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How I use Twitter for my career and you can, too: Beginning at the very beginning

September 17, 2009

This is the story of a reformed Twitterphobe and how she’s in the process of writing her own career story.

Hi, I’m Jessica, and despite overwhelming career advice I’d read online, I was pretty much afraid of Twitter until two weeks ago. Like I said in this post, most Twitter advice seems to be written by people who aren’t thinking like a beginner. They say you should get on Twitter to search for a job. Or to network. Or to become known as an expert. Or to further your career. But how do you get on Twitter?

It’s more than just signing up. I knew I needed the right username. The right tools to organize my account. The right followers. The right manners for tweeting. All of this, I’d been reading, would make or break my success on Twitter. This was a lot of pressure, especially given my particular employment situation that I wanted Twitter to help change.

Reading through the Twitter advice, I couldn’t find anyone’s voice that sounded like mine. These people already had lots of followers. They’ve already tried all the tools. They appear to be full-time tweeters. None of that described me. Even though their advice is helpful (and you should read it), I wanted to read guidance for very beginners.

I’m going to fill that void here on my blog. My two weeks on Twitter have already encouraged me, educated me, humored me, humbled me, excited me, challenged me, occupied me, surprised me and, most importantly, convinced me that it will lead to better things for my career.

So how do you get on Twitter?

Twitter username

  • Try to use your name in your username. I have a common name, so all of the good variations are taken. I got impatient and, in my haste to scratch the Twitter itch, chose one honker of a desperate username. Which leads to…
  • Don’t get impatient when choosing your username. The time you spend now to choose a professional username will pay off later when you don’t have to hurriedly change it, which I ended up doing that same day. This was after I’d started following people.

Tweet or follow: What to do first?

I think they both work out the same in the end. The advice I’ve read says to tweet for a few days before starting to follow anyone. That way they’ll have a sense of what you offer and be more inclined to follow you back. I did not do this. And after only two weeks, my following-to-followers count is virtually even. You’ll learn later how I made up for it.

All right, but how do I follow the right people?

  • Start by reading these lists to find people to follow for your purposes. Some will follow back right away. Most won’t. That doesn’t matter at all in the very beginning.
  • Because you’re using this Twitter account for professional gain, limit your fun follows. As much as I wanted to follow icanhazcheezburger, cakewrecks and gofugyourself, that would have created too much noise for not much gain.
  • Because you’re using this Twitter account for professional gain, follow all friends, former coworkers, anyone you know personally. If they think of you for any job opportunity, you want to be a tweet away.

TweetDeck: the not-at-all secret weapon to organizing tweets

  • Twitter is not useful without organization. And Twitter as it is has no organization. TweetDeck is one popular (the most popular?) application that sorts your followers your way. It also lets you tweet, retweet, DM and a lot of other things with almost no effort.
  • My first columns were Mentions, Direct Messages, Careerists, Jobs and Other. This sufficed in the beginning. Later, I merged Careerists and Jobs and split them into Don’t Miss and Maybe Miss. The way I am, though, everyone’s a Don’t Miss.

Next time: Now you’re ready to engage people. So how do you do that? These are all strangers!

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