By: Diane Stirling
Tweets are the ties that bind where Alyssa Henry is concerned.
That’s what the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications graduate, School of Information Studies (iSchool) graduate student, social media strategist/editor and gregarious young woman told her audience at the last #140challenge. “Twitter serendipity” has played a pivotal role in her life, she said, driving academic experiences, professional opportunities, and social media relationships that never would have occurred if she hadn’t adopted the social media platform. Now, Alyssa hopes that the occupational and personal base she has built, one tweet at a time, will help launch a career when she graduates in May.
Uniquely, Alyssa was in the Twitter space before the medium became cool—or commonplace.
At a Newhouse professor’s urging, she started tweeting from classes and campus events in 2009. Few students were doing so then, and she achieved some visibility, a career stepping-stone. “I was using Twitter to share things I was passionate about; it became a way for me to take my personality and put it online,” Alyssa noted.
That same professor, seeing Alyssa construct her personal brand, then asked her to build and manage the Twitter account for The NewsHouse, the Newhouse School’s online news site. That ground-up feat led to Alyssa’s selection to the team that developed Syracuse University’s initial social media identity and implementation plan. Soon, other opportunities presented: speaking engagements and the chance to meet social media experts. At a charrette explaining SU’s social media initiative, iSchool Dean Elizabeth Liddy approached Alyssa to ask if the undergrad had considered graduate study – particularly at the iSchool.
The discussion resulted in Alyssa’s acceptance to the Information Management program as a graduate assistant on scholarship. Further serendipity ensued. Alyssa became managing editor of the iSchool’s official blog; joined the staff at the iSchool’s NEXIS space, a center for New Explorations in Information Science; served as a teaching assistant for a social media professor; and twice attended the industry’s SXSW conference, where she befriended some of her favorite industry experts and cemented her online friendships.
Far more than just a pastime, Twitter can be an essential tool in one’s life, as well as an avenue to success, Alyssa told the audience. “Almost everyone I interact with, in my personal and professional life, I interact with on Twitter—and most of them I met on Twitter before I met them in person,” she said. “I attribute a lot of the success I’ve had to the iSchool and the Twitter presence that I’ve accidentally stumbled upon.”
Alyssa’s take regarding her online presence is as unique as her personality. She uses her personal account for all social media communication, and doesn’t separate accounts. “Who I am personally is who I am professionally. The employers I want to work for are the ones who are going to hire me because of what I say on Facebook,” she explained—rather than them not hiring her because of those posts.
She offered advice for others using social media avenues, because “Social media is about faces, not logos.”
• Be passionate; let others see what you’re doing. (“It’s a great reflection, and people will see and remember that.”)
• Be friendly. (“That sounds like a kindergarten thing, but it’s really important online to represent yourself that way.”)
• Be yourself. (That transparency is necessary, she believes.)
• Take online offline. (“Take the connections you make online and connect in person with people. Make the relationships real to be able to do something actionable.”
• Create your own opportunities. (“If the perfect job isn’t out there – make it happen for yourself.”)
With graduation ahead, Alyssa is busy networking with online and in-person connections to search for a job. If she could create the perfect one for herself, it would be live-blogging or live-tweeting TV shows, or in a newsroom curating news as it happens, along with reactions to it. She’d like to work in New York City, near her Staten Island roots.
‘The great thing is, these jobs exist now when they didn’t before,” she said. “In the two years I’ve been in grad school, those changes have happened, and there is now a place for someone like me.”
To others job-hunters, she advises that the search doesn’t have to be bounded by norms. “You don’t have to do a traditional job search; you can just put yourself out there in the best way possible. You can use Twitter to create opportunities for yourself.”
So, stay tuned…the approach appears to be a tried-and-true one for Alyssa.