Do you Tweet? There, I asked it.
Now before you start rolling your eyes and sighing, let me ask you a question: If you’ve read my previous posts, have I given you bad advice so far? If the answer is yes, then read no further. However, if you gained insight on taking your career to another level, read on…
Most military professionals don’t even think about using Twitter as a tool in their job search. How can someone possibly share any meaningful thought in 140 characters or less? (By the way, that last sentence was already 81 characters.)
Many veterans believe Twitter is too self-absorbed and just another fad. In doing so, they rob themselves of invaluable opportunities. I may have to drag you into it kicking and screaming, as I originally was. But I think that as you learn what it can do, you’ll grow to appreciate Twitter as I do.
Twitter: It’s No Joke
What started off as a joke and side project of Odeo in 2006 has evolved into one of the most influential social networking sites in 2014. “Disruptive technology” is a term coined by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen to describe new technology that unexpectedly displaces old technology. Twitter has flattened hierarchical communication on a global level, and its instant messaging capability makes Twitter the most powerful, yet most misunderstood, tool — not just for the military professional, but for most professionals.
In 2014, most folks have grown to (albeit reluctantly) the see the value of LinkedIn. However, many still see Twitter in a totally different light.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll understand why I tell every transitioning service member they need to be on Twitter. More importantly, you’ll understand how to use the platform more effectively, not only for managing your career and job search, but also in your day-to-day professional lives (and even as a veteran who may be considering owning a small business).
By now, you should be acutely aware that managing your online reputation is becoming increasingly important. This is because hiring managers and recruiters alike look to mitigate their risk among their pool of potential candidates. No one wants to be laughed at because they were “the one” who hired the new bad apple at the company.
An active Twitter account helps you as a professional. (Like this thought? Tweet it!) It establishes an additional online footprint by increasing your ranking in Google’s search results, making you more findable as a professional and potential job candidate.
Debunking Twitter Myths
It never fails. When I start a training session, regardless of the participants’ ages, I have to listen to every apprehension about using Twitter. The overwhelming majority of professionals fail to see the benefits of one of the most powerful career and networking tools ever invented, simply because they are misinformed.
When Twitter was first founded, it asked its users “What are you doing?” because it was mainly a network for sharing personal updates… seven years ago. Today, the most successful company CEOs are interacting with their customers and lowest employees on Twitter. You can follow news in real time, even before it gets reported via traditional channels, and have immediate access to jobs and recruiters. To see how Twitter has evolved just in its first three years, check out this cool TED Talk by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams from 2009. Do you even remember way back then?
The other objection to using Twitter that I typically encounter is the sentiment that it’s a complete waste of use of time. To that end, I respond with, “So is everything else.” It all depends on how you use it.
For example, while I was still in grad school, we were discussing the importance of diversity in the workplace. I went straight to Twitter to see if anyone among its 645+ million users around the globe was conversing about that topic. It turned out some users taking a Human Resource class in Argentina were tweeting about the very same topic at the same time we were! Immediately, our class size grew by 11 participants, and we were discussing different perspectives and ideas in real time on a global level. Talk about an “open class session.”
In a similar fashion, you can exponentially increase your reputation and value to potential employers and business partners in less than 10 minutes a day. (We’ll get to that in a bit.)
Get Superpowers LinkedIn and Facebook Can’t Give You
One of the biggest mistakes many professionals make is to treat all social networks the same when they are not. Each of them has very distinct characteristics. While LinkedIn and Facebook require you to have some type of relationship to connect with someone, Twitter does not.
What does this mean to you? If someone follows you, you don’t have to follow them back. So, while they can see your updates, you don’t have to see theirs. (Think of all of those annoying Facebook friends you want to unfriend because of the information they share.)
Subsequently, if you couldn’t care less about what celebrities, politicians or sports figures are doing, then just don’t follow them. However, if you wanted to stay abreast of your Veteran’s Benefits, TRICARE, Branch of Service’s leadership and current job opportunities, then follow those accounts. Your ability to connect with the resources, contacts and movers and shakers of your choice is boundless.
Access the Collective Consciousness Instantly
Remember my example of how I used Twitter in grad school? Well, by searching for your current command, squadron, unit or organization name on Twitter, you can see if anyone in the world is talking about it. Talk about a real-time Command Climate Assessment tool (for you Equal Opportunity folks out there).
Also, by posting a tweet, you can get feedback, ideas and even help with any topic you’re interested in. Even better, if your tweet is retweeted (which means someone thought enough about the information you shared to share it with their network), your professional reputation and messaging are exposed to an even larger audience.
The bottom line is that you define your Twitter experience. If you choose to use it to strategically and intentionally grow your professional network and develop your reputation, then that is what it will do for you. More importantly, it will place you way ahead of your peers (translation: your competition) who still believe social media is just for kids.
Companies Really Do Use Twitter to Hire
Believe it or not, hiring managers, headhunters, placement agencies, recruiting professionals and internal HR are using Twitter on an unprecedented scale to fill positions. Why? The reasoning may not be as obvious as you think. Many folks falsely assume they use Twitter as a medium to appeal to a broader audience. The opposite is true: it boils down to good business. Twitter actually allows a company to target a niche audience, because only Twitter users who know how to effectively use the network and who are engaged with the company or organization will see its tweets.
Companies want to hire people who want to work for them, not just any job seeker. Additionally, where there are significant costs to post a job to a job board, Twitter is free and quick.
Don’t take my word for it. Go to Twitter (you do need to have an account) and search for the hashtags #job, #career or #hiring and the name of the city in which you want to work. Voila! Like magic, you’ll see a list of job postings, which typically include a link to the position on the company’s page where you can apply directly. You may be shocked to see that some posts might be less than a minute old! Some of the more creative companies (mostly in the tech industry) will actually ask you to apply for a job directly on Twitter.
While I was facilitating one of the military’s Transition GPS classes, a student showed me that a company had tweeted, “Tell us in the next 24 hours why we should hire you.” His response was, “I’m an IT Professional, delivering results on time every time under budget.” The company then looked at his LinkedIn profile and called him in to do a site visit. Did I mention anything about a resume in there?
As a military job seeker, you have two objectives in using Twitter. The first is to get access to real-time jobs, and the second is to build professional relationships.
I have to stress that even though Twitter makes it easier to connect with people, it’s still based on the old-school technique of relationship-building, just using new-school technology. By interacting on a regular basis, you increase your visibility online and demonstrate your value to potential employers. The goal here is to develop those relationships to the point where you can speak on the phone (my preferred method) or by email with people who have the ability to hire you or get you in front of a hiring manager.
Whether you’re thinking about leaving the military or still have years left on Active Duty, you can work smarter using Twitter as an effective tool in your toolbox.
Are you ready to get started? Then check out this post on how to build your Twitter profile!
How have you put Twitter to use for your career? Share how in the comments!