1.86 billion Facebook users and myself agree: online networking platforms represent one of the best technological advances in recent years.

If you aren’t leveraging the online sphere to grow your occupational therapy network, you may be missing out. However, we all know by now that the online world can be a rabbit hole of dead ends and misadventures. It is, therefore, critical to approach social networking with purpose. 

Here are three steps to help you do just that:

1. Set a goal.

No one has time to throw spaghetti against a wall just to see what sticks. Avoid wasting time in building your OT network by starting with a defined goal in mind.

Of course, a SMART goal is ideal, but a general intention can work as well. Here are some examples:

  • Find a trusted group you can ask for treatment advice.
  • Connect with individuals who have similar career goals.
  • Share frustrations and find encouragement.
  • Find a space to nurture your idea for a new OT endeavor.

2. Find the right network.

This is probably the most difficult step. Social networks are constantly evolving, and what worked a year ago may not be working for you now. Take time to peruse your options.

Here are the three social networks that I believe have the most easily accessible potential value for you. If you’ve mastered these three already, then you could dabble in places like LinkedIn, Quora, Reddit, OT Connections, or Twitter.

OT on Facebook: Crowdsource answers to your questions.

Facebook remains one of the best ways to connect with other OTs. However, the process for doing this has evolved slightly.

Right now, Facebook Groups are where you will find the most engagement. There are dozens of OT groups out there, but here are the ones that have a lot of quality engagement happening on them:

OT on Pinterest: Find inspiration.

If your goal is to find inspiration and generate new ideas, Pinterest is the place for you. The easiest way to get started is to follow group boards. From there, you can start following people who you see posting great content.

Here are some of the most popular OT group boards:

OT on Instagram: Get better acquainted with specific companies and individuals.

Instagram is where you should head if you want to get to know someone better. Perhaps there’s a company you’d like to work for someday or a colleague who inspires you. Following them on Instagram (and hopefully having them follow you) is a great way to start a relationship.

If no companies or therapists come to mind, you can start by exploring some of the hashtags. To do this, go to Instagram, find the search box, and try typing something like “#occupationaltherapy” or “#otstudent.”

3. Be genuine.

Networking online is the same as networking in person. So, the same best practices apply. Don’t try to sell something to someone you just met. Don’t ask too much of them. Don’t be spammy or scammy.

Instead, be yourself and have fun with it. I have met amazing friends and mentors through social networking, and I hope you have the same experience!

Sarah Lyon, OTR/L, created otpotential.com in 2011. She helps occupational therapists find the right OT job and connects them with OT resources to refine their practice.