How important is networking online? With its well-established online presence in the tech community, we reached out to Thinkful’s Career Coach Brenda Bridges to learn more about why networking is so crucial for anyone working or hoping to work in tech today. So, whether you’re in the midst of a job search or just looking to grow your professional network, here are Brenda’s excellent tips plus online resources and job boards.
Brenda is a Career Coach for Data Science program graduates. That means she works with graduates to polish their career materials and prepare them for interviews in order to better connect them with employers during their job search.
Networking is one of the most important aspects of the job search! Networking can open up a variety of opportunities that you might not have found out about by simply applying to jobs.
Is networking only for those on the job hunt? How can networking online be helpful to someone who is already employed or just learning a new skill?
Networking is for everyone! If you’ve just learned a new skill, there are opportunities to connect with mentors, find others to work on projects with or bounce ideas off of. If you’re pitching a new product, you can even find investors through an online network. If you’re currently employed, you never know when you’ll need to find a new opportunity, so make sure to build relationships now so that you have a solid foundation the next time you are on the job hunt.
Now that students are exclusively learning online, what kinds of online networking opportunities do you recommend, Brenda?
Many meetup groups are still meeting, just in an online format. There are also online career fairs and expos, which were around prior to COVID-19, plus numerous events have been converted to virtual conferences that students can attend to quickly build their network. Another great opportunity is to simply connect one-on-one either as an informational interview or virtual coffee chat.
There are so many excellent online networks as well as resources to help grow your network during a job search! We recommend checking out the following:
What are your tips for the easiest way to start networking online?
First, I recommend taking some time to conduct a bit of research. Search LinkedIn and create a list of people who have the job title you want or who work for your companies you're interested in. From there, set goals and have a plan of action, like reaching out to 10 people a week in order to increase the likelihood of actually having meaningful conversations. This will also help build your online network! Since meeting people in-person is not an option right now, there is more legwork to be done by the job-seeker. I also recommend creating and adhering to a networking schedule. If you were attending 3-5 in-person events back in the Fall, try to continue to do that, just virtually.
Follow companies that you are interested in and then be sure to Like, Share, and Comment on their posts. This will help with visibility and keep you abreast of what’s happening in the industry. Also remember to join relevant groups and be actively involved in conversations either in LinkedIn or other online communities.
How much time should someone spend networking online?
Don’t relax your search just because it’s moved online, but on the other hand, you must give yourself a bit of grace. If you’re now playing teacher to your kids, adjusting to working from home, or just going a bit stir-crazy, then do what you can. Just don’t stop networking altogether. We don’t know when things will be “back to normal,” so more aspects of the hiring process will most likely be virtual. Use this time to get comfortable with a variety of online/virtual tools.
What’s your etiquette advice for how to introduce yourself online?
Here are some easy steps to take when introducing yourself to someone online:
Have a mutual friend introduce you. Check to see if you have any connections in common with the person you’re hoping to connect with, and then try to see if that person can facilitate an introduction first.
If you decide to reach out on your own, conduct a little bit of research on the person that you're sending a message to. Brainstorm ways that you can make a genuine connection with them, like perhaps you're from the same town, you see that they post a lot about a topic you're interested in, or you have a mutual connection. Either way, try to find a way to connect with them early in the message so that you feel less like a stranger.
Give a more assertive call to action. In other words, get to the point! This makes it easier for the person to give you an answer. The easier you make it for the person you're talking to, the more likely the connection will progress. Try giving a call to action that is tied to your desire to make this connection. A specific call to action can look like, “Do you want to have a coffee chat next Tuesday?” or “Would you like to have a call next week?” If you are trying to arrange a time to speak, make sure to share your availability with them.
If someone doesn’t respond to your intro, try following up a week after your first message, but don’t bug them if you fail to get a response. It’s okay to move on to someone else at the company. And keep in mind that even though we might be social distancing right now, people are still busy with responsibilities, so give them the benefit of the doubt if they don’t immediately respond to you.
Do you recommend any specific online tools for networking?
I suggest starting with LinkedIn because it allows you to cast a wide net when you’re networking. Take some time to enhance your skills. Listen to relevant podcasts, read a book, but if you can, gain a new skill, learn a new language, or take some time to build new projects. If you’re in data science, try a Kaggle competition. If you’re a developer, work on a variety of projects. Adding and reinforcing skillsets is great for your portfolio, and also gives you topics of conversations and questions for your networking communities!
If you’re looking for job postings, I also suggest LinkedIn, but to also think on a smaller and more tailored scale. There are many local Slack channels related to specific cities, fields of interest (such as tech), and affinity groups. We also recommend checking in on this list of companies that are continuing to hire during coronavirus. Since it’s an open Google doc, this list is continuously being updated with information, so check in often.
If you’re looking to create a video pitch to share with employers, we recommend using a tool like crash.co. Use CoverStory to build a free profile of video answers to interview questions for employers to view.
Quick ideas for brushing up your online presence and/or LinkedIn profile?
Yes! When you reach out to folks to connect with, they are more than likely going to check out your profile. You definitely want to give a good impression. Here are a few quick things you can do to improve your LinkedIn profile:
Show recruiters that you are open to opportunities. You can tailor the parameters of this section to fit your needs.
Make your profile public.
Have a clear and welcoming profile photo.
Revamp your About section. Immediately highlight your top skills, talk about what you can do for a company.
Enhance the descriptions of your previous roles. Even if they’re not in your current field, be sure to have transferable skills listed and highlight what you did to improve the companies you’ve previously worked for.
Add links to your projects, portfolio, and Github account
For those who identify as an introvert or an ambivert, do you have any tips for getting over any nerves about reaching out to people online?
Pretend you’re the protagonist of your own book, movie, or show. What would they do? If they didn’t take any action, it wouldn’t be much of a story. Channel that persona to get your started. Start doing this by just being more visible. Like or comment on conversations so that people become familiarized with you. You can also post your own content. Once you start being the creator of conversations, your confidence will continue to grow. If you’re really nervous about reaching out, try to get someone you know or who you are comfortable with to facilitate introductions.
What does successful networking online look like?
I wish networking meant that you would be a guaranteed job, but unfortunately, it’s not that simple. However, networking the right way can be invaluable. Your networking efforts are successful when you connect with others, when you learn something new, and when you build relationships that could lead you to opportunities now as well as in the future.
Even if you’re new to your tech career, in what ways can Thinkful grads and others still contribute to online networking communities?
Great question! If you went through the Careers Program at Thinkful, reach out to your career coach! We are always looking for grads to serve as guest speakers or to host Q&A sessions. And stay active in the Thinkful Slack channel. Some folks have experienced layoffs, so keep an eye out for who and how to help. Lastly, connect with current students and other graduates. You can easily do this by finding Thinkful on Linkedin and searching alumni. Find other grads to work on projects with!
What online networking outlets does Thinkful currently offer students and graduates?
Graduates get a dedicated career coach for 6 months after graduation with whom they work virtually. Our employer partnership managers meet with employers to continue fostering opportunities for Thinkful grads. Our grads also have the option to do online mock interviews using Skilled. We offer monthly AMA sessions, and we’ve created a COVID19-specific list of resources for networking and job searching.
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