Career-Boosting Online Communities

  • Don't Go It Alone: Join An Online Career Community

    By now, most people belong to social networks like Facebook, MySpace or Twitter (or all three). However, these general purpose sites only help your career so much. The emphasis is more on the social than the network, and there is always the risk you’ll overexpose yourself and actually hurt your job prospects. So, if you have a job or want one, your first step should be to join LinkedIn, a network designed specifically to advertise your job skills and commune with other professionals. But there are many more career-specific community Web sites you can take advantage of to boost your professional profile. “Being a part of a community is always good, certainly better than being isolated,” said Beth Schoenfeldt, a small business expert who has created multiple professional communities on the Internet. “But there’s a laziness many people have because they feel it’s not required for their profession.” Whether you’re a small business owner or recently unemployed, chances are there’s an online network for you. Photo Credit: TimYang.net
    Entrepreneurs
  • Entrepreneurs

    “Entrepreneurs have to be the most connected people around,” Schoenfeldt said. “You really can’t do anything on your own.” That’s why she started Collective-E, a Web community that aims to level the playing field for aspiring entrepreneurs. Collective-E provides members with valuable resources like PR assistance, Web site building, business strategy and promotion. Best of all, members get to collaborate and share resources with one another. “I’ve been working with entrepreneurs for the last ten years,” she said. “I’ve been in the trenches with them and it’s given me a real understanding of how to help them.” The site has already turned several members’ dreams into reality. One woman joined Collective-E with an idea for a car seat cover that saves parents time and energy cleaning up after their kids. The community helped make a tagline (“problem solving for parenting”), set her up with a Twitter account (she now has thousands of followers) and gave her industry contacts and leads. Her company, Nomie Baby, has since been featured by online retailer Buy Buy Baby and seen sales skyrocket. Photo Credit: Collective-E.com
    Small Business Owners
  • Small Business Owners

    Small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs can also take advantage of StartUpNation. The community was founded by two accomplished brothers with the mission statement “everyone can – and should – own a business.” The site is free and features forums and step-by-step advice from experts to help you create, grow and manage your new business. There is an easy-to-use page to help locate events and other members in your area, plus listings calling out for your talents. We'd just like to note that if everyone did own a business, then there'd be no one to work at the business, or anywhere else for that matter.Photo Credit: Rachel from Cupcakes Take the Cake
    Architects
  • Architects

    There are American-centered communities and even global communities for architects, which will help you get your portfolio noticed and find inspiration for future projects from colleagues. Worldarchitecture.org allows you to create your own online portfolio, submit ideas and join discussions, all for free. Photo Credit: Wonderlane
    Sports Players
  • Sports Players

    No, fantasy baseball leagues don’t count. But SportsPassion.com does. The network helps players and managers from sports as diverse as basketball and elephant polo to organize their teams events, keep in touch with teammates and fans, and increase their team’s online presence. Photo Credit: melyviz
    Unemployed
  • Unemployed

    No one needs a community more than the unemployed. When you lose your job, it’s crucial that you stay in touch with the workforce and have easy access to job hunt resources. But it’s equally important that you have emotional support. The 405 Club (named after the maximum amount of unemployment benefits you can collect in a week) provides leads on jobs, a regular column called Ask Human Resources, and reminders about when to apply for benefits each week. Most importantly, the site offers a silver lining. Every Friday, there are posts about the benefits of being unemployed and Saturday there are comic strips to help you laugh your way through the long weekend while you wait for new jobs to be posted. Also, check out MainStreet’s Who’s Hiring weekly roundup here. Photo Credit: timmenzies
    Inventors
  • Inventors

    If you’re an inventor, join Quirky.com now. There are more than 10,000 members in this community, and it’s free to join. When you have an idea for an invention, you can pitch it to the community (for a small fee), and the members will chime in with feedback to help you fine tune it. StartUpNation works well for inventors, too. Just check out their community of inventors here and read up on their tips for creating a prototype of your product, as well as licensing and manufacturing it. Read MainStreet’s coverage of how to become a successful inventor here. Photo Credit: Newsbie Pix
    Do-Gooders
  • Do-Gooders

    Nonprofits have suffered terribly in this recession. So if you work in this sector, why not console yourself with other do-gooders? The Charity Channel connects non-profit professionals worldwide and offers practical advice about fundraising, audits and developing relationships with other foundations. And Idealist.org provides information about internships and positions, plus forums and events listings in the non-profit world. Photo Credit: Esparta
    Computer Programmers
  • Computer Programmers

    We’d give an in-depth description of these sites, but they are so filled with jargon, only coders would understand anyway. So if you are a coder or just starting out as one, consider joining the YoungCoders community. The site provides tips on Web and software programming and general technical support. And if you have questions about a project you’re working on, consider one of the many, many forums for programmers. We recommend StackOverflow because it’s easy to navigate and has a few words we actually understand. Photo Credit: bombardier
    Journalists
  • Journalists

    Journalism is becoming increasingly difficult field in which to work, as every day seems to bring news of publications closing. To make matters worse, the reporter’s life of long hours and stakeouts is often a lonely one (don’t look at me; I’m just speaking generally here!). That’s why it’s even more important to find ways to connect with people in your profession. If you’re just breaking into the field now, I recommend following Ed2010 closely. The site bills itself as “a community of young magazine editors and magazine-editor wannabes,” and it’s a valuable resource for job postings, events and tips for getting noticed. For more seasoned journalists, consider joining sites like JournoList, which features in-depth discussions of current events and musings from fellow reporters. And of course, don’t forget to check Mediabistro.com for regular cocktail events so you can buddy up with people in your field and get away from your computer for a bit. Photo Credit: thivierr
    Doctors
  • Doctors

    Even Doctors need some love once in a while. Sermo.com allows doctors to consult other doctors online, rather than in a noisy hospital. The community helps keep doctors up to date and improve patient care. But don’t try to join if you’re not actually a doctor. The site does background checks. Besides, why would you want to listen to a bunch of physicians talk about hernias all day when there are so many other communities you could be a part of? Photo Credit: Waldo Jaquith
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