November 29, 2009
Twitter patter: Tips on building your profile and tweeting your way into a job
When Karianne Stinson decided to make the leap from teaching elementary school to working in public relations last fall, she knew she couldn’t rely on job listings alone.
“I wanted to do as much networking as possible -- both online and off,” says the Seattle resident, who’d been teaching in Auburn for four years. “I assumed that was the best way to get a job.”
Among her first networking stops: Twitter. “I started following people who were either in PR or in Seattle so I could learn from them and keep an eye on job possibilities,” she says.
Her efforts paid off. Earlier this year, an executive who’d been following Stinson on Twitter invited her to interview for a position with Sterling Communications. In September, Stinson started a full-time job with the Seattle PR firm.
So how did Stinson do it? And more importantly, how can job seekers follow in her digital footsteps?
“The worst way to connect with hiring managers is to e-mail them begging for employment,” says Dan Schawbel, author of “Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success.”
Instead, take a page from Stinson and follow your favorite employers and recruiters on Twitter, if they have accounts. Spend some time getting the lay of the land. Then, “Retweet some of their tweets so that you can build name and face recognition and be seen as a supporter of their work,” Schawbel says.
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Only then should you make direct contact with the person, either by messaging them directly on Twitter or e-mailing them, he says.
“No one wants to help the person who’s always looking for a handout and never giving back,” Stinson says. “It has to be a two-way street.”
Besides reposting the 140-character musings of Twitterers you admire, what should you tweet about? Certainly not what you’re making for lunch or buying at the grocery store for dinner; unless you’re a chef, hiring managers won’t care.
If you can’t resist sharing the intimate details of your personal life with the twitterverse, open a second account using a random handle that doesn’t include your name (for example, sunflower123), says Schawbel. But don’t skip the professional Twitter account that identifies you by name (searchable on Google), and always keep the discussion there workplace-appropriate.
“You have to think, ‘How am I going to build myself as an expert or a go-to person?’ ” says J.T. O’Donnell, a career strategist who founded the Twitter Advice Project, a collective of career coaches offering free advice to job seekers on Twitter.
“It’s not about immediately connecting with people,” O’Donnell says. “You have to build a great feed.”
Ideas, questions, inspiring quotations and links to articles and resources relevant to your industry all make for quality Twitter fodder, Schawbel suggests. So do links to the blog posts of others, answers to their questions and thank-yous for anyone who has helped you.
“That’s how you build community,” Schawbel says.
Trying to pawn yourself off as an industry pundit may sound daunting if you’re unemployed or new to your profession. That’s what Stinson thought -- until she realized there was Twitter gold to be mined at the part-time survival job she’d taken.
“I was working at a Starbucks and tweeting about how customer service relates to building relationships, which is what social media and PR are all about,” Stinson says.
“Twitter is the great equalizer,” O’Donnell says. It eliminates both geographic and hierarchical barriers; you don’t have to be high man on the totem pole to rub elbows with the bigwigs.
Plus, O’Donnell says: “You can do it at home in your pajamas.”
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