Connecting though Twitter: The Story of My First Suit

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Katie Smith, Assistant Director, Duke University Career Center
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Thumbnail Rewind a few years:

As I got home at 11 PM from my late-night graduate class, I was surprised by a package outside my apartment. The return label included the name of a woman I had been in communication with on Twitter. Inside were two professional suits and several long-sleeve dress shirts, as well as an incredibly thoughtful and encouraging note.

Sent from someone I had never met.

Social media can be a powerful thing.

I admit it—at first I wasn’t sold on Twitter. How much quality content could people possibly be sharing in 140 characters or less? I really didn’t care to read about what others were having for lunch.

I started to warm to Twitter about a year before I finished graduate school. I had heard from an alumna of my alma mater that Twitter was an open media space that would allow me to connect with and follow others who were doing the work that I was interested in. I began exploring the site and identifying Twitter users within my field. I caught on to the common hashtags that threaded relevant discussion topics and I logged on for themed weekly chats. I read articles and content that users shared, and started contributing my own.

Using Twitter, I collected recommendations for guest speakers to bring to campus as well as ideas for workshops and programs. Similarly, I shared my own work and ideas with those who contacted me in response to specific tweets. I developed a fast, interactive network.

Twitter became a powerful tool when I was active in reading, responding and contributing—what I got out of the site was a product of what I put in. I made connections and had discussions and quick exchanges with professionals across the country, and across the world. At one point, I debated a hot topic that I was writing a paper on with a woman who I later learned was a leader in higher education research—I hadn’t known until my professor pointed it out in surprise. Twitter made a community of like-minded professionals accessible.

And, the suit.

As I tweeted my way through my final two semesters of graduate school, another Twitter user in my field offered two suits in my size to a student with upcoming interviews. In need of professional clothes and on a tight budget, I responded. We exchanged contact information and, a few weeks later, two professional suits and additional dress shirts arrived at my door.

Twitter, like many other forms of social media, can be a powerful resource if used as a networking platform and opportunity. Like me, you’ll get out of it what you put in, so start exploring and determine a manageable level of engagement. If used actively, you can make connections and start conversations that otherwise may never have been possible.

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