Back when I was a developer, coding all day (and sometimes all night), the idea of networking could not be further from my mind. I wasn’t thinking about making people aware of my professional “brand”, nor was I thinking of connecting with people – neither to start new and lasting relationships nor learn about trends and latest technologies from them. Like most, it only occurred to me that I should network when it was time to start looking for a new opportunities and challenges.
You know how they say that hindsight is always 20/20? Well that’s definitely the case for me on this one. When I did finally get around to networking, I started networking online using LinkedIn. I joined a few LinkedIn groups that seemed of interest (Ignite Your Coding, TechDays Canada, Metro Toronto .NET User Group, C# Developers/Architects) and though at first I was more following than participating, every once in a while, I would answer someone’s question or post one of my own and conversations started happening. One thing led to another and my network of friends, colleagues, and other people that I met, either online or in person, started forming. I started to get to know people and people started to get to know me. Within a very short time, I realized how much new information I was consuming and learning, how I was, through networking and simply being connected to people in my network, developing my career. That’s when I started thinking of networking as an investment.
How do I know that the investment pays off? Let’s just say that I was able to land my last two job opportunities as a result of my network, so I can definitely tell you that the investment pays off – one way or another.
The folks from TorontoJobs.ca have graciously allowed me to share the following insights, tips, and tricks to networking that were put together by Marc Belaiche who is a seasoned recruiter and helps many develop their careers and find new opportunities.
Always Be Networking
Most people only choose to start networking when they're looking for a new position. If you network continuously, when you begin to look for a change in employment it won't be something you need to switch on and off. Your network may pay off even when you're not expecting it.
Anyone Can Be Part of Your Network
You don't have to be speaking to a President of a multi-national company for you to be able to network with people who can help you. Your network can consist of friends, family, relatives, previous and current associates, your hairdresser, banker or mechanic or former classmates or people you recently met at a party. The list can be large. Ask people who they know and you will be surprised as to how your network can expand.
Organize Your Network!
Organize your contacts so that you can stay in touch with them on a regular basis. With contact management systems that are affordable and easy to use, you should be able to stay in touch with your network on a regular basis quite easily, even if it's just wishing them the best during holiday periods.
Do What You Say You Will
By not contacting people if/when you say you will, you are sending a message that you're not that reliable. Following up is so easy to do, requires a few minutes of your time and sends a very positive message about you.
Get Others Talking by Asking Questions
Don't fall in the trap of thinking that networking is telling others about yourself. Networking is about sharing information. If you're not comfortable talking, ask questions about the other person - their background, experience(s), what they like doing, etc. so a conversation will be easier to get started.
It's Not Just Who You Know
Your network consists of not just who you know, but also who your contacts know. Keep that in mind that if you show you're willing to pass on names of people you know, others will do the same for you.
A relationship isn't created by meeting someone once. Stay in touch with people. Create a rapport with them.
Make Yourself Available
Go to Chapter meetings, volunteer or join networking groups. There is never a shortage of places where you can meet people - ask around and you will be amazed at places where people are. Make the time to go to these events, but don't expect a lot the first time you meet someone. Like sales, most of the benefit of networking doesn't come in a first contact.
Tips at Networking Events
When you go to networking events, keep in mind some simple things:
- Bring business cards
- Listen carefully to what others are saying
- If you're nervous about going to an event alone, ask a friend to join you.
- Make eye contact with the person you're speaking with
- don't keep looking at who is coming into the room every two minutes
- Shake hands and smile
- Don't talk with your mouth full!
- Don't fill up your plate with appetizers at a reception.
- Don't just meet one person and talk to that person the whole time….mingle.
- Don't flirt!
- Don't use off-colour jokes!
To summarize Marc’s advice, in his words: “If you stay in your own circle you'll be limited to what opportunities you will hear about. However, by continuously expanding your network you will hear about opportunities that you might never have imagined.” These opportunities can be learning opportunities, work opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and many more. The point is that networking opens up the opportunity for opportunities and as a professional in a very competitive field, that’s definitely something worth investing in. You never know what may come of it.
Ignite Your Coding LinkedIn Group
The Ignite Your Coding LinkedIn group is our way to help you, and other Canadian developers, connect with peers, engage in interesting and informative discussions about the latest technologies and industry trends, ask questions and get them answered, but most importantly, to network and learn in order to grow and be successful in your career regardless of the tools or platform you use.
Marc Belaiche is President of TorontoJobs.ca, an internet recruitment and staffing company specializing in helping companies find candidates in the Greater Toronto Area. Marc has been in the recruitment industry since 1995 and has made many radio and television appearances as well as conducted many presentations on recruitment across Canada.