So, you have a stellar resume, polished online portfolio, and a laundry list of skillsets – but aren’t having any luck connecting with your dream positions. What gives? It’s a reality that many IT job seekers are familiar with, and the answer lies in one incredibly broad buzzword: Networking. Even in a job seekers-market where positions are plenty, a blanket resume and cold applications just won’t cut it – personal connections are critical. Don’t worry, we’re not here to explain why networking is important and then send you on your merry way to introduce yourself to the world, it can be awkward – we get it. Here are simple (and realistic) networking tips that will help you stand out in a job market full of noise:
Join a Professional Organization
In college, you probably received constant reminders of all of the organizations around campus that you “just had to be part of”. While the Cheese Club you attended every Thursday provided some gouda memories (get it?), the Robotics Club was invaluable to your future success. The importance of being involved with industry organizations doesn’t diminish after you graduate, it becomes more critical.
Depending on what professional IT organization you’re a part of, you can receive access to career resources, invites to industry events, continuous learning opportunities, sweet discounts, and a network of fellow professionals who definitely know of job openings their company may have and could be willing to put a good word in. Here are a couple organizations to check out:
- South Florida Tech Hub – One of the most active, tech-focused networks in the South Florida region. They host a variety of events that provide tech professionals with opportunities to learn, network, and grow all year round. Their annual calendar culminates in ITPalooza, which attracts thousands of regional professionals with talks from industry thought leaders, fun events, and even a charity drive for Toys for Tots.
- CIO Council of South Florida – For IT leaders in South Florida, this organization is essential to join. Members use the CIO Council to exchange ideas about pressing issues in the IT community, build relationships with top vendors, and connect in-person at the annual State of the CIO
- ITWomen – This organization is dedicated to narrowing the gender gap in IT and providing highly experienced women across tech industries with ongoing opportunities to innovate, grow their careers, and broaden their horizons. Better yet, ITWomen has South Florida roots and is constantly expanding their reach and membership.
- San Antonio Tech Bloc – Members of our San Antonio office encountered this amazing organization during their local Startup Week. Since then, we’ve watched the San Antonio Tech Bloc drive economic development in the region as they support the local IT ecosystem. Joining this organization is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the South Central Texas tech scene.
Attend Nearby Industry Events and Meetups
Growing up, did you ever beg your parents to drive hours away to attend a convention for something you were utterly obsessed with? Let’s say Star Wars. You’d walk into a stadium-sized complex and be transported to another world surrounded by Chewbaccas, Darth Vaders, and fans just as passionate as you were – it was pure bliss. You can still get that same, slightly less nerdy, excitement by attending nearby tech expos and meetups! You’re in this field because you eat, sleep, and breathe technology – attending expos allows you to witness first-hand innovations of tomorrow, speak to geniuses of today, and meet likeminded people who could be the key to your next career move.
We said this was a realistic list of tips, so if you don’t live in a big city hosting an expo we’re going to realistically assume you won’t want to travel far. In that case, do a quick Google or Reddit search for local coding groups and tech startup meetings. Not only will this connect you with local IT professionals to expand your network, but will likely result in impressive projects to add to your portfolio.
Make LinkedIn Part of Your Routine
No “how to” list of quick and easy networking tips would be complete without stressing the importance of an active presence on LinkedIn. Past connecting with individuals you’ve interacted with in a professional capacity, you should use the platform as a tool for fostering brand new connections. If you’ve had your eye on a company for a while but don’t see any open positions, search for and send a message to one of their recruiters (make sure your personal brand is good to go first).
By introducing yourself and sharing a little about your background, they’re likely to keep you in mind when the perfect position does open up. Likewise, every time you submit an online application, it’s always a good idea to send a quick but personalized message to one of the company’s recruiters to give your application a better chance at sticking out from the rest. Even if you’re not actively searching for a job, LinkedIn is a great tool for connecting with motivated professionals that you can learn from, and share tips of your own with.
Look Out for Referral Programs
If your LinkedIn connections have ever posted about an open position within their company and encouraged you to reach out if you were interested, chances are they had their eyes on a referral incentive. As a tactic for recruiting top talent from inside their employees’ own networks, some companies will offer their current employees a bonus if their referral is eventually placed. As a job seeker, this is a great way to tap into your network for a leg up on the competition – it also allows you to eventually refer your own friends for a chance to earn a good chunk of change.
Take Consultis for an example. When our current consultants refer friends and those friends are eventually placed, our consultant is eligible for a referral bonus of up to $1000! See, when it comes to the IT job search – it really does pay to have a strong network.