No Excuses: Make Networking a Priority
For many IT professionals, networking with others in the field is an activity on par with scheduling a dentist appointment. You know you need to, but you just never get around to doing it.
In addition to aiding your job hunt, networking can help you build your expertise in IT, gain career advice and grow your business if you’re self-employed. If you make expanding and maintaining your circle of contacts an ongoing priority, you’ll have a useful base of connections when focused on these objectives. Here are some common networking roadblocks and ways of overcoming them:
I Don’t Have Time
To work around a busy schedule, try meeting with people over breakfast or lunch. This can be a great way to get together with new contacts and nurture existing relationships with minimal disruption to your work and personal schedules. Many professional organizations also plan their networking events during these hours to make it easier for people to attend.
I Don’t Know Enough People
If you tally up everyone you know––including those with no involvement in technology––you’d be surprised by how many people you already have in your circle of contacts. Your family, co-workers and neighbors all are useful connections. While they may not always be able to provide direct assistance, they often know people who can. For instance, a friend may be able to help during a job search by putting you in touch with his old college roommate, an IT manager at a growing company.
Also remember that when it comes to networking, quality, rather than quantity, is important. A few contacts whom you have strong relationships with are more beneficial to your career than many individuals who you speak with infrequently.
I’m Not Outgoing
You don’t have to be the life of the party to be an effective networker. You just need to be focused, disciplined and sincere when asking others for help. Remember, too, that the purpose of networking is to develop relationships that are mutually beneficial. Approach potential contacts honestly and considerately and return the favor when they need assistance.
When meeting new contacts, be prepared with a brief pitch that explains what type of assistance you’re seeking and how the individual can help. For example, “I’m considering a career move into project management, and John Smith told me you’ve been in that field for five years. I was hoping you could share your insight on the profession and what it takes to be successful.”
If you’re attending a networking function, an easy way to initiate conversations with strangers is to find out how they became involved with the group hosting the event or what type of IT work they do.
There’s No Privacy at Work to Network
It can be challenging to network if you’re in a cubicle. This is particularly true during a job search—after all, you don’t want to broadcast to co-workers and managers that you’re seeking new employment. That doesn’t mean networking is impossible, however. There are many options for working around this issue. For instance, you can use your cell phone during break times to make networking calls from your car or arrange meetings with your contacts at lunch. You also can visit online networking sites such as www.ryze.com and www.contactspan.com and connect with people during the evening from the privacy of your own home.
I Wouldn’t Know Where to Start
Don’t let networking become an overwhelming process. It can be as simple as picking up the phone and asking your uncle if he knows anyone in database management. Or you can start small by attending a local IT association meeting or visiting an online networking group. What matters most is that you make networking a routine by incorporating it into your ongoing priority list.
Above all, avoid excuses and find a way to network. Invest whatever time you can in broadening and maintaining your circle of contacts. The payoffs for your efforts can be significant, ranging from new friendships to job leads and professional guidance.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis, which offers online job search services at www.rht.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.