@Short_and_Tweet

Picture-2Twitter=fun social media app. Also way to get jobs and #network. Like #FB but tinier and w/ more prof uses. Stats are 140 chars max. Get it?

If you don’t, you might want to give Twitter a second look — tweets like the one above might one day get you an interview, or even secure you a full-time job.

Twitter has been quickly growing in popularity of late, with a study done by Compete.com revealing the site jumped from the 22nd most popular social networking site in Jan. 2008 to the third most popular in Jan. 2009, behind Facebook and MySpace.

Facebook itself has been making changes to its setup that tend to resemble Twitter. Earlier this year, they redesigned users’ home pages to make status updates more prominent in a “News Feed.” Yesterday they enabled users to “tag” friends in status updates, an action almost identical to Twitter’s “@mention” feature.

While Twitter was originally designed to simply ask, “What are you doing?” users are now utilizing it for everything from citizen journalism to bargain hunting.

One of the more unique new and growing uses of Twitter is its role as a resource for job hunters. Twitter accounts can be used to follow potential employers, keep an eye out for random job openings and establish an online profile companies can study before they offer an interview. It’s a new direction for Twitter, and both students and recent graduates plan to take full advantage of it.

Having a presence

Paige Jorgensen, a senior in the College of Communication, is one of the many Marquette students using Twitter as another tool in the job hunt. She said she follows companies she is considering working for, and asks teachers who use Twitter to reference her in their own tweets.

In one particular instance, she said, her page traffic increased by 1,500% after a teacher retweeted, or directly quoted, something she had said and posted a link to her Twitter page.

It’s this online “presence” that Craig Kanalley, a graduate student studying journalism at DePaul University, says is necessary to effectively use Twitter.

“It’s so important just to have a presence…not just posting about what you had for breakfast,” Kanalley said.

In addition to his studies at DePaul, Kanalley is also teaching one of the first classes on Twitter, called “Digital Editing: From Breaking News to Tweets.” Kanalley said the class’ purpose is to teach students how to break news via Twitter by using his Web site, Breaking Tweets. It will also teach students the importance of building web presence.

According to Kanalley, most college students don’t see the value of Twitter beyond its social networking uses. He admits not liking the concept when he was originally introduced to it.

“I was really skeptical about it,” Kanalley said. “I thought it was kind of dumb.”

Now, Kanalley sees the benefits of the site. Because of his presence on Twitter, he has been actively recruited to write for both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, receiving some freelance work and an internship, respectively.

“Using Twitter is easier than people might think…half the battle is just being there,” Kanalley said.

Now hiring qualified tweeters

Companies are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon as well, and it’s giving students an opportunity to get jobs by using the social media they use every day.

Mandi Baronas, a junior in the College of Communication, is one student using Twitter in her everyday job. Baronas works at the Career Services Center, where she runs the CSC Facebook and Twitter accounts.

While the accounts mostly provide job hunting tips and job opportunities, Baronas said she wants to make the site more personal and to increase student interest in career services.

Having a Twitter account and keeping a constant presence can be useful even if the job you’re looking for doesn’t require Twitter. Kari Dunham, a 2009 alumna of Marquette, said that during her interview for her present job at Finn Digital, the people interviewing her looked at her Twitter page and studied it as they would a resume.

“Having Twitter helped me get a job,” Dunham said.

Dunham is presently an interactive account executive for Finn Digital, which helps companies utilize interactive online media and social media. While she doesn’t personally run the company’s Twitter account, she said she does use Twitter to communicate internally with her fellow employees, and also tries to keep tabs on the Twitter pages of similar agencies.

“It’s really good as an agency to know what other agencies are doing,” Dunham said.

Bill Finn, founder and president of Finn Digital, said his company’s Twitter account generally fulfills the role that a full blog would by communicating to clients and consumers.

“Twitter is a micro-blogging format, with the emphasis on micro,” Finn said.

He added that his company’s Web site is set to automatically post any tweet they submit on their front page, allowing them to utilize the tweet in multiple locations.

Finn also said his company uses Twitter to help clients discover if Finn Digital products or brands are positively perceived by consumers.

“We can use Twitter as a way to tap into the larger consciousness,” Finn said.

Tweeting constructively

Just having a presence isn’t enough, however.

“I don’t think listening only will help you,” said Daradirek Ekachai, associate professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations. Ekachai primarily teaches public relations classes and said she hopes to make social media a greater part of the curriculum.

Ekachai said she feels Twitter is a great networking tool for students to use, but only if they put forth something constructive, instead of their own personal thoughts.

“If your intent is to brand yourself in a professional way, you may want to contribute,” Ekachai said.

Students like Baronas echo Ekachai’s advice.

“Don’t always tweet about what you’re doing,” said Baronas, who described her Twitter account’s general persona as “hinging on professional.”

Baronas said while she does use Twitter to keep up with friends, she also tries to get into conversations with other people for networking purposes.

“I’ve made connections with people who could possibly help me out with a job one day,” Baronas said.

Still, just because you’re using Twitter to get a job doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be all business. Ekachai said a successful Twitter account should make a user seem approachable, while still being authentic, credible, and professional.

“Always try to create a good image by tweeting something fun, or interesting,” Ekachai said. “Twitter can be more like your personality.”

Playing it smart

While Twitter might be an incredibly useful tool for job hunting and networking, putting yourself out onto the Internet is not without its pitfalls. While potential employers can see your interests and skills, they can also see if you drunkenly update your Twitter status at three in the morning, or if you impulsively complain about your current boss in a moment of irritation.

Lukas Sparks, a senior in the College of Business Administration, said there are two things to be aware of when posting a Twitter status: recruiters can potentially see it, and whatever you tweet will be there forever.

“You have to treat a status update as if a recruiter was looking at it,” said Sparks, who added that employers now routinely Google search prospective employees before interviews.

Ekachai shares Sparks’ opinion.

“If you want to be on Twitter, you have to be careful with your handle,” Ekachai said. She also said  Twitter is the equivalent of an online resume, and it needs to be protected.

Despite all the potential problems with Twitter, Ekachai is still solidly behind it.

“If you play it smart…use it wisely, use it to your own benefit — that will be beneficial to you,” Ekachai said.

One last warning for users: people who use Twitter don’t really need to know you’re hungry or have class, so your tweets should always have substance.

“Don’t create more noise,” Ekachai said. “People want to learn something from you.”

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