Networking is a skill that can supercharge your career in tech. The old adage is true: it’s not always just what you know, but who you know. Your network will play a huge role in where your career takes you, what roles you are considered for, and how quickly you learn new tools and techniques. Plus, networking can introduce you to lifelong friends—and you can even have fun along the way.
The benefits of networking
Technology is always evolving, which means the tech community (including you) must constantly exchange information and ideas to keep up. The more people you know in the industry, the more access you’ll have to information and resources that help you climb the ladder.
You might even find your next job via networking. 82% of employers ranked employee recommendations highest among all possible candidate sourcing options, possibly because referral candidates stay in jobs longer and deliver more ROI to employers.
Cultivating relationships that complement your vision for your future self will strengthen the opportunities you attract. When someone is looking for a candidate for your dream job, wouldn’t you rather be the person they instantly think of for the role vs. one of many applications?
Beyond the tangible benefits of professional connections, networking promotes social well-being, purposeful collaboration, senior-level mentorship, and confidence building. Having a supportive circle of peers, mentors, and colleagues who can add to your perspective and experience will set you up for long-term success.
3 networking tips to land your next tech role
If you’re hoping for a big break in tech, it’s time to stop hoping, and start making moves to network and connect. There are many avenues to expand your circle in tech, from attending events to volunteer work and participating in virtual communities. While it can feel awkward at first, over time, you will develop muscle memory and networking will become natural.
To help you get started, we put together a guide to successful networking techniques that will help you get your name out there, and your foot in the door.
- Introduce yourself and do your research
Before you start networking, be sure to update your professional presence online. Does your LinkedIn profile reflect your most recent position and skills? Are you linking to your portfolio and other social handles? If you strike up a conversation or catch someone’s attention, you’ll want to make sure they can easily find you and your contact information online. Having the right keywords in your profile can also help others find you in their own networking efforts.
After your profiles are up to date, take a breath: it’s time to introduce yourself to someone new. To outgoing extroverts, this might be no problem, but for many, approaching someone they barely know to strike up a conversation can be terrifying. Fortunately, fostering new connections doesn’t have to be scary.
In fact, introverts often excel when it comes to observing, which is key to making an introduction come across as authentic and thoughtful. Nobody wants to feel used, and the best way to approach someone from a genuine place is to do your research. What has this person achieved that you admire? Do you have any connections in common? Why does it make sense for you to collaborate?
Once you’ve researched someone you’d like to have a professional relationship with, reach out by highlighting a shared interest or through an introduction from a shared contact.
Remember that networking is a two-way street, and you need to nurture the new relationships you build, be credible and gracious, and be willing to share about yourself. A few ideas to keep a budding relationship growing after the initial touchpoint:
- Engage with their social or blog content
- Invite them to events you’re attending
- Share resources and knowledge
- Ask questions that help you understand where you can add value, and where someone can help you
- Flag opportunities for company collaborations.
- Cultivate your tech circle
So other than messaging people online or approaching them during a work event, how do you find new people to bring into your tech circle? If you prefer to network digitally, there are a ton of different options, such as:
- LinkedIn: If you already have a LinkedIn profile, try joining groups that fit your interests–search for your job title and see if there are other groups of say, software engineers or data scientists that you can join. These groups can be great for information sharing or learning about new open roles.
- Slack: Slack is increasingly emerging as the future of networking. While you might think of Slack as a messaging tool for interacting with your coworkers, the platform also has thousands of networking groups that allow for faster, more casual interactions than traditional platforms like LinkedIn. Think of Slack communities like chat rooms, but with curated membership. There’s Designer Hangout for UX designers, and a community for iOS developers, for example. You can find Slack groups by searching on Google or reading lists of recommended groups in your favorite industry publications.
- Upstream: Upstream enables non-technical organizers to build DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations), or as they call them, “Collectives,” that bring a community together for virtual or real-life events, to raise money, to make decisions or to take action. If you are interested in networking with others involved in crypto, web3 or NFTs, this is a networking app you’ll want to explore.
- Audio Apps: Audio apps like Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces can introduce you to new people in a voice-only virtual event setting—sort of like a conference call or a radio show. You can connect with people already in your contacts on Clubhouse, and find Spaces by following people in your industry on Twitter.
The job isn’t done once you’ve joined: make sure you’re regularly engaging and contributing to increase your visibility, and give back to the community.
While digital networking can be very effective, nothing beats the deep connections, friendships and bonds that are formed in person. Take your networking efforts offline through some of the following avenues:
- Meetup: Meetup is a platform for organizing in-person (and virtual) events and activities for people with similar interests, hobbies and professions. Search for events in your local area that are bringing together the type of people you want to network with, and RSVP to attend.
- Let’s Lunch: Let’s Lunch allows companies in select cities to host lunches to introduce their organization to a group of attendees. These events may include an office tour, a chance to meet with employees of the company, and of course, the chance to network with other attendees. You can sign up with your LinkedIn profile to get started.
- Bumble Bizz: You may have heard of Bumble the dating app, but did you know you could also swipe right on your next professional connection? Bumble Bizz helps professionals connect with likeminded people in their local area so they can meet up in real life for networking or collaboration.
- Event Search Engines: There may be tons of local events happening in your area that aren’t tied to a specific app. Get creative and use the search functionality on platforms like LinkedIn, EventBrite and Facebook to find upcoming gatherings, panels, presentations or meetups. You can also look at calendars on industry websites like Techmeme to identify larger professional conferences that could be worth attending.
As you get into the swing of networking, aim to attend at least one event per month and make 10-12 new connections. If you’re lucky, you might even find a regularly recurring event (like a monthly meetup for engineers at startups) that you can attend again and again. Make sure when you attend, you have your social handles on hand, and ask people for theirs so you can follow them and continue the conversation post-event.
If attending in person events and approaching people you don’t know makes you nervous, you might consider volunteering to help organize or work at a community event, like a hackathon. This could lead to more organic conversations with other attendees and organizers, so you can reap the benefits of in-person connection without the awkwardness of walking into a room where you don’t know anyone.
- Find your mentors
Mentorship can make a huge difference in your growth and development as you embark on a new career in tech. Mentor/mentee relationships support lifelong learning and will bear fruitful rewards over time.
When searching for potential mentors, your tech circle is an excellent place to source options. Because the truth is, you can find a mentor just like you approach all networking, by reaching out to new people, introducing yourself and building a relationship over time. Potential mentors are likely people with more experience than you, or people in positions that you’d love to be in some day.
To get started, you might send an email to someone you admire asking for a quick video chat or coffee meetup to learn how they got where they are. People love to help others, and a brief connection offers a low commitment way for a potential mentor to get to know you and decide if they want to pursue the relationship further. After connecting with a potential mentor, be sure to send them a thank you note and follow up to share with them how you’re incorporating their advice into your efforts.
When approaching or meeting with a potential mentor, it’s important to have a goal in mind, as well as clarity around what you expect from the relationship. For example, maybe you want to improve a certain competency and are connecting with someone you admire with the skills you’re striving for. Maybe you are interested in having this person come speak to your team and share their experience.
After you find you have chemistry with someone and ask them to mentor you, be sure to outline what you want, whether that’s regular meetings or more sporadic advice-sharing Zoom calls. And don’t forget that just like networking, mentoring is a two-way street: show an interest in your mentor’s personal life, ask them how you can help, and most importantly, be gracious that they’ve shared their time and knowledge with you.
Watch yourself and your network grow
Having friends and mentors who will advocate for your professional growth and sponsor your candidacy for new roles will only lead to more pathways for success and lifelong learning.
Download our complete guide to breaking into tech to continue learning about successful networking techniques that will guide your career change in the right direction.