.” Large businesses across the globe use social media to advertise their product or service and so can you – by advertising yourself on Linkedin.
- And let’s not forget about blogging. This is a viable option for getting your name out there and sharing your thoughts on exercise-related topics. Bloggers often put a link to their blog in their email signature to help rally up followers. You can find ACSM in the blogosphere too – such as the ACSM Winter Olympics Expert Commentary blog or our President, James Pivarnik’s contributions to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Be Active Your Way Blog.
I hope this has provided you with some inexpensive networking ideas to supplement the more traditional ones. While social media can be a great tool to meet new people and exchange information with colleagues, remember it needs to be used responsibly in order to reap the benefits. So be sure to keep it professional while having fun!
Erin Quann, Ph.D., R.D.
ACSM Student Representative
New England Regional Chapter