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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.

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?


Emily Carrion is the Director of Marketing Communications at video advertising tech company Mixpo and serves on the Board of Directors of Seattle University’s Entrepreneurship Center.

She is active in the Seattle Start-up Community (a graduate of Founder Institute and a Start-up Weekend winner), loves to mentor budding entrepreneurs, travel, and play soccer. Connect with her @Emily_Carrion or



Tags: growth, improvement, inspiration, mentors, twitter,

3 Responses to “How to turn your “work crushes” into informal mentors: a guide to using Twitter lists for career development”

  1. Niki

    Emily, thanks for sharing this. I use Twitter lists too. I am currently using it to curate a list of players within the startup community in various cities. I currently have Singapore and Spain, I might be looking into adding Seoul in the mix. The reason being, I would love to help startups in these communities. Anyway, you’re right about using their feeds to learn and grow more as well as to keep adding more players into the list. I think it’s also a good way to be visible and makes for an easier introduction once I do get to meet them at a startup event.

    • Emily Carrion

      Hi Niki! I’m so glad you liked this piece. I’m glad to hear you use Twitter lists as well. You’re right, it does make it easier to be visible and make an introduction once you meet someone at an event. Best of luck in your endeavors to help startups!