Finding a job takes brains, talent and effort, but it often comes down to who you know. It’s never too early to start networking in your field, and meeting the right people as a student can open up countless opportunities as you move forward.
“Networking presents a major strategic opportunity for young professionals entering the tech field to get their faces — rather than just a resume — in front of tech industry professionals,” says Annette Harris, president and founder of the personal brand coaching business ShowUp!. “Companies are eager to identify job candidates who not only have technical knowledge but who also have business acumen and social skills.”
Get your name and face out there with these three networking tips for techies.
Join Meetups and Industry Associations
Professional associations and tech-related meetups offer a good way to quickly get acquainted with people with similar skills and interests. For example, the Association of Information Technology Professionals and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology are national organizations with local chapters. Most professional organizations are eager to support students, and you might even find a mentor or two, Harris says.
If you’re nervous about attending an event alone, find another student to go with you, or speak with an existing member about it, Harris says. “Just remember that you will likely be surrounded by like-minded people, which means that even though the members may be more seasoned professionals, you probably speak the same techie language, have similar techie interests and are following the same industry trends,” she says.
Connect on Social Media
While you shouldn’t rely solely on social media to do your networking, it’s still a great way to reach out and get the attention of new people.
You can join LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups and Twitter chats with members you’d like to connect with. Find the important people in your industry and join the same groups as them. You can introduce yourself to members, participate in discussions and share articles and materials that you find interesting and innovative to get their attention.
“To stand out on LinkedIn with little work experience, write a stellar summary that captures your strengths and attributes,” Harris says. “Include the unique value you would bring to an organization.”
Follow Up with New Contacts
If you collect dozens of business cards at networking events but never reach out to those people, you’re wasting time and important potential connections. Follow up quickly with people you want to keep in your professional network to show them you value meeting them and genuinely want to connect, Harris says.
Send a brief email or LinkedIn request to thank them for speaking with you, and express your desire to keep in touch. This will separate you from the majority of people who never maintain contact.
“Chances are they are meeting and interacting with new people all of the time,” Harris says. “You want them to remember meeting you, and the best way to ensure that they do is to follow up fast.”