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How Contributing to Your Tech Community Reaps a Multitude of Career Benefits


By:   |   Read Comments   |   Related Tips: More > Professional Development Branding

Problem

Most people want to give back to their communities, whether that be through sharing knowledge, acting as a mentor, volunteering, etc., yet they are not exactly sure where to provide value!  They also don’t realize all of the many strong career benefits of becoming a contributor vs. being a member. 

Solution

Want to further build your expertise?  Showcase your credibility?  Distinguish yourself as a thought leader?  Share your knowledge with the community?  Positively differentiate your resume, LinkedIn and any other profiles?  Have examples of your work you are able to share?  One simple way to achieve all of this is to get further involved in the communities/associations/groups you are a member of as a contributor!  There are numerous positive benefits in terms of professional branding, skills development, and networking.  You are also helping your community with something they likely need (i.e. volunteers, speakers, authors, co-organizers, advocates)!

Before we provide some examples of how to contribute, let us expand on some of the major benefits you would see from giving back to your community:

  1. Intrinsically rewarding.  Any time we write a tip or deliver a webcast, and someone responds via the Tip or sends us a LinkedIn message saying thanks and mentioning what they got out of the Tip/Webcast and how it might have helped them, it is incredibly gratifying!  Never underestimate the knowledge you have that you can share, which will be a huge help to so many people.  Writing a tip via MSSQLTips around lessons you have learned, technologies you’re skilled in, or other advice will benefit hundreds of thousands of people in your global SQL Server community!

  2. Branding benefits; strengthens resume and digital profiles.  Increased involvement in your local technical community, becoming a speaker, or being published does wonders in building a stronger professional and personal brand.  It immediately can communicate that you are knowledgeable!  It will give you a “candidate competitive advantage” and increase your credibility when in the job market.  A quick way to separate your resume from others in the pile that a Manager/Recruiter is considering is to have a ‘Community Involvement’ or ‘Technical Community Contributions’ type section.  If you write for a local association or MSSQLTips, add a ‘Publications’ section to your resume and add the URL to your MSSQLTips profile.  Also add that URL to the top of your resume under contact information.  On LinkedIn, upload each publication separately.   

  3. Non-proprietary examples of your work.  If you provide a hiring Manager or Recruiter an example of your work, that will be a huge advantage for you!  Contributing to the community, especially via delivering an educational webcast or writing a thought paper or article, gives you a non-proprietary example of your work to include in cover letters, provide during the interview process, or share at other pivotal career moments. 

  4. Expands your network.  “It’s not what you know, but who you know!”  That has never been truer, especially when it comes to promotions, job searching, or simply trying to identify someone to help you with a question or advice on a passion project.  Getting involved as a contributor greatly expands your network!  I am on the committee for three technology MeetUp groups and the networking benefits I have experienced cannot be overstated.  I have met life-long career mentors, friends, people who have gotten involved as co-organizers with events and groups I am active with, job leads and offers, gotten advice and knowledge when I have had questions on technologies and so much more! 

  5. Acknowledgement/recognition.  Especially if you have been in contention for the MSSQLTips.com Rookie or Author of the Year, include this via your resume and/or LinkedIn profile.  Achievements are great differentiators when it comes to interviewing or a possible internal promotion.  Communicate any recognition or awards you get via your community involvement, in addition to any you receive via your day job!

  6. Learning benefits. If you put together an article or training for a community/association, you are likely doing research, collaborating, reflecting on past ‘Lessons Learned’ and/or doing pet projects to get additional experience with the topic or technology you will be writing about or presenting on.  As a result, you will be increasing your knowledge base by strengthening that skill or technology. 

  7. Cross-education opportunity.  Most Managers and Leaders are looking for additional learning opportunities for their team members.  You can accomplish two things at once when you write an article or present a session: educating your team members and your community. For example, offer to do a presentation at your local SQL Server User Group and/or present a webcast for MSSQLTips and invite your team/group to attend. 

Now, let us look at specific ways to give back and contribute to a community/group you are involved with, or interested in getting involved with:

  1. Join the board/committee of a local SQL/Tech User Group or MeetUp you are a member of.  Alternatively, before diving into the deep end and joining a committee, offer to help co-organize an event to start!

  2. Speak at a local user group meeting or upcoming SQL Saturday or Code Camp event.  If you are unsure of topics to speak on, chat with one of the group co-organizers for a few minutes to share your strengths and passions, and get their input on possible topics. 

  3. Offer to volunteer at an upcoming SQL Saturday or similar event, whether it is helping with registration the morning of, setting up food, or stuffing SWAG bags the night before!  Upon reflection, I do not think I have ever heard from a User Group/MeetUp organizer “we have enough or too many volunteers.” Offering a few hours of your time is a quick way to give back, get to know other folks really involved in the community, and learn more about how else to contribute.  

  4. Become a writer or speaker for MSSQLTips.com!  Even if you write one to two tips a year, that is knowledge you are sharing with the global SQL Server community. 

  5. Invite friends/co-workers out to the next meeting.  Most groups are looking to “expand their reach” and get the word out about their group to the larger community!  Especially if there is a webcast or user group meeting about a concept or technology you are considering, or implementing at your organization, email the details to your team.  Also, share the details about the event via your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.  As someone who specifically helps with outreach for tech community events (i.e. I am a co-organizer for the Baltimore and Tampa Tech4Good MeetUp groups), whenever someone simply shares the details of our meetings/events with their network, I am always thankful!  

  6. Ask your boss if you have the space at your company to host future meetings/events!  During my conversations with tech group organizers, one of the main responses when I ask “What do you need?” is typically venues or space to host meetings/events.   This might not be the case for an established group, but if you identify meeting space as a need for a local group, and you have a quality conference room, it is worth pitching to your boss to see if you are able to host meetings there! 

  7. Offer additional ways you could contribute to the leadership team of the group.  Simply chatting with one of the group/community organizers and saying “I like doing x, y, and z.  Do you need help in any of those areas?” is incredibly impactful!  I am involved in my local PMI Chapter (Project Management Institute) and they lacked a Twitter presence.  I offered to set up and do their Twitter.  They were extremely excited seeing that having a Twitter presence had been a goal of theirs for over a year, but no one had stepped up to the plate to take it on.

Next Steps

It is not hard to make the switch from being a member to a contributor. Take your involvement to the next level by giving back to the community/group you are involved with!  Reach out to one of the organizers and say “I’d like to contribute.  What do you need?  Where do you see an opportunity for me to help or provide value to the group/community?” The needs of groups/communities will differ.  For your local SQL Server group, it could be helping to identify possible venues, speakers, companies interested in sponsoring or providing SWAG, or outreach to increase membership!  For a community like MSSQLTips, it’s offering to write tips and/or deliver webcasts.  Next time you see an opportunity, just put it out there that “I’d like to get further involved and help.  What opportunities exist?”



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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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