Whether you are looking for a new position in tech or not, it’s essential to consistently build your network. I’m talking about building your network before you need it and regularly staying in contact with the connections you make.
Branching out and networking may feel nerve-wracking, especially if you’re an introvert like me. And, it’s true – real growth can be uncomfortable. And, it’s most likely going to involve stepping out of your comfort zone. But you can absolutely do it!
Now, if you’re already in a good position in your field, you may be thinking – what’s the point? I like where I am – why should I still build my network and make connections?
Branch Out and Stay Connected
Throughout my career, I’ve made sure to stay connected and branch out continuously. I am always staying in touch with my contacts and keeping up-to-date with the market.
Working this way keeps you open to unique opportunities that you find organically. It also gives you a solid foundation to fall back on when things out of your control happen. You never know what life will throw at you, and one of the keys to achieving long-term success in tech is to always be prepared.
Networking was not easy for me in the beginning. As an introvert, I’m naturally shy, and going home and sitting on the couch sounds much more appealing than going to a breakfast, or meet up, or a day-long conference. In fact, some days, I really didn’t want to show up at all. So I decided to make a deal with myself, and it became one of the most important deals I’ve made in my career.
I decided to make networking micro-commitments. These are the three small commitments that I make with myself before an event – and I want to share them so you can do the same.
1. I will show up.
2. I will meet three people, and then I can high-tail it out of there.
3. I will show up just one more time.
Because of these micro-commitments, I not only have a strong network within my company and a strong network in my hometown of Dallas, but I have a strong global network. Building that big of a network took time, dedication, and consistency. And the more I did it, the more networking became second nature! I meet people everywhere – at the grocery store, on an airplane, you name it. I am constantly meeting new and interesting people. Some of the best connections you will make will happen when you least expect it.
Talk to Recruiters
For example, when you’re at an event or conference, branch out beyond other techies. I’m talking about making it a point to connect with recruiters, sales, marketing, hiring managers, and business folks because these are the people who know companies and who have the connections.
Like many women in tech, you may tend to avoid recruiters. But this is actually a huge mistake. Some of my best contacts are recruiters! Besides their vast knowledge of the key leaders in the industry, they frequently move companies. So, for instance, if you meet a recruiter who is not in a company that is of interest to you now, they may be in the future. They also will be more than happy to talk to you – they are professional networkers!
And guess what? The same goes for people in sales and marketing – they are some of my best connections. Find someone in sales and marketing at an event because they are more likely extremely extroverted and will actually enjoy making a connection!
Prioritize Your Time & Leverage Your Network
Now, if there’s one thing we all need more of – it’s time. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. And yet here I am telling you that consistently networking is key to building a well-rounded career. When I tell women in tech they need to ensure that creating and maintaining connections is front and center of their daily work life – I watch their faces drop. How can anyone manage to do this while maintaining all of life’s other commitments? Well, this is where leveraging your network comes into play.
As my network grew, I made sure that it worked for me. Keep in mind that a good network should make your life easier, not harder.
At first, the more my network grew, the more people were leaning on me and calling with questions. However, on the flip side, when I needed help with a technology I wasn’t familiar with or was curious what skills were becoming valuable in my industry, I picked up the phone and found the right people in my network who could help. Instead of spending ten hours researching something, I call an expert in my network and say, “Hey, help me with this.”
Having a strong network also shortens time looking for your next role and brings in more opportunities. It gives you a foot in the door, and activating it has a return on investment when time is money in finding that next role.
I put the power of networking to work for myself so that I actually wind up accomplishing more in less time.
Remember that having a strong network should work to your advantage. For more in-depth tips, I dedicate an entire chapter to effective networking in my best-selling book, The DevelopHer Playbook. Be sure to pick up a copy today and learn my insider tricks to building lasting success in tech!