Everything I Wanted to Learn About My Career I Learned From Twitter

Years ago, when I was bored, I’d get sucked into something like Minesweeper and stay up too late playing the damn thing.  Then I’d have dreams of flags and bombs where if I woke up in the middle of the dream, I’d have that feeling of quitting before I cleared a board.  The same thing happened later when I played Katamari Damacy.  I couldn’t look at clutter in real life without having the urge to roll it all up into a cute little multi-color ball.  (And at one point, I actually tried this at home.)

So when Twitter came around and after I few tries it finally took (or rather, I took to it), the same phenomenon happened.  I became engaged, er hooked.  It was bad enough that as an avid reader, I was someone who, from childhood on, imagined my own personal narrator throughout my day, but now I was doing it in short, first-person tweets.  The twittering behavior had bed out into the real world… or maybe it had been there all along.

Some may say that this is a bad thing, but we here are the real-life lessons we can take from twitter:

1. Keep your messages short.

If only all messages were 140 characters or less!  I often say higher ed tech folks are doubly blessed (or cursed) with academic overspeak and IT jargon.  If the message is shrouded in jargon, it’s easy to not to act on it.  Some people may honestly misunderstand and be too afraid to ask.  Others may throw language parroting the jargon of the day to feign activity.  But a short message is easy for people to follow or not follow.  And when it’s clear who isn’t, you can single them out and have the conversation to get them on board.

2. Expand and diversify your network.

Get to know as many people as possible.  Don’t limit yourself to people in your department and/or in your field.  Ideas and support can come from the most unlikely places.  Shelby Thayer’s thoughts on analytics gave me perspective on my own needs assessment for staff training.  And I work with people in human resources on a regular basis as well.  Forget about someone’s place in the organizational chart, someone’s educational background, and someone’s reputation for being critical.  Get to know as many people as you can.  Everyone has a place and serves a purpose in your network.

3. Listen.

I spend a lot of my time on twitter just listening to people.  Often getting to know people on a personal level has led to professional relationships later.  The same goes for the real world.  We are over-scheduled people.  Build time into your calendar for networking events so that you get to know people in your department and on campus.  We’ve had tweet-ups, karaoke nights, burrito-eating contests, battery-life contests, and an ice-cream social with the sole purpose of proving that root beer floats are not the best float flavor.  You never know what you may be able to do for one another.

4. Give more than you get.

Shannon Ritter, a.k.a. @micala, talks about how annoying it is that lately we’ve been spamming our friends to just to get free stuff. In twitter if we use our friends and colleagues, we lose them.   It works in real life too.  In campus politics there is official authority, the organization hierarchy, and unofficial authority.  That unofficial authority is the kind build from building a network of trust, from being a resources for others, and from doing a few favors.  It’s like a special currency that’s worth more in the bank than cashed in, you should be building your unofficial authority on favors more than spending it on them.

I’ll be presenting “Twitter Me This?”  with Robin Smail next week at eduWEB.

Church Sign photo by Wisely Woven

4 Responses to “Everything I Wanted to Learn About My Career I Learned From Twitter”

  1. Says:

    Hi Nikki,
    Glad you said that. In number 3, you mean that following people will lead them to follow us?

  2. Says:

    Twitter also helps me stay connected with people in my field (and outside of it) whom I never get to meet at tweetups, karaoke, etc., and to vicariously experience some of the conference events others get to attend. I’ll be following along with #EduWeb.

  3. Says:

    It is really big these days. I must say that Twitter is for everybody whether you are a celebrity or a common person.

  4. Says:

    I like your point about listening. It seems, on Twitter, that a lot of people use it to just empty their thoughts onto it! The most interesting people are those that engage with others through listening and coming up with interesting ideas. Good post.