Tweeting your way to your next job might seem a little far-fetched. But having a professional presence on Twitter can lead you to employment openings and connect you with recruiters. And it can demonstrate online mojo that will assure hiring managers that you're at ease with technology — a concern they often have about workers over 50.
Not familiar with Twitter? It's a social networking site that lets you send out brief "tweets" — which could be your thoughts on something, a link to an article, or a photo. With a click of a button, any other Twitter user is free to sign up to "follow" you, that is, receive your tweets. Likewise, you're free to follow others in the Twitter universe.
How it might work for you
Suppose you're an interior designer looking for work. You tweet about developments in the industry and follow people who are doing the same. Over time you build up a network that keeps you informed in detail about the business and job openings, and puts you in touch with other people who share your love for the profession.
When an interior design job comes open, you may well first hear of it on Twitter. And, who knows, one of your followers who's hiring may decide the best fit for the job is you — the person who's been tweeting all that sharp stuff about the business.
LinkedIn gets the lion's share of attention in online job networking. But Twitter offers a more subtle inside track. Plus, starting off is easier — no need to create an exhaustive profile listing your degrees, job history and testimonials. Just a simple one.
So get up and rolling on Twitter tout de suite with these four steps.
1. Create a Twitter identity that spotlights your professional goals. Head to Twitter.com and click the sign-up button. Choose your Twitter username, or handle, carefully. It's great if you can use your full name, but if it's taken, play around a little to find a good one. Avoid anything cutesy.
This account is now your online business card. It's not a personal page for your friends. So upload a close-up, good-quality profile photo, add a brief, targeted description of who you are professionally and what you do, your city and your state.
Use the short bio space to describe what you want out of your next career move. For example: "As an accountant with over 20 years' experience, I'm looking for a position in a nonprofit organization."
If you have a LinkedIn profile or website or blog address, link to it. And consider throwing in a (very) quick personal addendum to round you out as a human being. My account, for example, says "Passion: Horses."
2. Follow the right folks. Pay attention to websites of companies where you might want to work and then become their follower. Follow big personalities in the industry. Use the search box to find tweets by and about specific industries, companies and professions in which you're interested. Before you know it, you'll be following a mash-up of industry figures, bloggers, job boards, magazines, recruiters, professional networks, alumni associations and human resources personnel.
Resource: See AARP's Employer Pledge Program
Your screen will fill up daily with their tweets. Watch for job listings, but also for announcements that can mean jobs. For instance, if a business gets new funding, ships a new product or opens in a new region, it's a sign it may be actively recruiting.
3. Plug into job feeds. Twitter has dozens of job feeds for specific companies, industries and locations. Conduct a Twitter search to find relevant feeds starting with "#jobsearch" and then your keywords.
Or just type in keywords directly, and instead of executing the search, wait and a drop-down menu will appear with several matches. For example, hunt for "microsoft jobs" and you'll find Microsoft Jobs and Microsoft Cloud Jobs, among others. Search for "jobs chicago," and what you'll get will include Chicago Jobs and Chicago Civic Jobs.
There are also Twitter lists that are all about jobs. One example is Employers Recruiting.
Also, tap Twitter apps. CareerArc, for example, delivers targeted job openings directly to you. Type in the job title you're interested in or the skills you have, along with the city, state, and zip code of where you'd like to work, choose the desired delivery method and click "Send Me Job Matches."
4. Ramp up your Twitter etiquette. Twitter doesn't have many formal rules beyond the restriction that, for now, tweets can be no longer than 140 text characters.
But here's how to be appreciated in this forum. Read the posts of users you follow and tweet a reply only when you have something of substance to add. Try to post, share or retweet a handful of items each day. Make sure that the content you're sharing (or even clicking on as a like) backs the image you want to communicate. Never retweet something without reading it first.
Use a hashtag (#) before any keywords in your tweet (no space between # and the word) so that your tweet will show up in the Twitter feeds of users who are interested in the topic but may not be following you. A limit of two hashtags per post is best. Whenever you're referencing another Twitter user, type @, followed by the person's username (no space after @) so that the person knows you cited him or her.
The best way to connect with people you don't know is to follow them, retweet them and reply to their comments. But don't tweet to an individual. Instead, use the messages feature.
Block out time at least twice a day to engage online — perhaps an hour in total for Twitter and your other social media sites. Set a clock if you think you'll get pulled in for too long.
Finally, while online job hunting is productive, it doesn't mean you don't need to push back from the computer and go to real-world networking events or grab a coffee with someone to ask for advice and introductions. Yes, I know it sounds old-fashioned, but there's no substitute for meeting face-to-face and shaking hands.
Kerry Hannon is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies. She has also written Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy…and Pays the Bills. Find more from Kerry at Kerryhannon.com.