This post is for everyone who wants to learn how to use social media, not just to keep in touch with friends and family and or to sell stuff, but to add value to themselves – so that they can ultimately grow their careers.

So here are my takes on how to leverage social media for your career growth.

1. Identify an area of expertise that you want to build. This could be based on what you are doing right now, or where you want your career to be headed, or what you want to learn.

2. Start a blog. Yes, I am old-school in that way :) If you want to learn and build skills, long form writing is the way to go. Start out your posts on what you do, what you want to learn, and your POV. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like the best blog – just start hitting the publish button. I have always believed that a blog is like a just-made clay object. You have to put it out there in the heat of the public opinion for it to harden into something usable. Share your expertise and only then can you develop it.

3. Get a Google Reader account, if you haven’t already. Type your skill/learning area in the subscribe button and see the most popular blogs by subscribers pop up. Subscribe. Don’t be shy. I have 800 subscriptions on my Google Reader and go through them once a week. Read them. If you come across two opposing points of view of two bloggers, learn from both of them. Multiple perspectives can only enrich you and develop your skill of synthesis.  Also add a RSS feed to the Google blog search result for your blog URL. That way you will be notified each time someone links to your blog.

4.Find experts on Twitter. Do a search for a keyword or a specific hashtag. Follow people who tweet  on these. Check their links to judge what kind of content they create and curate.

5. Join skill-focused groups on Facebook, Linkedin, Quora and BraveNewTalent (Disclosure: I work for them). Connect with people via these groups (On Facebook, Quora and BraveNewTalent you can “follow” people one-way)

6. Follow companies on Linkedin and BraveNewTalent who employ people with your skills to figure out what are the trending skills in your industry and function.

7.Take the initiative. If there is no list of experts and content related to your community, start curating. Publish such lists on your blog – you’ll get readers too ;-)

So there you have them – the 7 pointers for successfully using social media to learn and eventually grow your career. Do remember that as you develop you will let go of a lot of people and resources you had connected with earlier as your skills and interests grow and develop. Don’t get emotionally trapped by them. Keep looking for newer and better people to learn from.

What are you waiting for? :D

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+Gautam Ghosh is part of the HR team at Philips India looking after digital and social strategy and projects . He blogs at Talent and Social Business about how the world of and careers and organizations is changing due to social technologies and Tweets as @GautamGhosh Gautam’s blog has been listed by HRWorld amongst the top 25 HR blogs worldwide the top 50 HR Blogs to watch in 2009 by and also amongst the Career 100 – a list of the top 100 career related blogs globally in the English language. His blog is also featured on the Alltop Careers and Alltop India categories. Earlier the blog has been featured as a case study in the book Business Blogs: A Practical Guide Gautam’s experience in the corporate world was as a HR Manager at Deloitte & Touche and earlier in the HR and Learning & Development function in organizations like Dell, Hewlett Packard and Satyam Computer Services. He has also been an independent consultant and trainer and worked with social business firms 2020 Social and Qontext.