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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tweet your way to a job


Even as Twitter's use grows exponentially, few have harnessed its power in the hunt for employment. Here's how to make the most of the tool in the search for work

Mark Buell had no intention of leaving a job he enjoyed - until one day last September, when a message flashed on his computer screen.

It was a tweet from one of the avid Twitter user's contacts that read: "New job being posted, social media communications manager in Ottawa."

With an instant inside track to a job that had not yet been advertised, Mr. Buell jumped on the enclosed link to the organization's website, and sent off a cover letter and résumé by mail.

Three weeks later, he was called for an interview. When asked to present how he would put together a social media campaign for the organization if he got the job, Mr. Buell decided to let his Twitter stream speak for him.

"I sent them a link to my Twitter account, every tweet I sent in the past year, at least 2,000. I don't think they went through them all, but it gave an idea of who I was as a communications professional, as well as an individual," he says.

An idea good enough, in fact, that it got him the job: He was told his tweets turned him into the top choice for the position as communications manager of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which was looking for someone to expand its presence on social media. "My life was suddenly changed because of just those few words," Mr. Buell says of that Twitter job posting. "I can definitely say I got the job through Twitter."

Other lives may be changing, too, as an increasing number of those on the prowl for employment discover the new power of Twitter in finding a job - or having one find you. That those 140-character messages can be posted almost instantaneously makes Twitter an invaluable tool for getting tips on jobs before they are posted anywhere else, experts say.

While Twitter use has grown exponentially since its introduction three years ago, few have harnessed its power in the hunt for employment, says Toronto career coach Randall Craig, author of the new book Social Media for Business.

As recently as last June, an Ipsos-Reid poll done for CBC found that just 26 per cent of 826 regular Internet users surveyed had even heard of Twitter, and only 6 per cent were regular users. That's much lower than the 42 per cent of Canadian Internet users who have Facebook accounts, according to a report by Statistics Canada last July. A Globe and Mail online poll last month found that only 2 per cent of respondents had used Twitter in a job search.

Twitter is so new that even savvy users don't maximize its potential, says Deb Dib, president of Medford, N.Y.-based leadership consultancy Executive Power Brand and co-author of the new book The Twitter Job Search Guide.

How to make the most of Twitter? Here's advice from both experts and users on the smartest ways to make Twitter part of your job search:

Cultivate a following

"Twitter can be a way to do an end run around the classic pile of anonymous résumés by giving you a presence and a personal brand that people recognize," says Jacob Share, a Canadian career coach living in Israel and the author of The Ultimate Twitter Job Search Guide.

Twitter messages are so short that they are like comments in a conversation; people will join if it interests them, he says. Post a series of tweets about your professional interests and insights online before you even start a job search, Mr. Share recommends. If you can make impressive points and demonstrate your expertise, you will gather followers and the attention of decision makers who can assist with leads and advice.

Don't leave a professional following to chance. Jump-start the process by sending invitations by e-mail to friends and network contacts to follow you on Twitter, Mr. Share says. Those who already know you will be your best sources of leads to jobs and guidance.

Be prolific, within limits

To gain and keep a following, you've got to make a commitment to post regularly. But don't overdo a good thing, Ms. Dib recommends.

If there is a gap of more than a couple of days between postings, you look like an opportunist or uninterested dilettante. But "mucking up people's tweet stream with dozens of tweets a day makes you look like a spammer."
Her advice: Aim for a minimum of 15 tweets a week, but no more than 20 a day. Encourage conversation by following others, thanking them for information they tweet to you.

Let them know

Tweet your followers and tell them you are looking for a job and would appreciate their advice and references. In further tweets, be upfront about your career objectives, skills, strengths and preferred job functions, Ms. Dib says.

In your Twitter bio, you have only 160 characters to describe who you are, so come up with a title that nails you in three-attention grabbing words, she suggests.

For example, you're a "billion-dollar deal maker" or a "corporate change leader." Then add a unique accomplishment, such as "with major film company win," she says.

But be modest, she recommends. "An unspoken rule is, Don't declare yourself an expert. Show others what you know by being yourself."

Give to get

Keep people updated on your progress and thank them for their advice. Also, tweet useful information in return for their following. Re-tweet potential jobs that are not right for you. "Help others who are looking for a job on Twitter and then they will help you back," Ms. Dib says.

Stay professional, but real

Strike a healthy balance between tweets about your public and private lives. Many users of Twitter as well as Facebook misunderstand how public the site is, Mr. Craig says. "You have to be careful that your tweets about parties, pet peeves and philosophy don't show you as out of tune with the culture of the company you are approaching," he says. While on a job hunt, put extra effort into compiling posts that show your expertise. Direct people to blogs or other sites that demonstrate your enthusiasm and success.

At the same time, not every post should be about your search or your job."The big thing about Twitter is to be yourself, be natural," Mr. Buell recommends.

"My tweets were a blending of personal and professional, and it gave the hiring managers a sense that I was not one-dimensional."

Still, know your boundaries. Shannon Yelland, whose recent twittering helped land her a position as online marketing manager at ActiveState Software Inc. in Vancouver, advises editing out trivia which can be distractions to the professionalism you want to get across. "Your potential boss doesn't care if your cat threw up or if you are having a martini on a sunny deck." While Twitter asks people to tweet about "What are you doing now?" you should interpret that as "What are you thinking now?"Expand your reach

Facebook and LinkedIn, other sites employers look at in job searches, now tie in to Twitter. When Ms. Yelland updates information on Twitter, she has it automatically update the profiles on her other website pages, as well as her blog.

It's also relatively simple to set up alerts on Twitter that flag messages that include key words and phrases you specify, she found. It's best to combine job titles and city, such as: "hiring online marketing manager Vancouver" to avoid becoming overwhelmed with messages not suited to your needs, she says. But don't get too specific, or you'll end up eliminating potential jobs, Mr. Share says.

Use search resources

A lot of people don't realize that you don't have to have a Twitter account to use it in a job search, Mr. Share says. You can open twitter.com and search for jobs that appear in tweets using key words, just as you would in Google.

Experiment with different sets of terms to home in on opportunities in your area. Browse Twitter directories to find industry professionals to follow for trend information and job leads, Mr. Share says. "Use Twitter search for people who have twittered relevant job offers recently and follow them, because more job openings could be on the way. Notice keywords that the postings about the jobs you're interested in have in common, and then search on those to find conversations among other industry pros to follow for leads on future openings," he suggests.

You can use Twitter's "Find People" tool to locate industry leaders who post on Twitter, to start to follow them.

A number of other Internet sites specialize in scanning Twitter for messages about jobs or industry professionals who use Twitter and are worth following.

Among those the experts suggest checking out are: TwitJobSearch.com and TweetaJob.com, which search for job-related tweets by profession and location; as well as Twellow.com, and justtweetit.com, which search for Twitter users with similar career interests; and wefollow.com, which identifies top users and opinion makers and can be searched by industry and city.

Don't rely on Twitter alone

Twitter is only one part of a job search. "It's important to remember that Twitter in itself is not going to get you a job," Mr. Buell says. "It's a great networking and icebreaking tool, but it should not be your only tool. You still need a decent résumé and have to meet people face to face."


TWEET SPEAK

Tweet: A message on Twitter, each one limited to 140 characters.

Tweeter or twitterers
or tweeple: People who post and follow Twitter messages.

Follow: To choose to regularly receive Tweets from selected people.

Buttons: Links you can add to a message urging people to do things such as "follow me on Twitter."

Background: Personalized information that can be added to appear around a Tweet, which can include artwork, a photo and contact information.

Direct message: A private Tweet. Putting the letter "d" and a space in front of the address of a follower will allow only that person to see the message. Otherwise, other followers of that person can see it as well.

Hashmark: Putting the # sign in front of the subject you're tweeting about. For example, #oilspill, indicates that you are contributing to the discussions about the topic. It can be a way to develop a following for your expertise.

Retweet (RT): A repost of a message you've received that you think will be of interest to others following you.

Twitterati: A name given to high-profile people and celebrities who post regular tweets that many people want to follow.

Tweet cred: Status you gain over time as more people follow you.

Twitter putdowns: Tweeterboxes are people who tweet too much. Those who have no new thoughts are Twitterpated, and a Dweet is a Tweet posted while drunk.

Wallace Immen

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