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Guide to Networking: Part 1-Social Networking

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

By Andy Zweibel
Republished with permission from Music Major

social-networking-logos1As Music Education Majors, one way we can help prepare for the teaching world during our studies is by networking. Meeting the people who will eventually be our colleagues and administrators will help prepare us for the job search, increase our knowledge in the field, and leave us better-equipped to find the job we’re looking for. This 3-part series looks at three different ways we can use networking to our advantage.

Before diving into this very broad topic, think about these questions:

* How many hours do you spend on the computer?

* Of those hours, how many of them are on Facebook?

* When you’re on the computer, how would you rank the ways in which you use it? (think: schoolwork, talking to friends, listening to music)

The term social networking is one that tends to scare a lot of people. In reality, many of us already engage in social networking on a daily basis! We just network with our firends and family, instead of professionals in our field. Regardless of how we go about it (this post will outline just a few of your many options), any means of meeting current music educators online can be considered social networking, and will help you create relationships that will help you as you prepare for your job search.

What Are The Benefits of These Relationships?

There are many benefits to establishing relationships with other people (current and future professionals) in your field. Here are a few ways you can gain from having other Music Education students, as well as current teachers or administrators, as a part of your social networks:

1. Mentorship – When you begin teaching, it will be extremely helpful having experienced teachers in your network to talk to. These people can act as mentors to you, helping you through the potentially difficult situations you may encounter in your first year teaching.

2. Collaboration – As a whole, the Music Education curriculum does not vary very much from one college/university to another. All students will take certain courses, and having other Music Education majors in your social network can give you the opportunity to bounce ideas off of like-minded peers. Additionally, this can give you the opportunity to discuss certain ideas that may not have been discussed in a course at your school, but were brought up in a similar class at a school one of your peers attends.

3. Job Hunt – When it comes time to look for jobs, it will be to your benefit to have name recognition in the area you want to teach. One way to do this is to establish relationships with professionals in the field.

What Kind of Relationships?

One reason many college students shy away from the idea of social networking on a professional level is that they worry about needing to have professionally-oriented discussions all times. This is actually not the case, and in fact, developing a more informal relationship with a current teacher/administrator has the potential to be almost more of a help than a formal, exclusively professional relationship. What does this mean? Don’t feel like you have to discuss business ALL the time! There’s nothing wrong with taking some time to talk sports, fashion, or whatever else interests you both. This will help you stand out among other future teachers in some people’s eyes; it’s good for people to see that you’re human!

That being said, there are a few considerations to take place any time you are discussing with someone who has the potential to become an employer, colleague, or student in the future. Here are some things to think about to that end:

* Don’t have public pictures of yourself engaging in illegal or otherwise dangerous activities (underage drinking, drugs, excessive drinking, etc.). If you wouldn’t be comfortable with your grandmother seeing it, don’t make it public!

* Use proper grammar and punctuation. Show people that you are a mature, educated person by refraining from using common short-hand communication like “thx, lol, u.” Use proper capitalization and punctuation (think capital “I’s” and apostrophe’s in “don’t, can’t, etc.). Even if the topic of conversation is informal, showing that you’re well educated will make a good first impression.

* Be thoughtful. Show that you’re thinking about what is being said, and are taking into consideration the ideas that are being brought up to you. Nothing turns someone away more than feeling as though the person they’re talking to isn’t listening to them.

Where Do I Start?

Here’s the best part-you probably already have! Here are a few social networking services you may want to be involved in, as well as a short explanation of it’s advantages. Also included are resources for finding professionals in the field of Music Education on these networks.

1. Facebook
Believe it or not, this social network that almost everybody is on already can be beneficial for more than just connecting with friends. If you start to connect with current educators, this connection can bring even more connections! Consider becoming a fan of the Band Director Facebook Page to find discussion on issues involving instrumental music education. Also, if you haven’t already, check out the new Music Education Major Facebook Page!

2. LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a less popular (but by no means less useful) network that is more professionally oriented. It allows users to keep a record of their professional experience and connect with other users to see their ‘resumes.’ When you connect with someone, you are asked to explain how know that person (coworker, employer, employee, collaborated, etc.). You can even specify the job during which you met this person from the list of positions you told LinkedIn you have held. LinkedIn also provides the opportunity for someone you worked with to recommend you, discussing positive contributions that you brought to the project. It allows other users considering whether or not to work with you the opportunity to see how you have contributed to other projects you participated in.

LinkedIn is a great way to network on a professional level with other teachers, future teachers, and administrators. It also is extremely helpful in allowing you to keep track of your experiences and qualifications. If you, like many others, don’t update your resume often, LinkedIn is a fantastic way to keep track of what you’ve been up to, and a great point of reference once it is time to update it!

3. Twitter
Twitter is a “micro-blogging” service that allows users to post their status (in a similar way to Facebook) with updates that can’t exceed 140 characters. One of the great parts of this service is that it forces you to be concise in what you say. The other great aspect of Twitter is the fact that it can connect you to tons of people you may have never otherwise expected to meet. Twitter is extremely user-friendly, and there is almost no learning curve.

There are also tons of services that you can use to locate Music Educators on Twitter. Here are just a few:

* Twitter Lists (like Dr. J. Pisano’s)
* WeFollow
* Twellow
* Search for #musiced or “Music Education” on Twitter to see who’s talking about it

4. Blogging
People tend to have this idea that you need to be an expert on a certain topic to blog about it. I urge you to take a step back, however, and think about what the word “blog” actually means; it is just a shortened way of saying “web log.” In other words, a blog is nothing more than a public online journal. Blogs are great places for gathering information and learning from a wide variety of people in a wide variety of areas and disciplines, as well as a fantastic way to make connections to other Music Educators blogging (believe it or not, there are tons; check out J. Pisano’s 100 ME Bloggers!).

There are plenty of blogging platforms that are all extremely easy to pick up. My personal favorite is WordPress (self-hosted, free), and many others prefer Blogger. For more short-form blogs that serve as an intermediate ground between full blogs and micro-blogs like Twitter, check out Posterous and Tumblr.
What Are You Waiting For?

One of the most intimidating parts of getting into social networking is just getting started. It can be intimidating at first, joining a website/network and not having any “friends” on it yet, but hopefully the list of resources above will help you get started. My biggest piece of advice is don’t wait one more minute: get started NOW! These services are great ways to meet other music educators to have questions answered, and establish relationships that could help you down the road. There is a wealth of information and opportunities out there for the taking.