Professional networking and the internet

For years the internet has been teeming with chat rooms and now, more recently, there are the incredibly successful social networking sites like MySpace (www.myspace.com) and Facebook (www.facebook.com).

Entering the cyber world can be a daunting experience, and for dental hygienists the best place to start is with your own Association’s website – www.irishdentalhygienists.com. It has oral health information, details of how to join the Irish Dental Hygienists Association and a calendar of events, among other things.

There is also the newly launched www.irishdentist.ie and www.irishhealth.com, which are updated frequently and are chock full of interesting news stories and articles.

Beyond the dental sites

I keyed the search term ‘dental hygienist’ into MySpace and got back 6,670 hits in 0.27 seconds. Now I’m not for one minute suggesting that all of those results were worth looking at – probably there were a few ‘dodgy’ ones in there – but it is a facility that could allow you to get in contact with dental hygienists all over the world. Just imagine the wealth of information that is out there, and having it all at your fingertips is just a modem away!

Safety with the internet

It is important to be aware that posting any kind of personal information can have repercussions on both your safety and your reputation in the real world. Do remember that the new people you meet on these sites are strangers and you must take your safety into consideration.

You may well be thinking that you don’t have the time to spare for this kind of social networking, perhaps you lack the inclination to do so or consider the security risk to be too great, all of which are valid reasons not to pursue this avenue of communication. However, be warned that it looks like staying away from these sites could well affect your future employment. More and more employers are asking interviewees whether they use social networking websites. And here’s the shocker – rumour has it that if you say no, an increasing number of employers will decide there and then that you are not for them.

But let’s take a step back to before you get the call for an interview; what would a potential employer find if they were to Google you? In June 2006 New Scientist published an article about the Pentagon’s National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks.

How does this relate to us ordinary folk? Jon Callas, chief security officer at PGP, a Silicon Valley-based maker of encryption software, says: ‘I am continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves… you should always assume anything you write online is stapled to your resumé. People don’t realise you get Googled just to get a job interview these days’.

If you do decide to use one of these websites for professional networking, be careful and use your connections wisely. Rule number one is that you keep control of your online profile. Follow the safety tips in Table 1 and you can enjoy the benefits of professional networking without worrying too much about the risks.

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