You’ve taken all the right steps: Updating your IT résumé, revising it 100 times, and even printing 50 copies of it on that overly-priced, thick, manila paper to set yourself apart. As you proudly maul over its final pages you decide that you, your suit, and your fancy new résumé are ready to tackle the networking world.
You’ve made the right decision. Networking is critical for any job seeker. Nothing makes people want to help you achieve your goals quite like an in-person conversation.
The first step in successful networking is going out and registering for events. You’ve registered for a networking event and have just arrived…but now what?
IT Career Networking Steps
These six steps will help you maximize your networking efforts:
1. Be prepared:
- Research is a major advantage when attending a network event. Make sure you print off a list of attendees (if it’s not available on the event page, email the contact listed and ask if you can have a list of attendees. Most of the time, they’ll send you one.) Once you have it, be sure to highlight at least five people you really want to meet. This way, you’ll recognize their nametags at the event and introduce yourself with prior knowledge of who they are and what they do (impressive). People on this list should include employees or leaders in companies you’d like to pursue. A good introduction is, “Hi Dave, I noticed you were on the attendance list and I wanted to make sure I introduced myself.”
- Don’t be intimidated. Relax and be confident.
2. Set goals:
- This is critical; create and keep your goals in mind the entire event. Often times, a job seeker will start with good intentions, but between grabbing some appetizers, catching up with someone they already know, listening to a speaker, and finally having a meaningful conversation on their way out the door, they realize they only handed their résumé to one person and forgot to get a business card. When you walk in the door, don’t let the networking event “happen to you;” make sure you control how your time is spent.
- Some good networking goals include:
- Introduce yourself to 5 new people,
- Give your résumé to at least three new contacts (make sure the timing is right; never open a conversation by handing someone your résumé),
- Help one person. Genuinely helping others is the best way to earn life-long connections. For example, offer to introduce a new contact to someone else you know in their field, recommend another good networking event and tell them you’ll attend the next one with them, listen to what your new contact says (business challenge, new neighborhood, their goals this year), and send them a relevant article on the topic the next day.
3. Use effective introductions:
- Have an “elevator pitch” prepared. It’s extremely important to make sure you tell people how they can help you; otherwise, even the most helpful individual will forget what you need. Remember to be concise; 2-3 sentences is key.
- “I have ___ years experience in _____ industry and I’m looking for a career move where I can use my ____ skills.
- Maintain eye contact in conversations: At networking events, it can be hard to stay focused on the person you’re in front of with all the side conversations and new contacts all around; but you must. Remind yourself to keep good eye contact; otherwise you seem bored and uninterested in your new friend. If the conversation has run its course, simply say, “Jared, it’s been great meeting you, I’ve enjoyed talking. I know we’re both here to network, so I’ll let you go. I actually have a goal to meet two more people tonight. Can l send you a LinkedIn invite?”
- It’s important when you’re job searching not to make it the first thing you talk about. When the CIO of a company you’ve been targeting introduces herself, don’t throw your résumé at her as you rattle off your skill set and name. Make casual conversation, ideally that isn’t business related, and only mention your job search at the appropriate time in the conversation- even if it is as you’re parting ways.
4. Establish a personal connection:
- Always remember to start a conversation by asking three questions about the other person.
- The natural first question is something like, “So what do you do, Pam?” or “How long have you been involved with ____ organization?” After that, try to steer away from business-related topics and establish a personal connection. Question two should be a leading question so you can find a common interest like, “Are you from Atlanta?” which will usually lead into what you like to do in the city and similar topics. Again, try to remember something they need during the conversation, whether it’s a great dog park in their area, or a good article on the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend.
5. Present résumés (when appropriate):
- After you’ve established a good conversation, mention your job search as a closer. “It was great talking to you Joe, I really enjoyed our conversation. Before I go, I wanted to mention I’m actively looking for my next career opportunity, do you mind if I give you a copy of my résumé?”
6. Follow up:
- This is perhaps the most important step in networking and often times, the most overlooked. Take out your business cards from last night’s event and connect with everyone on LinkedIn. More importantly, email them to say “Nice to Meet You.” In the email, make sure you send them a relevant article on their industry, introduce them to someone else in their network by copying another friend on the email, or simply keep it short and let them know you enjoyed meeting and will look for them at the next event.
Atlanta IT Networking Groups to Get You Started
- AIMA – Atlanta International Marketing Association / http://www.atlantaima.org/
- TAG – Technology Associates of Georgia / http://www.tagonline.org/
- WIT – Women in Technology
- TAG Young Professionals
- GA HIMSS (Health Information and Management Systems Society) / http://www.gahimss.org/
With these steps (and starter list) in hand, you’ll be well on your way toward IT career networking success!