This article is based on my 20 years experience as an IT professional
and on observing thousands of IT professionals over the past
years as a corporate and industry recruiter. One of the things
I noticed from my perspective as a recruiter was that the successful
people had certain things in common. One of those things was
that they all networked professionally on a regular basis, often
meeting two or three people per week just for the purpose of
Ask any HR professional and they will tell you, the #1 way
people find the work is through networking. Less than 5% of
the jobs available at any given time are advertised. Ask any
successful contractor and they will tell you the same thing.
Think about your own experience with contractors. How did you
hear about them? Look around yourself and see if there were
not pre-existing relationships in many cases where you now see
The reason for this is simple - trust. Trust is the foundation
of all relationships. Employers will always prefer to hire someone
they know or who is recommended. Contractors find work primarily
through being recommended to others by previous customers.
So how do we develop these trust relationships that may lead
to work? What exactly is professional networking?
By professional networking I mean:
1. attending appropriate events, functions and activities where
it is likely you will meet people who can help you develop your
business or find work.
2. following up with people you have met and asking them to
meet with you to find out more about them, their company, or
their industry. Notice the focus is on them, not you. If you
are interested in them, they will become interested in you.
3. investing your time and efforts to give what is required
for relationships to develop.
There are a few things that are required in order to network
successfully, that is, to show some results.
The first law of relationships is proximity: the simple fact
of being physically close to another person. That is what makes
more relationships than any other factor. You sit with them
in school, they work in your office, you met them at church
or at baseball. Think about where and how did you met your friends.
So the first thing required is to enable proximity, which means
going out to meet with people.
The second law of relationships is frequency: you must be meeting
these people on more than one occasion to develop relationships.
Frequent proximity allows people to get to know each other,
and eventually establishes trust. So not only do you need to
network, you need to be committed to networking as an on-going
activity because trust takes time to develop.
Once you are going out meeting people, you must follow up by
asking to meet with them. You can call them directly and ask
them to meet you for coffee or lunch. You can email them to
tell them about something you think they would be interested
in or to invite them to something.
Professional networking requires a shift in mindset prior to
beginning. To network successfully you must not think of yourself
as 'needing' work! Let me explain.
When you approach someone to network, to meet with them, if
you give them the impression you are needy, wanting something
from them, they will put up their defenses and deny you access.
Think of how you feel if you meet someone who is clearly, perhaps
desperately, looking for a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Alarm
bells go off as you ask yourself what is wrong here. Most employers
can tell by the tone of your voice when you call them if you
are needy or not. Our inner agenda is always communicated in
non-verbal ways, and for the average person, it is impossible
to prevent it. The solution is not to try to prevent it, as
many people do, but to change it. And it is really not that
You only need to change your thinking to something like this
" I am not available for employment just now because
am on a contract till March", "
I am still in
I have a personal project to complete,"
etc. Whatever works for you.
The key is to find some valid reason you are not available
and take it to heart. This does two things;
· one, it changes your mindset from being needy
· and two, it actually makes you more attractive to an
How can it do that?
Have you ever noticed that when you have a partner, boyfriend,
or girlfriend, there are lots of options available but when
you become single they seem to evaporate?
The reason is that a person who is not available has several
things going for them:
· They are perceived as having value to be acquired,
rather than requiring value be given.
· They feel more secure and therefore unconsciously exude
more self confidence.
· They act themselves, therefore their behavior towards
others is more open and honest.
All these things make a person more attractive to the opposite
sex and these same psychological factors come into play in any
interaction or relationship. If you approach others as someone
who is busy, self confident, and who has value but is not available,
you will find them much more open to meeting with you.
So, once you have the critical step of the mindset dealt with,
you are ready to begin networking by getting out and following
As I mentioned earlier, most successful IT professionals meet
a colleague for lunch or coffee 2-3 times per week. Also, they
are usually volunteering in one or two professional or non-professional
organizations. At a recent presentation I attended, one employer
explained that his best source of new business was coaching
Now before you get started, let me tell you a few things not
· Don't come on so strong that you are pushy or aggressive.
Not in this town anyway.
· Don't be passive and wait for others to approach you.
Have a plan and act on it.
· Don't just socialize, and make small talk. You do want
them to know about your professional life.
And here's a few to do tips:
· The professional networker is goal oriented and targets
contacts that will help achieve career goals.
· They look for opportunities to help others.
· They focus on one person at a time. (If you only focused
on one person per week then in one year you would have 52 new
· They have a diverse network of contacts because they
do not expect direct results i.e. you meet Nicky at WEAV, and
she invites you to Digital Eve, where you meet Christine who
was golfing on the weekend and her buddy said there is an opportunity
where she works...
· Make things happen. Be the one who creates and facilitates.
Teach something. Write articles (Hey!). Start a group. Put on
a meeting. I recently introduced myself to over 400 new people
in the process of putting on a dinner meeting for a group of
Once you get a job or contract, don't stop this process. These
days, a 'permanent job' means you will be working for the same
employer for two to five years. Somewhere in there either you
will leave, or the job will. You will need another job or contract
and the best time to be networking is when you are working.
When you are not available!
To find out what's on, check out the IT-VI.com calendar for
IT related functions you can attend.
Lastly, and most importantly, focus on and enjoy the process;
the goal will take care of itself.
See you around!