“It’s all about who you know” is a popular saying for a reason, illustrated by the fact that over 70% of all jobs are found through networking. As a tech pro, you might already be getting a lot of random job opportunities in your inbox, but they are just that: random. Even if you’re not actively job searching, maintaining your networking presence sets you up for future roles that can be exactly what you want instead of what’s thrown at you. With that in mind, there are many ways to maximize your career through networking in tech.
You work side by side with your coworkers. Sometimes you even have the same role and share the same skill sets. For these reasons, it’s easy to forget that coworkers can provide a tremendous boost to your career by connecting you to their vast network of past colleagues, supervisors, and friends. Since any of a coworker’s contacts could represent an avenue to a future position, it’s a good practice to build genuine relationships in the workplace. For those tech pros working remotely, utilizing popular coworking spaces such as LiquidSpace, 42Floors, and WeWork can provide the same benefits.
Of course, maintaining a LinkedIn account is a basic requirement for any tech pro serious about growing their career. However, effectively using the platform takes more than just setting up a profile. The best LinkedIn networking happens when you stay active by sharing articles, writing your own, and commenting on or liking others’ updates. Adding new connections to your LinkedIn network, even when they are strangers, is common practice, so don’t be shy.
Additionally, the internet is more than just social media. There are countless websites and forums dedicated to tech pros, some devoted to the very niche you specialize in and others that facilitate more broad conversations. Participation here is yet another way to build a stronger network of IT peers and industry leaders.
While online networking opportunities can build a foundation, looking someone in the eyes and shaking their hand fosters a strong connection that can otherwise take weeks or months to build. Tech conferences, which often have ice breakers and agenda items designed for networking, typically present great opportunities and are prevalent across the country. In Michigan, there are conferences geared toward nearly every tech niche including AI, fintech, data science, blockchain, and more.
Likewise, meetup groups like the Grand Rapids Mobile Development Group can boast hundreds of local members and act as a slightly more casual environment to connect in. Organizations such as the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation or your local alumni association hold events throughout the year that provide similar opportunities. Most attendees come to these functions precisely for networking purposes, so introducing yourself becomes a world easier.
Hackathons are popular because they’re a fun way to put your in-demand tech skills to work outside the office, but they also represent prime networking opportunities. While strong relationships can quickly be built between strangers competing with or against each other, the best part is that you don’t even have to compete for a hackathon to improve your networking.
Many hackathons and tech competitions have an audience, meaning simply attending one can introduce you to a host of peers and industry insiders sitting beside you. Formal question and answer sessions with competitors plus social hours before and after the events help as well. No matter your technical skill set, hackathons are great networking tools and take place regularly in Michigan and across the country.
Tech pros are often focused on how they can network inside their own field. While this in itself isn’t a problem, it does neglect opportunities to connect with those outside the industry who could still refer you to a great tech role. For example, if you’re coaching your child’s soccer team and one of the other parents is the accountant of a company that is about to hire several tech positions, that gives you an in for a role you wouldn’t have heard about otherwise.
In fact, 80% of job openings are never even published. By volunteering, you are in a position to meet and bond with new people who become part of your network and can refer you to hidden opportunities. Whether it’s through Habitat for Humanity, a soup kitchen, or your church, volunteering helps your networking while you help others.
Today’s top tech pros are networking like never before. Even if you aren’t looking for a job right now, making networking a priority ensures that your long-term career remains healthy. Lastly, partnering with an experienced staffing firm is a networking move that doesn’t just provide you with career opportunities but can connect you with their huge network of like-minded tech pros.