Tweet your way to a job: using social media to develop your career

Development of your career, both in terms of progression, and the acquisition of new skills and knowledge, now belongs firmly in your court. Gone are the days when you could expect that sort of nurturing and investment from your employer. However, knowing where to start to make sure that your employability is enhanced through the development choices you make can seem daunting.

However, encouraging your natural curiosity as an instinctual tool and approach can reap benefits, particularly when harnessed by social media, in the form of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and other emerging channels. This means you can develop your career without having to leave home, spending lots of money on expensive courses or embarking on projects without being entirely clear how they can benefit your career. Putting some time aside to indulge your curiosity through social media makes it easy to research, map and plan the activities you want to undertake to stretch you, help you grow and position you well for future opportunities. It also makes you and your knowledge more visible to both current and future employers.

How to channel and develop your career curiosity through social media:

Reframe your View

Don’t think of social media sites such as LinkedIn purely as a way to find a job, view them as a place to be curious, to find out about your own career possibilities, and learn about the experiences of others. If you’re thinking of career change you can research what others with similar work experience or skills have gone onto to do, or if you’re planning your next move you can check out the skills and qualities valued by the companies you want to work for – are they recruiting a certain kind of candidate?

Improve your digital career literacy

Be curious about your own digital career literacy and self audit – what could you do to improve how you use online resources to develop your career?

Can you learn to use new technologies and opportunities in the context of career building, for example, when you find a new site such as Pinterest are you able to evaluate how useful it could be to your career?

Can you source and interpret online career information without becoming overwhelmed? Do you have systems for retaining and utilising such resources? Can you check it’s provenance?

Can you communicate effectively across different platforms and understand how doing so contributes to building your career?

Are you aware of how your online contributions contribute to your career presence? What is the career presence you want other online users to view of you?

Consider how you use these resources: are you using Twitter only for social purposes – review whether it could be an avenue to develop, to share your views and learn more from others in your field, and set up a separate Twitter account; similarly with LinkedIn – if you just have your CV on there and haven’t contributed to any groups then you could be missing opportunities to connect, learn and share knowledge with others. When you self-audit think what would a potential employer/client  find out about you and what would you want them to see?

Have a plan/strategy

Curiosity can lead us to explore mainly different directions so to keep a balance think about why you want to use these tools – what is the purpose? Is it for job searching, job researching, profile raising, networking or career learning? Make a note of interesting avenues that you may want to explore at another time.

Have a Presence

Just having a social media presence can encourage ‘happenstance’ to occur, where chance opportunities and connections lead to career possibilities which you may not have previously considered, for example, finding a mentor or rediscovering an old workmate who now works at a company that you are really interested in.

Follow your instincts

Some may call it nosiness I prefer  curiosity – let it guide your  actions, see potential and think laterally, for example, online researching of people you have met or heard speak at an event in order to understand their world view – this is a great way to discover how you can best connect with them in order to develop your career. Could they be someone you can learn from? Could they be a role model? Or could they simply be someone doing the job you ultimately would love to do? You can learn a lot from the route they have followed and can incorporate elements into your own career plan.

Share and extend your knowledge

What don’t you know?

Being aware of and curious about gaps in your career knowledge can guide your decision to join and contribute to LinkedIn group discussions, share tweets, write blogs or post links and articles on Facebook. Doing this can provide you not only with peer support but also help you stay up to date. Plus your own profile is raised and, your credibility as a source of knowledge will build your career confidence and help develop further contacts and connections. Employers will really value this.

If you’re jobsearching, then being seen and perceived as someone who takes their continuous professional development seriously through contributions to current debate and discussion can only enhance your attractiveness.

Be brave

The effectiveness of any online tool lies in the hands of the user, but these tools are going to grow and grow so it is important to be brave and be curious in order to make them work for you.

Don’t forget to question, analyse, reflect and explore the career information and the way you use it –  important factors in constructing a sense of yourself,  your career and how you want to develop it.

For help with your career development get in touch at [email protected]

First published on Guardian Careers site in 2014.

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