The Who in Networking: Key Groups and Communities You Should Engage With
Many people have mixed reactions or thoughts around networking: hesitancy, fear, imposter syndrome, uncertainty, exhaustion, and frustration. Yet when you ask people how they successfully landed a job, new responsibilities, or a promotion, "networking" is one of the most common answers. If you want to move into a new role or find a new job, networking is a much-needed ingredient to your success. Many struggle with where to start, and ask themselves: "Who should I be networking with? What are the best networking avenues when I have limited time (and energy)? How can I proactively find and engage with different people, groups, and communities?"
For many, learning tips to get over those networking nerves/butterflies is a helpful initial step, which we address in this tip: 'Networking Best Practices - Making Networking Events Easier.' Once you've got some hacks ready for looking at networking more comfortably, you need to determine your strategy for where and who to network with!
Identifying the "who" of effective networking is a vital first step in your networking journey. Who exactly should you be networking with? How do you then engage with that network? How do you then leverage your networks over time to help you with your career, learning, and/or job search goals?
There are internal (at your organization) and external (within the community) networks. This article features recommended networking avenues. Review each category, research, and start actively connecting and networking with at least two new channels/groups over the next month!
Relevant Technology Meetup Groups or Associations
I attended my first technology user/community group meeting in 2006/2007, which I heard about through "word of mouth" (an involved co-worker) before platforms like Meetup existed, which made finding groups so much easier. Joining Meetup.com is our recommended first step for networking for several reasons. It can not only help you quickly identify relevant groups that align with the interests you outline, but then getting involved in a Meetup helps you identify channels that follow in this article!
We recommend blocking off 30-60 minutes to join Meetup if you haven't already. Then, fill out or update your profile, add any links you want to direct people who look at your profile (examples: Portfolio, GitHub, and/or LinkedIn), and be intentional about the interests you select (so you're getting notified about the right groups). Next, take some time to review and scope out at least three relevant groups that Meetup suggests, as well as do a zip code search.
A quick search of 'Data' groups within 25 miles of 'Tampa, FL' generated 10+ related Meetup groups that looked promising. As you're trying to figure out the best group for you, look at each group's description, the types of events they host, the topics they cover (reviewing 'Past Events'), and the location of their events. Many Meetup organizers, myself included, are still doing a mixture of virtual and in-person events, so take note of that. When attending an event for the first time, it's always helpful to invite a friend/co-worker.
With 750+ million members, LinkedIn is a great place to network for professionals. If you are new to LinkedIn or thinking of revamping your profile, we recommend you check out our tip on 10 Ways to Demonstrate Your Credibility via Your LinkedIn Profile. Once your profile is ready, LinkedIn makes it easy to add contacts and grow your professional network. Ensure you're connected to people you already know, such as current and previous co-workers, key stakeholders, customers, peers you went to grad school/college/did a boot camp with, members of organizations/user groups/communities you're a part of, etc. Then, under the "My Network" part of LinkedIn, it shows you "People you may know" from various companies, skills, groups, etc., that you have in common.
When connecting with someone, we always recommend writing a short message to jog their memory of how you know them, where you met, and/or who you know in common. If it's someone you do not know through any mutual connections, write a simple note mentioning that, but also say why you want to connect. Examples may include: "Your field of study interests me," "The work you did at XYZ company is really impressive," "I'm working on growing my network, and I am hoping to connect with like-minded individuals," etc. As someone who receives a lot of LinkedIn invitations in a week, it's frustrating to get blind requests with no information!
Next, make sure that you are in relevant Groups on LinkedIn. This may include Groups around your profession, where you went to college, user groups and organizations you're a part of, companies you follow, etc. Once you've been accepted into these Groups (if they are not open and require authorization), connect with members by saying, "We're both in the MSSQLTips.com Group, and I'd love to connect!" Personally, I leave LinkedIn open all day. When I have a customer/client call, I connect with that person in real-time (once the call is over). I'm fresh in their mind, and it's more likely that they'll accept my request because I've said something like, "Hi Chelsea, it was so great to meet you this afternoon, and thank you for your time. I look forward to our continued partnership!" This is one of the easiest ways to grow your network! Apply this same logic as you meet new people at Meetup groups or new Recruiters after you have an initial promising conversation, etc. A simple follow-up message such as "It was really nice meeting you at the ___ Meetup event and chatting about how you're leveraging ____! As mentioned, I'm looking to grow my ___ skills as well as a new job in ___, and I would welcome any advice or connections/Recruiters you'd recommend!"
Proactively finding a strong, tenured Recruiter who supports your target roles is one of the quickest ways to learn about the market, hiring trends, companies hiring for your skill set, and the "hidden job market" (i.e., available positions that may not be published or posted). Our biggest piece of advice about working with Recruiters is to be more proactive with them. Proactively find them through searches on LinkedIn, get recommendations from people in your network, and connect at Meetup events. The odds are that any Recruiters taking the time to go to a tech Meetup group, usually after hours, are committed, reliable, and recruit or support that skill set!
To identify Recruiters on LinkedIn, do an 'Advanced Search' for a 30-mile zip code with 'Recruiter' in the job title and a couple of "buzz words" (like how you'd set up search criteria for a job search). It should only take 10-20 seconds of looking at the Recruiter's LinkedIn profile to determine: Does this Recruiter seem credible? Are they someone who could help me identify relevant job or company prospects? We encourage job seekers to review a Recruiter's tagline/profile header, skills summary, and one to two of their recommendations (if any).
Once you find a Recruiter, send an invitation to connect with a personalized message summarizing your skill set and qualifications, the types of jobs you're interested in, and then ask for a conversation. A simple "When do you have time for a quick 10-15 minute phone call or video meeting?" suffices! You can also communicate key skills you've been learning, certifications you're pursuing, and any connection/interest you have in common.
What if the Recruiter doesn't respond? Don't assume it's a lack of interest in speaking or working with you. Some of our Recruiters get hundreds of emails and LinkedIn InMails/messages a day, so if you don't hear back, follow up a second time a few days later. If they seem promising, we recommend reaching out a third time a week or so later. Follow the '3 strikes and you're out' rule of thumb with Recruiters: reach out to them three times, and if you don't get a response, move on!
Find and Attend a Local Tech Conference
I asked ChatGPT to "Please provide a list of some of the more reputable technology conferences hosted in Tampa Bay, Florida each year?" Of the list of seven conferences/events provided, I was familiar with four of them. The first one offered by ChatGPT is one of the biggest tech conferences of the year that seems to be a staple in our community. However, ChatGPT didn't include some of the others I would personally recommend for Data professionals, such as our Tampa Code Camp, PMI Professional Development Day, and Bsides (Cyber Security). We also have a new Cloud/DevOps conference (CIVO) that just launched in 2023 that was well-advertised through many of the local tech Meetup groups.
What's the bottom line? Never rely on one source when you're in "research mode" trying to find all the technology conferences or events. Understand what exists through multiple sources, such as leveraging AI tools like ChatGPT, asking Meetup group organizers or posing the question at a Meetup, and/or asking Recruiters.
Why is attending a conference beneficial to your career and a key avenue for networking, especially if you're job searching? First, most conferences have many sponsors that can provide instant job leads. For example, our Code Camp and DevOps Days, which are one-day conferences that are free or have a minimal cost to attend, have Recruiters or other hiring professionals from 10-15+ companies hiring those types of professionals! Second, conferences are a great way to instantly see current skills in demand or trends. Third, adding you were an attendee at a tech conference to your resume and LinkedIn is a great way to demonstrate you're current, passionate, and connected!
Find a Local Community Social Channel
From what I've seen with Meetup/User groups, almost all have at least one social channel. Many have LinkedIn groups or LinkedIn pages. Others have Facebook groups or X (formerly Twitter) handles. A growing number of groups have Slack or Discord channels/groups. Within these social channels/groups, many have job board groups/threads. After you join a group, spend a few minutes reviewing their Meetup group page and website, which will likely communicate where you can 'Connect,' 'Join,' and/or 'Follow' the group. If you don't see any channels, you can ask one of the organizers or board members at their next event.
Identify Hiring Professionals at Target Companies
Especially when you're actively job searching, don't just prospect jobs via job boards and LinkedIn. Prospect Recruiters, hiring events, and specific target companies. Look at job boards, 'Best Places to Work' lists, companies who sponsor tech conferences and groups, and utilize AI tools to outline a "company prospect list" and identify 'Talent Advocate,' 'Talent Manager,' 'Corporate Recruiter,' etc. via LinkedIn searches. Then, you can send personalized messages/invitations to connect on LinkedIn to those individuals! One Data Scientist we've worked with 3+ times recently used ChatGPT to generate a list of the companies in Florida that have hired the most Data Science professionals. He then took that list, looked at the Careers/Jobs page on each company's website first to see if any matched what he was looking for, and then identified a Recruiter on LinkedIn who currently worked at each of those companies and sent them a message. This resulted in multiple interviews, including two for positions not posted on the company's website!
Career Fairs/Hiring Events
Career fairs, both virtual and in-person, can be organized by a variety of organizations in your area, including local technology schools, larger Meetup groups, the Chamber of Commerce, and more. Spend time doing online searches, using an AI tool, and asking a couple of tenured local Recruiters and organizers of tech groups/Meetups for recommendations on the best hiring events.
I still fondly remember when one of my best friend's wives, Katie, hesitantly reached out to me for a "huge favor."Her favor was far from huge, and I wish she hadn't hesitated to reach out, but she "didn't want to bother" me. She shared, "I applied for a job at ____ (a nonprofit organization) that I'm so excited about, but I haven't heard back, and I applied a few weeks ago. The job still looks open on their website. Don't you know someone who works there? Would you be able to ask if they might know the Manager of that role?" I did, in fact, know someone who worked there, so I grabbed her resume and sent it to the person I know via LinkedIn, along with the link to the job on the website. Within an hour, I got a response along the lines of "Yes, I do know who manages this group. I just emailed over Katie's resume for the role."Katie interviewed for the role within the next week, got the job, and still works there! An interesting part of this story is that the Manager shared with Katie that she was so happy she went the 'referral route' because the Manager hadn't even seen Katie's resume for the role yet; it somehow got lost in the "black hole" along the way, never making it to the Manager.
You never know who in your network knows who. Odds are that a few people in your personal network can be more helpful than you might think! Therefore, take the time to share your career goals across any of your personal social media channels, too, not just LinkedIn. Include links to an online profile, and/or create a short personal marketing video to explain your path and interests better.
I was in a sorority in college, and although I haven't been to an event hosted by my sorority in 10+ years, I'm still in the alumni Facebook group. I've seen countless posts in the group where a sorority sister asked if anyone was hiring, was looking for a mentor or internship, etc. I remember one post where a sister asked, "I'm looking for other career options outside of being a teacher. Has anyone transitioned from teaching to a different field? Would you be open to having a quick conversation with me on how you did that?"The post had 10+ comments within hours, with at least three people offering to help! So, if you have graduated from a coding school or data boot camp, attended a training school, got a degree, etc., take a few minutes to identify any alumni channels via social media you could join. If you don't find any, contact someone at the program and ask.
This tip provided more guidance on how to proactively find and engage with different Recruiters, hiring professionals at your target companies, program alumni, and other local community/group channels. From the list of nine networking groups/channels above, pick two new strategies and act over the next month.
Also, always continuously build and engage with your LinkedIn network by:
- Connecting with individuals you talk to/meet in real-time.
- Post content (recommend at least once a month).
- Periodically engage with any posts/content of the people in your network you want to stay connected with, such as strong Recruiting Partners, Meetup Organizers, and Organizers of any other tech community events such as Hackathons, Code Camps, SQL Saturdays, BSIDES conferences, career fairs, etc. (Like/Share or Comment on their posts).
- Re-engage by searching through 1st-degree connections during future job searches to make them aware you're looking for a new role.
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Article Last Updated: 2023-11-10