Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, a keynote speaker and expert in social media, once said “Best results are often achieved well before you need a job, by consistently networking so that when you find yourself job-hunting you have a large network to work with.” And when it comes to “consistently networking” there is, in my opinion, no social website that has made it easier and more effective than LinkedIn.
The size and growth of the LinkedIn community is staggering. Launched on May 5, 2003, the professional networking tool currently boasts about 467 million users, 1.5 million groups and employs nearly 10,000 people worldwide. And while it is hard to say exactly how many pharmacists are actively using LinkedIn, if you type “pharmacist” into their people-search it yields just shy of 500,000 profiles. Suffice it to say that the pharmacy community on LinkedIn is substantial.
Many pharmacists and students with whom I interact think of LinkedIn as simply a tool to find a job; a sort of online resume where you parade your skills in hopes of attracting the attention of a potential employer. For that reason, many employed pharmacists seem to think that involvement on this website might be frowned upon by their company as if they were secretly trying to escape. While this may have been the case years ago, today the LinkedIn community is about much more than simply job-hunting.
My own personal network on LinkedIn is far from exceptional. At 4,000+ connections it is larger than average, but not anywhere near the size of some accounts. I will continue to slowly grow this base of pharmacy-focused professionals so that I can enjoy the benefits it brings.
There are at least 3 substantial reasons why I’m personally involved on LinkedIn.
1) Sharing what I’ve learned. I use LinkedIn to share things I’m reading and learning with other like-minded pharmacy folks. For example, I’ve recently been reading a fascinating book entitled “If Disney Ran Your Hospital” by Fred Lee. On LinkedIn I can share quotes from this book and engage in conversations about its content with other healthcare professionals. I have always found that learning and sharing are keys to personal growth, and building a network of people who are interested in the same professional topics enables me to do that.
2) Helping others. Another benefit I have found is that a growing network of LinkedIn connections enables me to offer some help at times to others. Many times I have received a question from a LinkedIn connection that I’m able to answer. I have been a pharmacist for nearly 25 years, and picked up a few tips along the way. It is satisfying to be able to serve as a resource to fellow professionals who need some advice. Another simple way of helping others is just to leave a kind compliment or word of encouragement about something they have shared. As Charles Dickens once wisely said “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.”
3) Learning new things. I have learned about companies that exist which I otherwise would never have heard of. I learn about career paths that seem new and exciting. News which otherwise might have escaped my notice will pop up on my feed and may provide me with some important perspectives that I can use personally in my own job.
Can anyone join and grow their pharmacy network using LinkedIn? Absolutely!
The most important thing when it comes to growing your network is to have a completed profile yourself. Get a nice, professional-looking head shot for your picture and complete your employment history and education. Completed profiles get far more views than incomplete ones.
Once your profile is complete, connect with a few pharmacy friends, former professors and co-workers. Join a few pharmacy groups. Leave a few positive comments for discussion. Post a link to some important piece of news relevant to your industry. Follow a company, like Pharmaceutical Strategies, for example. Then send some connection requests to other pharmacists and pharmacy professionals that have profiles of interest to you. I think sending out 5-10 such requests daily is a modest goal and will avoid the appearance of being too eager.
My personal advice to pharmacists is to keep your connections focused on your profession. LinkedIn does attract many individuals who simply appear to want more “connections” no matter who they are. I ignore most such requests as I don’t think they bring value to either of us.
Networking is a life skill which takes practice but often yields rich rewards. Getting involved in LinkedIn doesn’t take much time, but can be useful for pharmacists who want to see what their fellow professionals are doing with their careers and expand their personal opportunities.