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Hack Your Job Search

First Edition · College Graduates · Career Changers · Self-taught Developers

Section I: Getting Tactical About Your Job Search

Section 1: 6 chapters
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Section II: Standing Out From the Crowd

Section 2: 5 chapters
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7. Growing Your Professional Network
Written by Jenn Bailey

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You’ve spent the last six chapters getting tactical about your job search. Now that you know more about what you want out of a career in tech and have narrowed down the companies and roles you want, it’s time to think about how to improve your chances of getting hired. A lot of people out there want to be junior devs, so how can you stand out from the crowd?

In this chapter, you’ll start with a vital ingredient to success: growing your professional network.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why professional networking is so important.
  • Who to add to your professional network.
  • How to network online.
  • How to network in person.
  • How to maintain and grow your network over time.
  • Simple soft-skills techniques for the introvert.

You’ll start by learning about the value of networking and why you should put effort into it both as a junior dev and throughout your career.

Why Professional Networking is Important

You’ve already put a lot into your career and job search. Now, it’s time to add the most important element: networking. It might surprise you to hear it, but networking is the single most effective strategy in your job search.

Getting a Better Job Faster

Networking not only helps you get a job faster, but you’ll also have a higher chance of getting a coveted position with better salary or at a more prestigious company. Meeting someone in person makes a much larger impression than simply seeing a resume. If a company gets a lot of resumes, it can help to be recognized as a face by that company, not only as words on digital paper.

Honing Your Competitive Edge

Networking improves your presentation in a job interview. It builds your confidence when talking to people within your industry, including interviewers. It helps you improve critical soft skills like communication and teamwork, which gives you an edge in an interview.

Creating a Long-Term Support Network

Networking isn’t only about getting a job; it’s also a way to be a good citizen in the tech arena. Just like neurons in the brain, networking in tech forms valuable connections across the entire sector. We’ve built a pool of collective knowledge that we all learn from and add to every day. We trade tips and techniques, we help one another solve problems and we lift each other up so we can all become better developers.

Getting Organized

If you feel a bit nervous — even overwhelmed — at the thought of creating a professional network, you’re not alone. But you don’t need to let those feelings prevent you from using this powerful job tool.

Gathering Supplies

It helps to have everything you need ready when you start networking, both in person and online.

Keep a good professional profile picture on hand to add to online networking sites.
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Organizing Your Contacts

Your first step is to decide the tools you’ll use to organize your contacts. For example, would you prefer to use the contacts app on your phone or a physical address book? You can even use a note-taking app like Apple Notes, Google Keep, Evernote or Notion. A good note-taking tool will allow you to organize or search notes later, or to pin them if they’re important.

Finding People to Network With

A professional network consists of the people you know in your area around you and/or on social media sites. It also includes followers you have on social media and people you know offline. Colleagues and mentors from schools or bootcamps you’ve attended, friends, family and community members can all be part of your network.

Adding People You Know

To get started, think of the people you already know, like individuals you met in your bootcamp or education program. Add your mentors and peers straight away.

Adding Experts From Your Field

Now, add some experts from your favorite platforms and interest groups. Have you heard a talk by anyone that you liked? Follow the speaker. Are there prevalent names in your favorite platforms? Follow them. Did you read a great book or tutorial? Follow the author.

Following Your Favorite Companies

Next, think of some dream employers and companies that are doing interesting things in your technology area. Follow them. If you come across recruiters or HR professionals, follow them too.

What to Avoid

There’s not really a wrong way to build a network, large or small, but there are a few mistakes you can make.

Networking in Person

In-person networking is unquestionably worth the effort. It makes more of an impact to meet people in person than to correspond online. You never know, your next lead might be waiting for you at a meetup or event.

Succeeding at In-person Networking

When networking in person, being organized and on time with a plan can make things go smoothly, and even reduce your anxiety. As you’re meeting people, remember to exchange social media handles with them.

Networking Online

Networking in person isn’t always easy to do, especially if you don’t live in a big city or if you have personal obligations that make it hard to travel. Luckily, online conferences and communities give you opportunities to find people to connect with in your industry. In this section, you’ll learn how to boost your chances of making solid connections online.

Networking Online at Events

When the COVID-19 pandemic prevented people from being able to travel or congregate safely, online events really took off. Today, they remain popular because they are less expensive to host and attend and people from around the world can do it easily.

Networking Through Websites and Communities

Websites like Reddit and various code communities let you join conversations related to job seeking. Some of these platforms have ways to contact users.

Maintaining and Growing Your Network

Nurturing your network over time requires consistency. Set reminders for when to follow up with your most valuable leads if you don’t hear from them; don’t assume they’re ignoring you. Follow up politely until you’ve gotten a reply. It’s easy to forget to reply to messages.

Soft Skills Tips for Networking

If networking doesn’t come naturally for you, here are some simple tips to help you break the ice and communicate more effectively.

Conversation Starters

Communicating With Kindness

Kindness is the most important soft skill — strive to take with you in every interaction. Communicate to every individual you meet with kindness, and you’ll have more meaningful interactions.

Key Takeaways

  • Networking is one of the most crucial steps to getting a better job faster.
  • Networking online and in person helps you quickly grow your resources.
  • Think about what you can give to your network, not only what you can get from it.
  • Consistency is the key to success with networking.
  • Creating organization systems and using them faithfully helps you to grow your network over time.
  • Growing and maintaining your network over time keeps it current and useful.
  • Even if you’re not an extrovert, you can utilize some simple soft skills to build a network.

Action Plan

  • Start your online professional network by adding three people you already know to your social media contacts. Think close friends, family members or people you respect in the community.
  • Write out an organization plan: How will you keep track of your most valuable contacts? How will you remember to follow up?
  • Set a reminder to make a new post to your social media channels once a week. Follow up on it.
  • Attend an in-person networking event and add three new contacts.
  • Attend an online networking event and add three new contacts.
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