After having the opportunity to explore Plaxo and LinkedIn for the first time, I experienced their usefulness as professional networking tools. One area of weakness I have in the field of education is that I have not kept a fresh and current professional portfolio that is attractive to potential employers. This week’s assignments in our class made me reflect on how I can begin solidifying a more robust professional portfolio that truly captures my skill set and individuality.
I felt Plaxo is a great networking Web 2.0 tool. It was relatively easy for me to set up a Plaxo account and import all of my address from other sources. The feature I like the most is the fact that you have an address book that you have at your disposal anytime and anywhere. In the past, I have made an Excel spreadsheet address book list on my computer or utilized my cell phone. I will definitely be using the Plaxo account to keep myself organized and up-to-date with my contacts, especially professionally. I feel Plaxo is a great professional tool for networking with your existing base of contacts and also to utilize with potential employers.
With that said, I felt LinkedIn was more useful for me than Plaxo. I see more utility and benefits with using LinkedIn. I like that LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site. When I set up my account and began utilizing its features I noticed a more professional feel than other social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. I liked the fact that I can keep a list of contact details of people I know, which LinkedIn calls connections. I still need to add a summary, specialties, and attach my resume to my account, but it is a very user-friendly professional portfolio tool. Another feature I like is that I can use LinkedIn to find jobs and contacts from people in my contact network. It seems that LinkedIn has a lot of online traffic, which includes workers and employers. This is great as it saves both parties a lot of time and effort in developing contact.
While Plaxo and LinkedIn are useful as professional networking tools, I feel the personal website is the most effective method of promoting a professional portfolio. Foremost, I feel a personal website allows you to tailor and share more about your past professional experiences and the skills you possess that an employer covets. My professional portfolio website will have artifacts, a current resume, my educational philosophy, and other professional components that allow networking contacts to get a well-rounded idea of who I am. Secondly, by creating a professional personal website it is easy to link it to other social media tools. You can even link your personal website to your school website. I have begun creating my Google professional web site, and it will be a great tool to market myself. It will be an effective way to keep my professional portfolio current and easily accessible to contacts and potential employers.
The drawback to all three of these methods of professional portfolio is that they have their limitations. A person can maintain a strong network and highlight their talents and skills on these sites, but ultimately you need to have real, in-person communication skills as well. Everything that a person utilizes with Web 2.0 tools in regard to their professional portfolio should be considered tools to develop contact. I think we have to keep in mind that maintaining direct in person contact is important, too. As a professional you will need to have excellent communication skills when you meet network contacts for opportunities and interview with prospective employers. With that said, all three of these methods are great to add to a person’s arsenal of professional networking tools.