Turn Your “Work Crushes” into Informal Mentors with Twitter Lists

Originally posted on Popforms on November 8th, 2014

I recently had the opportunity to lead a panel on Authenticity at Seattle Startup Week. During the discussion, one of the presenters, Shauna Causey, asked the audience to “raise your hand if you have a mentor.” I was shocked to see only a few hands go up. Shauna went on to speak about the benefits of having a formal mentor whom you or your company meets with (in person) on a regular basis, but she also introduced the audience to the less obvious opportunity to develop informal mentors.

Finding a formal mentor can be hard since people are busy and getting introductions can be hard when you’re new to town or breaking into a new industry (more on this in a future post). If you’re looking to expose yourself to great advice and topical insights without actually tracking down a mentor, you don’t have to look any further than your Twitter feed.

I started by setting up a private Twitter list of specific people I wanted to learn from. Since visualizing the future is important to me, my list is mostly comprised of influential women in technology and marketing, people who are one or two steps ahead of where I’m at in my career (I named my list “Ballers.”)

I keep my list purposefully small so that the feed is consumable, and as a result I feel a more intimate connection to the people on it. The list continues to change and grown as I discover and meet new amazing women, and I frequently pick up relevant news and interesting tidbits that I can apply to my life and my job.

Some things I consistently discover from the movers and shakers on my list:

I learn what they read and where they get information. This has allowed me to expand my knowledge base and develop my own list of go-to-sources when I have a specific question.

I learn who they think are influential so I can keep adding to my list of “Ballers.” The women in this list constantly open my eyes to other amazing people, so I pay attention to who they retweet or comment on.

I learn what they think about, what drives them crazy, and what gets them excited. I find comradery with these women because they are experiencing many things I run into in my own life. I also get to learn how they handle situations I haven’t yet been through, how they celebrate big wins and how they overcome challenges.

I learn about really cool opportunities. These women are very well connected and often share job openings, speaking opportunities, and upcoming events.

I learn what they care about. I hope to meet and have an offline relationship with each of the members of the list. By following them, I have conversation starters for when that happens.

More ways to use Twitter lists for development

Another important list I’ve created is called “Awesome People/Influencers.” This list is much more diverse and includes more of the usual suspects – it has bigger names in tech and beyond, all people who share very valuable content. This list has absolutely made me smarter, and I’ve learned about opportunities through it, such as the Coaching Fellowship, which I discovered via one of Adam Grant’s tweets.

Adam Grant Tweet

I have learned A LOT by using Twitter lists (here is a quick how-to), particularly from following influential women in tech. Have you tried creating a list of your “work crushes?” What have you learned?

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