In healthcare administration as in any modern business, the constant siren song of the smartphone, texts, e-mails and social media leave executives with more demands on their time than ever before.

Sure, accessibility and open communication foster an executive’s “open-door policy,” but spending your day plugged in online leaves little time for productivity. On the other hand, refusing to jump on the technology bandwagon can quickly make you a dinosaur, and unless you’re ready to retire, that’s not good for your career.

Take, for example, social media, such as You Tube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. The up-and-coming generation is deeply involved in the online world, and they may one day be your bosses. To connect with them, it’s important to understand these technologies and be part of that world.

But, proceed with caution when cultivating an online persona, as it’s easy to cause lasting damage to your career. Here are a few tips:

  • Have a vision for what you want from your online network. Do you want to maintain contacts in your industry for future career opportunities? Do you want to use your network for sharing what you’ve learned with others? Do you want a group of peers you can bounce ideas off of from time to time?
  • Keep your online network manageable. The effectiveness of your network is not based on size, it’s about how you actively use it. If you have more people in your online network than you have time to interact with, your group is probably too large. It doesn’t do you any good to have 5,000 people in your LinkedIn network if 4,500 of those people can’t help you in your career. Cull your list to those who share your interests and who you wish to know well. If there are people in your network who aren’t responding to you, delete them.
  • If you want to have a network that can help you, offer to help others. Doing so nurtures your network, so that the people in it will be there for you when you need them.
  • Use social media to promote yourself and your career. For example, if your Facebook posts have value to up-and-coming executives, you position yourself as a subject matter expert and thought leader.
  • What you put out on the Internet may come back to haunt you. Never post anything, anywhere that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see.
  • Never forget who is watching. For example, if you want to change jobs and suddenly get active on LinkedIn, you’re broadcasting to everyone in your network – including your boss who “friended” you months ago – that you’re ready for a career move.

One of the benefits of having an active online professional life is that recruiters and executive search firms will be able to easily locate you when opportunities arise. But not every “recruiter” uses social media responsibly. Some contingency recruiters – and unsavory characters posing as recruiters – figure that if they blanket the Internet with enough messages, eventually they’ll get a response from someone. These are the ones who flood message boards or spam your inbox with details of potential job opportunities. More than likely, responding to them is a waste of your time.

Healthcare organizations don’t want their executive jobs posted anywhere and everywhere – they expect their executive search firms to treat their jobs confidentially and to do the footwork in person. So, the Internet may be a good place for legitimate recruiters to learn about you and establish initial contact, but if a recruiter is really interested in reaching you, he or she will try to contact you offline.

If you’re not sure exactly what your Internet persona is saying about you, find out. Google yourself, and be sure that the information you find represents you accurately and professionally.

© 2012 John Gregory Self