Going to college has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. However, the real value of college hasn’t been limited to what I learn in class. I’m not talking about developing social skills or experiencing life lessons. I’m talking about real, career-specific learning that is taking place online.
Today, I learn more practical, real-life information about my fields of study on Twitter than I do at school. As with any good social technology, the real value isn’t about Twitter – it’s about the people who use it. And many of the people who are using it are leaders in their respective fields.
Let’s say you’re interested in technology companies. Following tech blogger Robert Scoble on Twitter (@Scobleizer) gives you a great view of what topics he thinks are important to read about and what his thoughts are on those topics. Interested in how the CEO of a web company thinks about his work? Try following Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (@Zappos).
Twitter doesn’t magically give you the ability to ask these people anything you want, but it really does provide valuable insight into how they spend their time and the way they think. The wealth of information on the Internet is unquestionable, but finding what you need in an efficient manner is a daunting task. Rather than visiting 50 blogs a day and 20 newspapers, I rely on the people I follow on Twitter to bring those articles to me. If you follow the right people, they essentially become your ultimate RSS feed. I don’t waste time searching for what to read, I let established industry leaders point me to what’s important.
This approach is certainly more valid for some industries (technology, marketing, pr) than others (engineering). Think about leaders in your industry and see if they are active in social media. If they are, try following everything they post for a week, or even a day. I’d love to hear if you found the experience valuable or enlightening in any ways. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that the differences between that industry leader and you are smaller than you thought. And who can’t use a little confidence boost once in a while?