Many technology professionals work independently, with less inter-departmental and client interaction than other colleagues. This isolation can make professional networking a challenge. By taking a proactive approach to networking, you can make valuable connections that will move your career forward.
One of the easiest ways to take your professional networking to the next level is to join an industry organization. Look for an organization that fits into your career interests and offers networking events in your area. Some options for tech workers include the Association of Information Technology Professionals, the Association for Computing Machinery and the Information Systems Security Association. Women, who tend to be underrepresented in the technology industry, might consider joining Women in Technology International, an organization dedicated to helping provide connections and resources to members of both genders.
Alternatively, you might choose an association that represents your current or target industry. In doing so, you'll gain access to professional networking events that give you exposure to all types of professionals—not just technology workers. These events enable you to make connections with business owners, hiring managers and executives who might know about future job openings. You'll also increase your changes of meeting people who can connect you to people you would never have met otherwise.
If you are like many tech professionals, you might work with one or two point people in other departments within your company. To strengthen your relationships with other colleagues, take an internal approach to your professional networking. Make an effort to connect with your co-workers, either in the break room or at company events. Ask your supervisor if you can increase your cross-departmental contact; you might sit in on meetings with the creative team, for example, or get involved in the development process for a new software package. When your colleagues move on to new companies, they will be more likely to think of you for job openings or other partnership opportunities.
When it comes to professional networking, the process of making new contacts is half the battle. After you make connections, either at work or externally, it is crucial to stay in touch with those you meet. Follow your connections on social media, and participate in conversations. When you come across an article or news item that might be of interest to one or more of your contacts, share it via email or a public post. When you add value and stay in communication, your contacts just might think of you when a career opportunity arises.
Like other aspects of your career, professional networking requires effort and hard work. By finding ways to connect with a wide range of professionals, you can increase your sphere of influence and gain access to more job opportunities.
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