Photo by respres
It started with this article, from the Wall Street Journal.
This woman was quoted saying that she didn’t email or call anyone when she needed a job. Instead, she sent them a message through Twitter, a site that allows you to communicate in short, 140-character messages (you’re probably heard of it, because the media is a little obsessed with Twitter lately). When I read it, I thought, what the hell? Why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you use every available means?
The article made the rounds, at least in my circle. Four or five different people forwarded it to me, with messages along the lines of, “I guess this is the new way to get a job, huh?”
I though, ohhhh, here we go. This is going to encourage all kinds of stupid.
Sure enough—bunches of people I know are “finding a job through Twitter.” This seems to involve signing up, putting your job title and field in your “One Line Bio” (which really IS one line, because it’s not the point). Then they sit quietly, waiting for lightning to strike. They follow only people they know in real life (and maybe a few celebrities). They occasionally tweet about the weather or what they’re having for lunch. Mostly, though, they wait to be discovered, like Lana Turner at a drugstore. Then, a few weeks later, they say, “I tried that Twitter thing and it didn’t work. No one contacted me about a job. It’s stupid.”
Here’s the thing though:
There is no chance that you are going to get a job through Twitter. NO CHANCE.
You get a job through HUMANS. There’s no way around this.
Don’t get me wrong–Twitter is a great tool for a job hunter, for a couple of reasons:
- It’s easy to follow strangers. When I get a LinkedIn invitation, my first question is, “Do I know this person? What’s the connection?” I look for some reason that I should connect to them. When I get a Twitter follower request, the bar is much lower. If their bio or tweets look interesting, and they’re not all spammy, I’ll generally follow. As a result, my LinkedIn connections are almost entirely people I know in real life, but my Twitter gang is deliciously diverse. I talk to some HR people, some genealogists (my other big thing), some stay-at-home and work-at-home parents, some bloggers, some people in states I used to live in, a few old friends, and even the guy who plays Dwight Schrutte on The Office (although, tragically, he doesn’t talk back). Most of these are people I never would have met if I’d applied the same standards I do for LinkedIn or Facebook (if I used Facebook—that’s a whole other post).
- It’s easy to talk to strangers. I’m not what you’d call a bubbly extrovert, so talking to complete strangers, especially in a networking-for-a-job situation, is not always fun for me. I can do it, but I need ice cream afterward. The nice thing about Twitter is that the culture allows you to just…start talking. If someone you don’t know at all has a job interview, for example, you can say, “Hey, good luck on that!” They respond, and before you know it, you’ve got a new friend. Twitter is the one place where you can just strike up a conversation with some random person you think is interesting, without seeming like a weirdo. That means you can significantly expand your network in a short period of time (and add some cool people to your circle of friends).
Just being signed up, though, isn’t going to get you anywhere, because the point is that you have to connect with humans. The reason Twitter and other social networking tools are valuable is because they help you connect with humans. They have no inherent value; it’s all about giving you the means to connect with humans. No one is going randomly check out your weather-and-lunch tweets and say, “You! I want you! Take this job, please!” You need to build relationships with actual human beings.
There may be actual human beings who are interested only in your local weather and your lunch menu, but they are unlikely to be in a position to help you get a job. You’re going to have to contribute more to the conversation than that. If you’re sitting there like a bump on a log waiting for something to happen, you’re going to have a very long wait.
Think about how you make friends in real life. You might start out talking about the weather, but you have to quickly move on to sharing a lot more of yourself, and encouraging the same from others. Otherwise, the relationship never grows. The same is true on Twitter (or LinkedIn or Facebook or anywhere else). If you’re not willing to invest in relationships, you can’t expect anyone else to invest either. Since helping you find a job is a pretty significant investment…well, step it up. Jump in. Help someone ELSE find a job (or decide what seeds to start for the garden, or catch up the The Real Housewives of New York City gossip, or get through a rough day, or whatever). It seems like a brave new world out there in terms of job hunting, but it really isn’t. It’s always been about humans. We just have more tools now to connect to other humans.
Don’t mistake the means for the end, and don’t think the tools are going to do the job for you.
You can follow me on Twitter at @cluewagon. I only tweet about the weather when it’s really dramatic…which, in Milwaukee, is more frequent than you might think. I never tweet about lunch, because I mostly eat leftovers. If you see random strings of letters, that’s my 18-month-old tweeting; he loves to pound the keyboard. Don’t worry, he’ll stop as soon as I lure him away with more cheese curds.