After all the time spent writing resumes, cover letters and references, it may only take 140 characters to land a job.
At Elon University, students and faculty benefit professionally from using Twitter, the social media tool that boasts more than 230 million posts each day, according to the Huffington Post.
“I wouldn’t have this career without Twitter,” said Tyler Anderson, software developer at Iconfactory in Greensboro. “If used correctly, it may be the most important tool in finding a job after college.”
A few years ago Anderson replied to a tweet posted by a designer at the Iconfactory, asking if they had any internships open the following summer. Within a few hours, the company’s owner contacted him, and he had a position lined up.
Anderson is not the only Elon student who has built successful professional relationships using Twitter. Senior Kellye Coleman found a freelance social media branding job by being an avid tweeter.
“I saw that a small company needed an apprentice, and my Twitter, full of relevant Tweets, had a huge impact on me getting the job,” Coleman said. “My employer was able to see that I knew what was happening in the social media world.”
According to Ross Wade, assistant director of career services for the School of Communications, Coleman had the right idea. He said that by maintaining a Twitter account that demonstrates knowledge on a particular industry, students can distinguish themselves.
Showing an understanding of an industry may help students, but following knowledgeable business leaders is equally important, Wade said.
“Twitter is used to become known for good information, making a name for yourself,” he said. “But it also allows people to follow thought leaders in their profession, creating a resource that’s updated every day.”
Like Coleman, other students can use Twitter to establish themselves as passionate members of professional communities. Additionally, they can showcase their individuality and preferences, adding human interest to the job market.
“It’s important to keep your account linked to your personal life to bring humanity to the things you tweet,” Anderson said. “Most people don’t realize this, and stick to networks like LinkedIn, where the personal element is removed from the job search process. If it’s a positive reflection of you, let yourself show and people will connect with you.”
Adding character to tweets may create a more dynamic account, but should students manipulate the personality they present on Twitter?
“Students need to understand that any post could be accessed by potential employers in the future,” said Haya Ajjan, assistant professor of management information systems at the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business. “If a student’s strategy is to attract employers, then his or her profile on Twitter should reflect a professional image.”
Despite advice against it, some students advocate for honesty by putting their unedited selves on the Internet.
But with 44,395 users following TweetMyJobs, employers have the opportunity to see the personal posts on a student’s profile.
“If a company would not accept me because of what’s on my Twitter,” senior Alexa Johnson said, “that’s not a place where I’d like to work.”
Johnson, general manager of WSOE 89.3 FM, oversees Twitter accounts for the Elon University radio station, her talk show, “The Carnal Romp,” and the international literary magazine First Inkling. In addition, she maintains a personal account, which she calls “a bizarre mix of personal quotes and links.”
“My personal Twitter is pretty close to what my brand is,” she said. “If someone were to follow me, they would see who I really am, and that I’m crass, but I’m also funny.”
For some students, reaching a balance of private and professional content is the key to a successful Twitter account. Coleman, who admits to tweeting about her personal life, says she believes in presenting the best version herself.
“It gives people an opportunity to see your personality,” she said, “but it is also important to think about what way you’d like to represent yourself. The Internet provides ample opportunities for expression, but it also provides opportunities to make some silly mistakes.”
With the right image, Twitter can be used to maintain important relationships with companies, professionals and university alumni. Elon students may benefit from researching industry leaders and potential employees, according to Anderson.
“My best piece of advice is for students to follow people they respect in their potential field of employment,” he said. “Interact with them and establish connections. Networking for potential job opportunities has never been easier.”