Twitter used to be my go-to service. There were times when I valued Twitter more than LinkedIn for building professional networks. I’m even published in earlier versions of John Lees‘ great book series How to Get a Job You’ll Love talking about how to use it for job searching. But since Elon Musk took over the service, it has lost its value to me. More so, I think it has become such a toxic environment that I have decided to shutter my account. Twitter will not be part of my New Normal.
Twitter hasn’t been “normal” for a while
Since the takeover, Twitter has become unreliable, as user experience and moderation have suffered from cuts. Some of those strike me as deliberate attempts to scupper representation from groups that had developed thriving Twitter communities, such as BIPOC and LGBTQ+ users (especially T).
Musk’s espoused “free speech absolutism” seems one-sided. The site invites back previously banned right-wing agitators and transphobes, while making it harder to curb their bullying and disinformation. The destruction of the verification system reduced the site’s value as a diverse source of news and relevant information.
My ideological qualms with the site aside, it is a lot less worthwhile as a professional engagement tool. So I have decided to invest my time elsewhere.
My Escape Plan
I held back for a while, hoping to see if this project of grinding down the site into the hellscape it has become would fail. But it hasn’t, so it’s time for me to move on. My escape plan is to preserve what I can of what I had on Twitter, while shuttering my account, but not closing it (yet). I’ll be around for maintenance and checking for unlikely improvements. I have not committed to an alternative platform, as maybe micro-blogging isn’t for me anymore.
I am finally moving all professional conversations about #edtech, #careers, #startups, #remoteworking, and #alumnirelations, etc. to my LinkedIn account.
I have started following individual voices I value (especially on LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and politics) on Instagram. This is not ideal since the cinematic Metaverse is as problematic as a Zack Snyder director’s cut. But the integration with Threads may still be an escape hatch I may want to use.
As I have always appreciated the simplicity and control that RSS feeds offer me, so I have ramped up the use of my Feedly account. I have much stronger control over the news sources while offering me search options beyond my immediate information bubble.
My Twitter account will be set to private while I further reduce my time on the site to a maintenance minimum. Twitter was problematic at its worst, but amazing at its best. X is just its worst, every day. No need to be sad about mothballing it.
1/11 tweets on using Twitter as a tool for #howgetajobyoulove, in support of @JohnLeesCareers new edition of How To Get A Job You Love #HTGAJYL. It’s not sponsored content, but I will be in the book. I like John and his advice is #IMHO excellent.
2/11 Create a Twitter profile connected to your #LinkedIn (Facebook & YouTube) profile. Use the same picture and mission statement throughout for consistency. Put your Twitter name on your CV. Disable any settings that automatically tweet – be selective. #HTGAJYL
3/11 Follow target #employers, their followers, #job tweets, relevant bloggers and experts in the field. Following others brings you followers. Make sure they are real and don’t spout only promotional or fake content. Curate your followers, block bots. Be choosy. #HTGAJYL
4/11 Use #LinkedIn to update Twitter not more than once a day. Never push all updates via LinkedIn, only work and audience relevant ones. Choose your message of the day wisely – always ask – what’s of most value to my audience? #HTGAJYL
5/11 Tweet a lot, say about 5 times daily to keep a flow. Some still use email alerts for #socialmedia sites – so don’t flood them. Consider e.g. Hootsuite to manage multi-platform posts: E.g. five tweets, one to LinkedIn, some to your Facebook page. #HTGAJYL
6/11 Only tweet what you think is relevant to your audiences. Use #hashtags picked up in relevant discussions, e.g. #HTGAJYL. Twitter at its best is funny, a snappy comment, a funny (but relevant) animated gif or short video shows you are fun to work with.
7/11 If something good is not worth retweeting, like it. People react well to likes.. Adding value to their #professional Twitter feed will be good PR for you and the people you follow. #HTGAJYL
8/11 Don’t worry too much about your original content at first, focus on sharing and adding value to others. Your first own tweets will always suck a bit. Relax. Twitter is immediate and boring content will just flow away. Move on. Others will, too. #HTGAJYL
9/11 Find your own voice: Write like you’re in a #job engaging with peers: talk about topics relevant to #employers in twitter chats. It is OK to sprinkle in your own, even political opinion. But never be rude or spread #fakenews. Never #mansplain. #HTGAJYL
10/11 The Offline world just about still rules the online world: go #networking and meet the people you tweet. Also, live-tweet from events. Even better, post pics, use Periscope to live stream and share your own YouTube videos. Visuals beat text every time. #HTGAJYL
11/11 Check interviewers’ tweets in advance, quote or refer to them if appropriate. They will check you in advance, you can do the same. Follow speakers, but don’t be creepy. Never say anything you wouldn’t in front of other people and to their faces. #HTGAJYL
Be vigilant about sticking to a well-crafted message
I think this is really applicable in the workplace – and is something that I’m careful about applying. Once a message has been agreed to, you’ve got to stick to it. In my current workplace, it’s ‘we need a career management system’, and we’ve stuck to that message (rightly) for four years. And, yes, it’s working – but it’s all about sticking to the consensus, and hammering home the this message. Of course it’s important to review your position regularly, and to change your policy if needed (with a message just as clear) – but inconsistencies must be avoided, as they will make things worse and may not be repaired.
Disclose bad news first – on your terms
I strongly believe that. If something’s bad, it will not get better by waiting. The earlier you are seen to deal with something, the more competent your handling of the situation will be seen – and you may get the chance to frame the terms of the debate. And then, apply the principle above. Read: ‘There’s a big issue with our company database, but rest assured, our new career management system will take care of it once and for all.’
Fill the void and ‘feed the beast’
That one was a new thought to me, but I’m down with it nonetheless: Don’t let people find holes in your coverage – because they will fill it with something negative. It’s all about finding creative ways to offer new information in the context of your message. Read in my example: ‘Just a quick update – our career management system is well on its way.’
When you’re organising a high profile event, it’s about three and a half months before the event that the really high-profile people’s diaries are getting more accessible again. So people you couldn’t invite around six months in advance might suddenly become available.
Personally, I don’t know where this one sits – but I just found it an interesting statement.
Never underestimate the value of a good crisis – if there is none, find one
Now while that one’s funny, I think there may be a lot of truth in it – and I’m sure it informs a lot of practice. Your decider – the higher the level – will not want to be confronted with a problem, or badgered with your personal hobby horse topic (see ‘career management system’ above). However, if it’s the solution to a problem you have identified, it may help you achieve your strategic goals.
Disclaimer: I’m of course not devious enough for this one – just reporting what I’ve heard…
Politicians want stories – experts want data
Now that I found interesting – and I think it also works for non-politician deciders, but anyone whose role focuses on convincing audiences to achieve their aims. I personally think I’m a bit of a hybrid on this one, as my role often requires convincing (like a politician), but my thorough academic grounding in my earlier life (thanks, Dad, and my mentor, the late Prof Laube): if you haven’t got evidence, you have no leg to stand with me. A story will to me only ever be anecdotal ‘evidence’, however, if the story is backed by credible data, then I’m in. I think this one comes back to knowing your audience – in retrospect a valuable lesson for me when I look back at some of my past talks.
So this is what I’ve learnt, and what I’m intending to apply.
This is an experiential post – I’m writing about my learning as I learn. I guess it’ll cause some ripples in The Matrix (by reversing the polarity of reality or something similarly esoteric), but I thought as an experiment this should interesting. I’m currently sitting in a fascinating training by @case_europe on managing public affairs in higher education. Now before you go off to snooze, please hear me out: while learning about this…
Bit of a hush in the room at #public13 as we hear about Harvard’s crisis communication problems during the Boston marathon bombing
… I’m also contemplating how I handle broadcasting events like this – and why I do it. As my friend @kleinrules tends to say, during events, I take over his Twitter feed, pushing message after message on what I’m learning.
I’m not good with classic note-taking. If I write something down in a list or on a piece of paper, I will forget it. Being able to browse my tweets is to me almost as useful as creating a mind-map.
It enables me to share my thoughts, and open them up to scrutiny by you. And this instant feedback is then again archived, giving me a chance to record and later go back to the discussion in retrospective.
And it obviously gives me an opportunity to become more visible in my field. Not only for vanity’s sake, but also because my roles require a certain level of sector-based visibility, and this enables me to do just that.
As a professional in work (as well as for any job seeker) all the above are helpful. In comparison to the days of yore (before social media) I can also:
Look up (and connect to) the participants in the room. Trust me, I’ve done this today already: I’ve looked up all speakers on LinkedIn and Twitter, and have followed and interacted with a number of participants on Twitter. This creates better, and more active relationships than giving each other business cards and then losing them or forgetting to email each other afterwards.
Create a write-up on my blog – this is what you’re seeing now. Again, it helps me remember better, and gives you a chance, dear reader, to perhaps learn from what I’ve learnt.
It is events like these, and the connections I’ve made in the last three years, especially using Twitter, which have made the strongest and most beneficial impact on my professional life, and I can only recommend this approach to anyone.
I would like to gleefully repeat this endlessly – and I am sure I’ll be able use this example in one of my seminars: the weakness of a troll is exposed not only in his ineptitude at sniping from anonymity, but also the social control mechanisms (the spectre of someone telling his mum) which bring him down. A meme is born.
Twitter is currently in the press for all the wrong reasons – some misogynist idiots are trying to silence vocal women on the internet. Actually, that’s not really news, as it pretty much happens every day, and not only on the internet. What’s different is not even the vile nature of the methods (rape, other violence and murder threats) but how publicly this is conducted. This is obviously well known to the trolls, and they are counting on their supportive audience to join in (and men in pubs to nod in agreement), expecting to overwhelm the victims with the sheer volume of intimidation. What they seemingly haven’t learnt, is that with every account they create, and every tweet they send, they create evidence against them – and duly, reports of arrests are coming in. And in an attempt to ruin someone else’s lives, they have ruined their own.
It’s very possible that the legal consequences will be limited – but they won’t be on the internet. You don’t need to be the NSA (although it obviously helps) to find out about what people do online – being a potential employer who checks the reputation of candidates online suffices. Having seen this troll’s clear name and picture, the impact of the trolling on the troll may even outlast the length of the impact on the victim. The words ‘you will never get a job’ spring to mind – and here’s where the social control kicks the troll again. Never mind what his mum will say – although it’s beautiful to see how just mentioning a dominant female figure in his life brought him down – it’s that everyone can forever see what he’s done, and he most probably will suffer for it.
What’s the lesson? I believe already that we’re living in an age of an anti-feminist backlash, and I know that social media are abused in this way. I’m pleased and fully support those who shout back, and I hope I can do my part. I won’t even be surprised if there’s some ill thought-through attempt by the government to punish the platforms (for the record, yes, I think Twitter’s management response has been fairly lame so far), ignoring the true issues causing the problem. What I’m learning from this is that nothing, absolutely nothing, and no one, is safe on the internet. Neither the victims, nor their trolls. Not those who shun social media, thinking they are safe (see my NSA reference above). Nor the state which thinks it can use it to spy on its citizens (enter stage: Edward Snowden). All our lives are now about the data trails we leave, and how they affect us in real life. I always used to say in my talks so far, that the offline world rules the online world – but I think we’re just about to see that change.
Today I am at a local employability fair, organised by our local council. I volunteered, after finding out about it in a newsletter. So I called them up, and offered giving advice for young job seekers on how to – and how not to – use social media in their job hunt.
As I don’t like handing out paper handouts, I’ve decided to use my blog (and Twitter) as a way to summarise my hints and tips – and comment on any results. I’ll be using the hashtag #cipdl2w for this, as I’m supporting the CIPD’s Learning to Work initiative – and this day is spent with our key stakeholder group – those young people…
I will update the blog throughout the day, from about 10.30 t0 13.30 (hoping someone will actually ask me any questions…)
Update 11:25: Things are going slow, as it’s sunny and shoppers are passing us by rushing their Saturday shopping. So I took to the opportunity to have a chat with the stand next to me, where youth work apprentice Katie is representing www.action4youth.org, an organisation that helps young people realise their potential by providing Summer activities, such as the National Citizen Service, and local community projects. Katie is on a one-year apprenticeship after finishing school. We talked about the challenges of choosing not to go to university, but to pursue what is clearly a professional vocation – helping young people learn new skills and gaining qualifications. Having worked with HE students all of my professional life, it was both refreshing and very interesting to see the world of work in a new light. With the current generation of young people having been given the impression that the only way to professional success is higher education, I found Katie’s perspective, and choice not only interesting, but also admirable – by not choosing the path tread by virtually everyone else, but to focus on what is important to her. And as my lesson for today so far, it’s nice to have a reminder what’s actually really important in the world of career decision making – and that is to do what you believe in.
Update 11:50: Interview with the organiser of today’s fair
Mel, who works for the local council, has organised this fair, because she wants to do something about youth unemployment, bringing together local partners and providers. It’s part of the local child poverty strategy – and Mel has organised similar events before, and will do so again. The fair makes excellent use of the footfall in a busy shopping mall, trying to access young people ‘hanging about town’ on a sunny Saturday. The aim is to get young people registering with the national apprenticeship service (www.apprenticeships.org.uk), sign up for workshops and training. And it’s great to see Mel at work, helping – often parents, thinking of their children – bridge that chasm between school, and the world of work. I join her on the now busy front desk, where requests from all demographics of the local community are coming in. What I really like about her and the fair she has organised, is the obvious enthusiasm and genuine passion Mel shows for this endeavour. What I’ve learnt from this is, is that opportunities to engage with – and help – the employability agenda are sometimes just around the corner.
For the final update, from the morning after go here.
I’m fascinated by this Edward Snowden business: yet another whistle blower gives us a glimpse of what our ‘free’ western governments are up to, namely collecting data (and I pretty much mean all data) to protect us from all sorts of evils – and how this somehow turned into a mechanistic collection of literally all available data. On everyone. You. Me. My cats. Nietzsche talks about how staring at an abyss ends up with the abyss staring back at you. Besides the obvious HP Lovecraft association, this raises an interesting point, often raised by people sceptical of modern technology, especially social media: what if someone uses all this knowledge against us? Should we not try to minimise our engagement, be careful what we post – and hope no one ever interprets what we do in some way that will look suspicious, even though we’re perfectly innocent? Well, I have to say: too late. What’s suspicious lies in the eye of the beholder, and whatever our level of engagement with social media, or the Internets in general – we have created a world in which we are surrounded by technology that observes us on a constant basis. Hell, I have a smartphone that decides not to darken its screen by using its front facing camera to check if I’m still looking at it! Talk about spooky. But, surprisingly, it doesn’t freak me out – I don’t expect anything else than that technology which can observe us, will be used for that very purpose; and if not by the state, then by commercially interested parties. I find it fascinating to see that our ‘modern’ and ‘free’ societies resemble the dystopian visions of 1970s sci-fi more than we would have thought possible then. Am I worried – yes, but I’ve been worried since then. But I must admit, I’m mostly fascinated, given that I have no control over this anyway – I have been probably staring at that abyss for just a bit too long.