How Twitter saved my career… and my life

There was a time when I refused to join Twitter, both because I am suspicious of anything being touted as the next. best. thing. and because I didn’t want the site consuming all of my free time. When I finally began using Twitter, it was much in the same way others did: sharing my thoughts and interesting links with other users. It wasn’t until I was suddenly laid off from my job that I truly understood the power of the site and social networking.

When I was first laid off from my position at a respected magazine along with a substantial number of other staff members, I was devastated. By then, Twitter had become an integral part of my day and before my supervisor could finish the call I had already tweeted: “I JUST GOT LAID OFF. Anybody have a job?”

Other journalists and colleagues who I had friended over the past several months sent knowing tweets of empathy and support, but had no jobs, only words to offer. I was moved by the support, but after the replies stopped coming, my termination began to feel like a meme: a here today, gone tomorrow event with a sudden and widespread rise in popularity, but forgotten even more quickly. Still, I went about the business of applying for jobs, comforted by the fact that anyone who googled me would find the tweet “Someone should hire Mark Luckie.”

I honestly expected to find a new job immediately after being downsized, but weeks turned into months and it became increasingly clear that, despite my unique skills, I wasn’t going to find another job as soon as I’d hoped. I felt an unshakable sense of isolation and despair sitting alone in my apartment day after day, so to fight it I threw myself into my blog and ramped up my use of Twitter: talking and sharing ideas with people, most of whom I had never met in person, but who kept me from constantly thinking about my job situation. It was through Twitter that I realized that thousands of journalists were being laid off from newsrooms around the country and that I wasn’t alone.

As the months crawled by, it seemed as if I would be unemployed forever. For weeks I considered changing my career to something other than journalism, even though I have an unabashed love and passion for the craft. It was on the days that I was feeling at my lowest that I would still send a tweet about something fascinating I’d seen online. The most casual tweets, often written to take my mind off my situation, were retweeted hundreds of times, which lifted my spirits and made me feel like I still had the natural ability to spread the news.

It was at the point where I was on the verge of shifting my focus to a field other than journalism that a few of my online friends or followers would send a note encouraging me to stick with something I knew and loved. I also was inspired by @RandomtoReason to write the book I’ve always wanted to write and reminded me why I love journalism in the first place.

It was through Twitter that I ramped up my job search, following users like @themediaishirin who listed journalism jobs I knew I was potentially qualified for. The tweets gave me hope that there were jobs out there, and though I hadn’t landed one yet, there did exist.

In the end, it was through a traditional online job board that I discovered the Center for Investigative Reporting and an opening for a multimedia producer position at its new California Watch project. More than most other jobs, I applied knowing that not only could I possibly be free from the shackles of unemployment, but more importantly I would be a part of an innovative organization that had the power to transform what journalism is and can be. Finally, in August 2009, I was hired to become a part of the California Watch team, ending an eight-month span of unemployment.

Over the course of my unemployment, my Twitter account grew from roughly 2,000 followers to more than 5,000, and it was undoubtedly these impressive numbers and a demonstrated knowledge of the power of social media that played a role in my hiring and differentiated me from others with similar skills.

It took being unemployed to really understand how Twitter could be used to foster community and relationships, a community that ushered me through a really dark time. Now I start a new chapter in my life and career with the cumulative knowledge and support of the Twitterverse to help me along the way. I look forward to interacting with many more of the brilliant minds on Twitter and to find even more new and exciting ways of using the service. For me, Twitter will always be both a guardian angel and one kick-ass job placement board.


Also on 10,000 Words:

10 Journalists you should follow on Twitter
How to analyze your Twitter followers and friends
The top 7 mistakes new Twitter users make
Beyond Twitterfeed: Innovative uses of Twitter in the newsroom