If it seems as if I am very excited about the website Quora.com, I am. I am always interested in hearing what others have to say about topics I am researching. I am even more interested when I am listening to people who have more knowledge in that topic than I.
This is one of the many reasons why social media/social networking sites are so great–they are able to connect me to so many other people/ideas that I might not otherwise be exposed to. While it can be a voyeuristic experience, it can serve as a massive sharing platform. Find the right people, and you can learn a lot.
There lies the caveat. This is one of the many criticisms of finding information on such sites–credibility. While established sites such as Wikipedia have been found to be incredibly accurate, anyone with a computer and an internet connection can tweet, or blog (ahem) about…well…anything. Is the information biased? Is it correct? Have the facts been checked? Is the topic being represented, or is just a portion of the topic being covered? Is there an agenda? To get around this, some of these sites solve this problem by retrieving information from many users. The more people submit information on a particular topic, the more likely you, the reader, will likely get a true representation of the topic, and various viewpoints. This is one reason why Wikipedia is accurate. Each searchable item is checked many times over by its readers/contributors. As time goes on, readers may add or challenge facts listed.
Quora is similar to Wikipedia, in that multiple users may contribute to a question posted by a reader. From these questions, a thread is started, and people contribute their ideas. Because you must sign up to be a member, there is some culpability for your answers. And there is somewhat of an understood decorum, which keeps the conversation civil. All information on the website is searchable via search engine. Members may follow certain topics and may also follow certain contributors. While Quora tends to be frequented by a lot of business-minded people (there are a lot of start-up and venture capital threads), there are many other industries and disciplines covered.
So how can this help me explore and research different careers? A) What better way to get answers to your much-needed questions than to ask a bunch of experts? B) Or perhaps someone has already asked your question, or something similar to it. In which case, you can use the search function to find threads relevant to your questions. Here are a few pointers that may help you in your quest for information.
- It is great to read other interesting threads, as it always seems to give me new ideas that I had not thought of before. I may be researching a particular area or industry, but I may not know exactly the questions I want to ask. Reading other people’s questions and answers, often gives me more ideas, and consequently, more questions.
- Use it to connect with people. Like I mentioned previously, there is a protocol, and decorum appropriate for this arena. This site is visited by a lot of industry heavyweights. Perhaps you can search certain people and follow their threads (useful if you have an upcoming interview with a particular person). If you eventually like what this person has to say, you could possibly try to connect with that person. Again, use online etiquette (you can read more about online etiquette here).
- Participating in the discussion threads is a great way to practice communicating with others in a professional manner, in a professional forum.
- It can also be a good way to build a reputable online presence. If your contributions are noteworthy, accurate, and interesting, there is a good chance others may begin to follow you (should you start to post more often). This may be a great way to establish and build credibility in your field.
- You can set up alerts to different topics on Quora, to keep up with the conversations. If you are interested in certain industries and/or companies, this is another great way to keep informed. The more knowledgeable you are about target industries and companies, the more likely you are to land an appealing job, and to be successful once you start.
Remember that Quora can be a great resource. But brush up on etiquette if you feel you need a refresher. Lastly, do not over-promote yourself on Quora, or any such website. This is a quick way to lose credibility, and to alienate others. People are there to learn, not to be bombarded with spam, commercials, or over-the-top self-promotion.