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Presenting Professionalism: Impression management in online professional communities

Presenting Professionalism: Impression management in online professional communities

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Published by Senthil Sukumar

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Published by: Senthil Sukumar on Dec 14, 2012
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06/01/2014

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Presenting Professionalism:
 
Impression management in online professional communities
Assignment No. 3by
Senthil Sukumar
Group No. G17Academic WritingCORE 006, T2 AY 09-10I declare that this Assignment is my original work and all information obtained from othersources has been cited accordingly. _______________________Signature and DateCourse Instructor: Elizabeth Rankin
 
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Introduction
 Online forums, social networking services, blogs and many other emerging forms of online networking websites have become popular mediums through which people interact withothers. Although more commonly associated with social networking for personal reasons, andtypified by successful social networking sites such as
Facebook 
and
Twitter 
, virtual communitiesof professionals are increasingly warming to the potential benefits of social networking sites increating and maintaining a professional image.In this paper, it is suggested that the technologies of online social networks offer moreprecise impression management tools than can be found in traditional face-to-face interactions,and allows virtual communities of professionals to better present and maintain the idealprofessional image. To demonstrate this, real world professional identity formation will becontrasted with aspects of professional identity formation on online social networking sites. Inaddition, the challenge of establishing credibility in an online environment and how exclusivityof participation in social networking sites can solidify a virtual community’s professionalidentity will be explored.
Professional Identity
 Professional identity can be defined as the persona of an individual which is designed inaccordance to a code of conduct that facilitates the attainment of objectives unique and central toa particular profession. The purposeful design of an individual’s professional identitytraditionally begins with the attainment of skills that usually requires formal training andeducation, and eventually, tangible proof of professional competency in the form of certifications,accreditations, or academic qualifications is obtained. These proofs of professional competency(e.g. a medical license, bar certification etc.) communicate to others firstly, a compliance with aset of professional standards, secondly, the possession of certain specialized knowledge, andthirdly for some professions, an adherence to ethical guidelines, and are often sufficient tocoalesce around a particular community of professionals a common professional identity(Harshman et al., 2005, p. 230).Proofs of competency alone, however, are insufficient for the long-run maintenance of aprofessional identity. Harshman et al. (2005) assert that the individuals’ need for expertassistance and their inability to satisfy those needs for themselves creates a dependency and
 
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vulnerability to the expertise of professionals, and the primary factor that contributes to overallsatisfaction of services rendered is the application of specialized and professional expertise thatproduces tangible and beneficial results (p. 229). This means that the professional’s inanimateproofs of competency must eventually be augmented by confidence in competency that can onlybe provided by individuals who are external to the professional community such as patients,clients or customers.Confidence in competency is earned through repeated use of a professional’s expertfaculties to provide beneficial assistance to these external parties, and it produces three keyelements of the professional identity: expertise, experience and reputation. How well and forhow long the professionals within a community fulfill the needs of external parties throughefficacious use of their professional competencies ultimately determines the degree to whichexternal parties choose to legitimize the professional identity of the professions they aredependent on. This legitimization by external parties, through repeated engagement of professional services from a chosen community, recommendation of these services to otherexternal parties, or through direct and positive feedback about services rendered, is crucial forprofessional communities in establishing a successful professional identity.
Offline vs. Online Impression Management
 The professional identity that accompanies proofs of competency are made manifestthrough appropriate public displays of these proofs, such as when credentials are displayed in theaccompanying professional setting (e.g. a doctor hanging his medical certificate on a wall in hisoffice) so that when non-professionals enter the spaces of the professional setting, there is littleroom for debate about the professional function and capabilities of the practitioner. In addition,professionals augment these proofs of competency through experience, age, demeanor, dress,and manipulation of professional tools such as a stethoscope or a legal contract in order topresent a claim to professional expertise (Harshman et al., 2005, p. 230). In real worldinteractions, these physical cues are often used to establish the validity of professionalknowledge and advice. If the individuals within a community assume the ‘look’ that iscommonly ascribed to a particular profession, or if they are in an environment commonlyassociated with a particular profession, then the professional identity and authority of thatcommunity is often adequately established beyond doubt, and the ideal impression is conveyed.

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