June 12th 2020
Founder & CEO at Microverse (YC S19), the global school for remote software developers.
Networking: whether the prospect fills you with dread or excitement — this article is for you. Nothing maximizes your chances of finding awesome and inspiring opportunities as much as connecting with other people — as long as you approach it in the right way. And it might just be easier than you think.
First, let’s look at the statistics. When you ask someone how they landed their job, 70% of the time they’ll say it was down to networking. If you ask a company how they fill their roles, you’ll learn that 80% of the time they never actually advertise their jobs online or elsewhere. And, here’s the crucial one: only 7% of all job applicants come through a referral — yet referrals account for 40% of hires.
When you take a moment to digest those numbers, you really understand the power of networking. But do you understand how to do it well?
Here’s the thing:
It’s not about approaching a stranger and asking for a job or being the most out-there, extroverted person in the room.
It’s about building, and nurturing, relationships — both on and offline.
That word ‘relationship’ is key here. Any relationship takes an investment of time. It’s also made stronger when we bring value to the other people involved.
The Core of Building a Network: 4 Ways to Create Value for Others
1. Be helpful
It’s essential to realise that effective networking isn’t about asking someone for a job — it’s about understanding how to help them. When you help people they’re likely to help you at a future date. It’s about give and take — so start by giving!
2. Have a positive attitude
This is so simple but so important. We’re drawn to people who are positive, optimistic, and fun. Again, it’s not about being extroverted — it’s about being a positive influence, and encouraging people’s ideas, goals, and ambitions.
3. Connect others
If you introduce two people who’d work well together, you’re adding value to both of them. They’ll appreciate the hook-up, and they’ll remember you created it.
4. Ask questions, listen — then offer your skills
When we network, we tend to start talking about ourselves, and that’s natural — we want to impress! But by resisting that urge you’ll stand out from the crowd. When trying to land a job as a software developer, ask questions to discover a person’s, or company’s, software problems. By learning what they require, you learn how you can help. Then you can offer to be the person to fix those problems.
How to Build a Network: Steps to Take Right Now
As we’re currently in the midst of a global pandemic, the way you network will shift. While we all work together to minimize the spread of the virus, our opportunities to meet in-person have been restricted. You’ll see that many of the steps suggested below can be taken remotely, or have an online equivalent. There’s also advice for how to network in person, too — see these as ideas you’ll have in your toolbox ready for when the current situation changes.
Reach out on LinkedIn
If you follow people on LinkedIn, they will sometimes follow you back. But that’s not networking. You need to go beyond just following and ‘friending’ people and work toward relationship-building. Here’s how:
- Focus on the ‘A Players’: Who are the people in your community, maybe your city, who you admire and see as key people in the industry? Send them a message via LinkedIn (Twitter works too) saying you’re from the area, you admire what they do, and you’re looking for career advice. Say you’re just starting out and you’d love to invite them to coffee and learn from them.
- Focus on your dream companies: Now think of a company that you really admire. Maybe a software company in your hometown, or an international company like Google, or a remote company like GitLab. Use the LinkedIn filters to find people who work there. Filter by position: software engineer. Then look for front-end, back-end, whatever you’re interested in, and get in touch. You don’t have to have a coffee in person — remote chats work too!
Software conferences, webinars and events
Join online communities
Organize your own meetups – in person or remotely
If there’s no meetup where you are, be the one to organize it. Go into any coffee shop or co-working space, and explain that you’d love to organize something for developers because there isn’t anything like that nearby.
Another option is to organize a dinner for developers in your town. Everyone pays for their own dinner, and you create value by bringing them together.
Finally, start today
Most software developers — in fact, most people — start networking when they need a job. If that’s your situation, it’s okay. It’s never too late and the tips in this article will get you started. But if you’re not looking to be hired right now, remember that good networking is about investing time in building and nurturing relationships. Start building a network today and it will be there for you in the years to come.