Twitter for Young Professionals: Are You Using It to Your Advantage?

At risk of stating the obvious: there is no shortage of young professionals online. Despite this, for a long time many of my peers in my personal network weren't using Twitter. As someone who really loves it, I've never fully understood the complete lack of interest people had for so long. So you can imagine my excitement as I started to see some of my peers join Twitter and give it a shot. However it seemed like for every one person who joined, there was another one asking, “What’s the point of Twitter anyway?” Even more, I see a lot of my peers using their account for personal entertainment, often locking their profiles so that their timelines are kept from public view.

I know that that people use social media tools in many ways and that there is no "right way" or better way over another. I distinctly remember trying to understand the point of Twitter as well when I joined, and since then I have taken several different approaches to using it as I figured out what worked best for me. Therefore, I'm in no position to judge anyone's use of it.

However, after experimenting with my use of Twitter for nearly two years, last summer I decided to change my handle to my full name -@NikitaTMitchell – and focus on using my account for professional development and personal branding. This was one of the best decisions I’ve made regarding my use of social media as it has allowed me to fully take advantage of the following benefits of Twitter:

Growing your network.

I’m a networking junkie, but not in the lame ol’ networking event with business card in hand sense. I value true relationship building. I love connecting with new people over shared interests and discovering ways to support each other. Twitter is such a natural way to connect with folks because over time you learn more about people's personal and professional interests. Even more, you can choose when you want to engage in a conversation and even jump into interesting conversations between other people without it being awkward or inappropriate. Over time you begin to develop great relationships with people who are able to share valuable information with you and vice versa based on mutual interests.

And while some may say that such relationships aren't "real," I disagree wholeheartedly. Many of the people I spent months engaging with online were actually instrumental in my recent career switch. Some offered advice while others offered people to contact and organizations to consider in my job search. I also met some people in person (gasp!): I attended events where I met Rosetta, including the launch of her book Nonprofit Rockstar; I met with Charlene to talk about grad school and get some job search advice; And I also met up with awesome nonprofit bloggers like Akhila and Allison just because. What may have been a no-no when when we were kids is totally acceptable - and somewhat expected - behavior these days.

Keeping your pulse on a specific field or area of interest.

Whatever field of work you're in, I'm willing to bet that there is an awesome community for it on Twitter. Don't believe me? Check out this Google doc of Twitter chats. Whether you want to connect with young nonprofit professionals or journalists and PR professionals, Twitter is the perfect tool for keeping your pulse on what's going on. While chats typically take place once a week or month, by participating you are able to find individuals to follow and engage with over time. Here are a few chats to get you started:

  • #YNPChat: Monthly chat, happening the first Wednesday of every month, sharing tips and resources for Young Nonprofit Professionals. (1st Wednesdays of every month at 12pm EST)
  • #U30Pro: The chat that focuses on issues and trends surrounding young professionals. All ages welcome and encouraged to join. (Thursdays at 8pm EST)
  • #JournChat: Conversation between journalists, bloggers and public relations folks. (Mondays at 8pm EST)
  • #TNI: Traveler's Night In is a lively discussion about the world of travel, a different theme each week. (Thursdays at 3:30pm EST)

Having access to resources.

Just last week I was attempting to access a journal article on the link between microfinance and domestic violence but was having no luck. My first thought: ask my followers. Not only did a few individuals respond asking how they could help, one - shoutout to @wleerpcv - was able to send me exactly what I needed. An even better example: a few months ago when I was redesigning my blog I asked if anyone could help me with a header problem I was having. Someone suggested that I ask @Norcross because he's a Wordpress guru. A few tweets, emails and hours later, my header issue was fixed. Just like that a complete stranger had volunteered his time to help this novice who hadn't even been following him on Twitter only hours before. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. The moral of the story: you never know where you'll find the help you need. Oh.. and that @Norcross pretty much rocks socks!

For the more experienced Twitter users out there, what other benefits have you experienced from effectively using this social media tool? For those of you who are hesitant to use Twitter professionally, what's holding you back?