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Turn Twitter into your career search engine

This might surprise you: In today’s job market, 94 percent of companies are using social networks to find candidates, and nearly 80 percent of jobs are found through networking. The fact is that social media is one of the best ways to connect with recruiters directly, and to connect with current employees at companies you are interested in.

In this first blog post, I’m going to lay out steps to jump-start your career search using one of the largest, and most popular, networking sites: Twitter. Don’t stress if you don’t have a large number of followers. What's important is how you use Twitter to accomplish your career goals. Here’s my step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Complete your Twitter profile.

This includes uploading a professional picture that best represents who you are, as well as adding a bio that positions you as an expert in your field. The bio should focus on your best skills and the audience you want to serve. For instance, you might be a “Business Marketing Expert for Enterprises.” Go ahead and add your current location, too. That will open up local networking opportunities for you. And finally, throw in your professional website or LinkedIn profile.

Step 2: Start thinking about your goals.

Using the Phoenix Career Guidance System™, you can review the type of profession and industries you’d like to pursue, and then make a list of companies that have openings in those areas. If you’re not sure who has openings, head over to indeed.com. It aggregates jobs from numerous sites online, and you can filter your search by job type, title and even salary range. Handy, right?

Step 3: Dive into the fun stuff.

Surf back to Twitter and do a “people” search using Twitter.com/search-home. This will help you find employees who work at companies on your list. For instance, if you were interested in database marketing at company XYZ, you’d search for “company XYZ” and “marketing.” Within seconds, you’ll see the company’s corporate Twitter account and current employees, one of whom might happen to be a member of the marketing team.

Follow as many people as you can manage. If you want to take your search up a notch, log on to Twellow.com; it’s a Twitter user directory that ranks results by number of followers. This tool will help you identify the most popular employees at your target companies.

Step 4: Begin communicating.

Start simple at first. Just Retweet people you’re following. When you get more comfortable, ask them questions and share any facts, ideas or quotes they might like. It’s also great to point them to helpful resources. For instance, you can Tweet “@EmployeesName check out this report by @CompanyName about how ‘big data’ is the next frontier for innovation http://tinyurl.com/cplxu6p.” This Tweet shows that you want to connect with the person and that you’re following trends in your profession. 

Step 5: Direct message (DM) your followers.

If people follow you back, set up a time to talk on the phone or in person. If they don't respond immediately, follow up every three days, up to twice. Your direct message could say something like, “I've enjoyed following your Tweets about business marketing. Are you available to talk offline about it?”

If you don’t hear back from a few people that you DM, don’t give up. It’s a numbers game, and all it takes is one response to make a difference in your career.

Dan Schawbel is managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, and bestselling author of “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.”

Sponsored by University of Phoenix.