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Twitter for Career Development

Monday, July 2, 2012

Twitter is a powerful tool that can help you develop strong networks to promote your career, but be mindful of how best to use it. Here are some best practices—and pitfalls to avoid.

Things to Do on Twitter

Twitter is not only a way to connect succinctly with people, it’s a way to learn.

  • Follow people who tweet links to good content, such as industry white papers and blog posts from thought leaders. It’s a great way to stay informed about emerging trends or find a new perspective on a current issue.
  • Follow hashtag (#) for conferences. Most conferences provide a hashtag for attendees to use when tweeting about the event. Most important, you can usually follow along even if you’re not there.
  • Follow hashtags for specific topics, industries, companies, and so forth. Set up a search for targeted hashtags in your Twitter client to find information on the areas you’re currently working in or working towards. You can find people who tweet about a specific industry by using Listorious.com or wefollow.com.
  • Join Twitter chats. There are a ton of Twitter chats covering almost any topic you can think of. Twitter chats offer a lot of benefits – information, new people to follow, new followers for you, they’re short (often an hour), and you can get a transcript of all the tweets to look through at a later date.
  • Connect with co-workers. One of the fascinating things about Twitter is that it seems to break down hierarchical walls. Because of its slightly casual nature, you might find yourself having a conversation with one of the big wigs from your company or someone who works on another floor that you normally wouldn’t get to know. Then, if an opportunity comes up, they’ll know who you are. 

You can also use Twitter to find a job.

  • Tweetmyjobs.com. In the first field, enter information about the job title, skills, or company you’re interested in and choose from the options provided for the best results. Then enter location information and see what comes up.
  • TwitJobSearch. This tool allows users to filter searches using keywords or exact wording or phrases. You can also find leads from specific users.

Things NOT to Do on Twitter

  • Don’t forget this is a public broadcast; there is no delete button. The only tweets that are not visible to the Twitter world are direct messages and private twitter accounts (which are rare). Every tweet you post can be seen, re-tweeted and replied to. Not just by your followers but by everyone. The other problem is, you can’t take a post back. Once it’s out there, you can’t recall it and you can’t erase any responses or re-tweets. So if you hope to work as a marketing consultant for a blue chip company, you might want to take your rants about their poor service to a private platform. Bottom line: Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t want your mother to read.

  • Don’t use text speak, slang, or swearing. Texting abbreviations have crept into Facebook, Twitter, and even email. With Twitter’s 140 character limit, it’s tempting to abbreviate words to fit them in. That’s fine if you are only trying to network with others who use and understand abbreviations. But do your potential employers, leaders in your field, and business people use and understand that language? You want to be taken seriously by people that can help you develop your career, so use a language you all share.

  • Be careful about mixing work and personal life online. If you want to attract the attention of potential employers, or business partners, you need to assume that they will do their homework and check out your public profiles online, including Twitter. That means they’re going to hear all about the things you share with your friends. There’s no filter on Twitter (unless you make your entire account private, but this defeats the purpose of using Twitter). So one suggestion is to set up a new Twitter account you can use as a career development tool or change the way you use your existing account. Network with close friends elsewhere, on Facebook or Google+.

Tweet, tweet.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at rellis@td.org. 

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