College Students: Time to Catch the Twitter Train!

twitter-bird-1I meet with college students every week regarding their job and internship searches. Part of the discussion involves networking via social media. Most students have profiles on LinkedIn, but when I bring up Twitter, I usually get blank stares.

In over four years working in college career services, I have not personally met one student who uses Twitter professionally. I have, however, expanded my online network to include students and young professionals around the U.S. who really “get it” when it comes to Twitter as a resource for their job search and professional networking.

It is possible to find jobs and internships on Twitter, but the biggest benefit of Twitter is networking. Through searches, it’s very easy to find people who post content relevant to your interests, and if you like what they post, it’s a very open platform by which you can message people and follow them. Most people will write back to you. During Twitter chats, several of which occur every day, there is a lot of interaction among participants. My experience is that most professionals on Twitter are open, helpful and friendly; generally, people are respectful of other people’s opinions. LinkedIn might be described as a fancy dinner at a country club; Twitter is a casual cocktail party with some really cool people.

Barney Carleton is a graduate student in New York who’s discovered the value of Twitter for his career.  Barney landed an internship as a result of a relationship developed through a Twitter chat. But, it wasn’t an overnight success story; Barney had built the relationship for about a year before the internship came to be.

For Barney, the relationship is key. “You shouldn’t be using social media platforms such as Twitter to find a job; you should be using them to form relationships,” advises Barney. “Engagement is the key to any social media platform, whether you are looking for a job, selling a product for an organization, or offering customer support for a product.”

Another student active on Twitter chats is Lauren Frock, a college senior majoring in public relations. Lauren is the president of the University of North Texas chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Like Barney, she received an internship offer as a result of a connection made on Twitter, although she had already made a commitment to another internship. Lauren has taken it a step further and has met some of her Twitter connections in person. “I’m a huge fan of tweet chats”, she says. “I rarely miss the #PRSSA and #NPPRSA chats and love that I meet many of my Twitter friends in person at PRSSA conferences and events.”

A huge benefit of Twitter chats is that they provide a venue for interacting with people with similar interests. Melanie Mather, who graduated from the University of Connecticut almost two years ago, is building her networking of contacts by regularly participating in a few chats each week. As someone with a career interest in human resources, she joined the conversation on #TChat, a chat each Wednesday that attracts a lot of HR professionals. Similar to Barney’s approach, she’s taking her time to nurture relationships with people she meets online. Says Melanie, “I’m hoping to build connections first before asking about employment opportunities.”

Like Lauren, Brittany Berger, a content coordinator with eZanga in Delaware, points out the benefits of interacting with people online, then bringing those relationships into real life. “I have made online connections that have turned into real-life connections that could be beneficial in a job search,” says Brittany.

My advice to students who want to jump on the Twitter train for their professional networking is:

Follow Students and Recent Graduates

Start with the young professionals mentioned above, who know the value of Twitter for career networking. Model their online behavior. Read what they post and observe how they use Twitter.

Search for and Follow Career Experts

Find out who those experts follow. Take a look at lists compiled by YouTern, Forbes, and CareerSherpa of people they recommend following…. and, don’t overlook the B-list… follow me @RichCareer :>)

Follow Companies and Individuals Who Represent Them

Interact with recruiters. “Follow people you admire and companies you’d like to work for and analyze what industry leaders post,” suggests Lauren. “This is a great way to learn more about your industry.”

Engage with People

When you read something interesting, reply and write something complimentary to the person who tweeted it.

Take Time to Chat

Here’s a great place to start: #InternPro, 9:00pm eastern on Mondays. Chats are an essential component to building a network on Twitter.

Search for Professional Associations and Industry Groups

Some of these groups host Twitter chats, for example #PRSSA for students interested in the public relations field and sports chats, such as #smsportschat by Tariq Ahmad, for people interested in working in sports.

Put Yourself Out There

Express your opinions so people get to know you. “Having conversations, joining chats, and sharing yourself is how you create deeper online relationships that are more likely to translate into offline ones,” says Brittany.

Promote Yourself

Use Twitter as a platform to present yourself as a professional. “Use your Twitter bio like a mini professional biography. Include your university, where you’re interning and a few of your interests,” suggests Lauren. “Include a link to your digital portfolio, blog or LinkedIn. This is a great way to make it more convenient for people in your network to learn more about you.”

Be Realistic in Your Expectations

Don’t expect immediate results. I tell students the same thing about in-person networking. You can’t network one day, and land a job the next day. Networking is about planting seeds that will grow someday. You don’t always get from point A to point B… you might have to go from point A to point D, via B and C. “I have not directly acquired an internship from Twitter alone,” says Lauren, “but I’ve attended events through PRSSA and PRSA that have helped me land internships.”

Shannon Smedstad, an HR social media leader for GEICO, uses Twitter to engage with prospective employees. Also, Twitter has opened up doors to meeting new people. She’s been invited to speak at conferences and has been asked to contribute to a book on using social media in the job search. “It’s my opinion that being a part of the conversation on Twitter can help with building a professional brand,” says Shannon. “And, THAT can help increase your marketability and differentiate someone who’s in the job search.”

Without doubt, the students and young professional who are regulars on Twitter would strongly agree. “I highly recommend students use Twitter for networking,” Melanie Mather says. “It’s an easy way to learn about your field and build your network.”

 

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For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Rich Career!

 

 

Rich Grant AuthorAbout the Author: Rich Grant has a background in higher education and most recently was the director of career services at a four-year college in Maine. Currently, Rich is filling a temporary role as a career advisor and internship coordinator and serves as the president of two professional associations. Find Rich on LinkedIn and Twitter, and check out his blog where he frequently imparts words of wisdom. Comments, complaints, jokes and legal notices can be sent to rich@richcareer.net.

 

Image courtesy of fastcompany.com… thank you!

 

 

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