How IT professionals can grow and leverage their network
A lot has been written about networking—both in person and online—as a necessary aspect of any professional’s life. But if you’re happy in your IT job and you like your employer, why do you need to expand your network?
The answer is simple. The fact is, the more people you know, the more collective experience and support you have to draw upon:
- People in your network can help you by offering insights based on their own experiences.
- They can help you realize that many IT workers face professional challenges that are similar to your own.
- They can provide you with encouragement and support, as well as professional expertise pertaining to a wide variety of career-related matters.
- They can encourage you aspire to meet challenges and make the most of professional opportunities.
If you’re reaching out to someone new through a social network, tell him or her why you’d like to connect and give a reference point as to how you may already be connected. Perhaps you have a mutual acquaintance, graduated from the same school, or both participate in a specific group. Regardless of the reference point, personalize the invitation and be sure to never use the default template verbiage.
Growing your network is an important task. Once you’ve established a connection with somebody through work, industry events, classes, or pro bono activities, how do you follow up with that person?
After your initial introduction, spend some time searching for him or her on LinkedIn and send an invitation to connect. Make sure to customize your invitation to the individual; if you can’t make the time to send a personalized message, ask yourself whether you really value making the connection. For example, if you met Sally, an IT project manager, at an industry event, you could send a message saying, “Hi Sally, it was a pleasure meeting you this afternoon. I’d like to add you to my network so we can stay in touch and continue our conversation.”
Some people expand their networks but pay no attention to relationships. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who only connect with others they already know and trust. You need to find your comfort level between these two extremes and establish connections accordingly.
Maintaining your network
A network isn’t simply a Rolodex of names and contact details. It’s a group of peers with whom you interact, or want to begin interacting, on a regular basis. Make time to reach out to people and initiate conversations. Fortunately, social media makes it easy to stay abreast of developments in your connections’ lives by checking your updates and responding via online posts.
Networking is an integral aspect of your career development, so set time aside to talk and collaborate with your peers on a regular basis. Remember to always be respectful and assist others when possible.
How to leverage your network when looking for a job
If you’ve proactively grown your network and maintained it on a regular basis, the more likely it is that your connections will be there for you when you need them in your job search. If you haven’t maintained your network, it’s unrealistic to expect your connections to be available to help you.
Before asking your contacts for help with finding a job, you should:
- Know what type of position you’re looking for, as well as in what industry or industries.
- Make sure your résumé and social profiles are complete and current.
Carefully select the contacts you feel can be of assistance in your job search. Send them a well-drafted email explaining what you’re looking for and how they can help you. Make yourself available to answer any questions, and always follow up on any leads they give you. Last, but not least, when you’ve found a new job, reach out to those who helped you in your job search to thank them for their assistance.
Your network is an integral part of your career, so make sure to expand it and maintain it on a regular basis. By staying in touch with others and making yourself available when they need you, it becomes easier to leverage your network when you’re looking for a new position.