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Professional Networking: A Guide for IT Pros

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You’re early in your IT career and trying to decide which direction to take? Well, as the title suggests, professional  networking can help guide you along early in your career.  Not only can it help you build your personal network of business contacts, it’s also a smart way to research the networking technologies you’re most interested in for your career track.

The world works in networks. You’ve heard the phrase —”It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.

While we may not subscribe 100 percent to that thought, we do believe that if you have loads of skills in a sought-after field,having a rich network of contacts can be the deciding factor to getting your dream gig.

The world works on networks. We live in a connected world, where everything (almost) is networked. LAN, WAN, MAN, SAN, SDN, etc. Networks are critical to every enterprise and networking technologists are essential to getting them up-and-running and to keeping them running. Including people.

LinkedIn
So, you don’t want people snooping on your Facebook photos? No problem. Connect with your coworkers and colleagues on LinkedIn instead. Not only does it separate your personal and professional lives, but it also opens up a whole world of networking possibilities. While LinkedIn might seem like a dull social channel, it is the place to be seen when actively job hunting.  Behind the scenes recruiters are paying good money to find talented candidates with your skills. Don’t like recruiters? That’s fine. LinkedIn is a professional social network. You can join groups that match your interest and follow the companies where you’d like to work, as well as track down old colleagues and associates. Don’t have an old coworker’s email address or phone number? Look ‘em up on LinkedIn. Want to see where someone ended up? LinkedIn.

Join a Project
Happy hours, coffee meetings, and presentations are a great way to meet other IT professionals, but they can be awkward. OK. They’re almost always awkward, so join a project instead. Volunteer projects are as time consuming as you want them to be. Stop by a local startup incubator and ask people what they’re working on. They’ll be happy to tell you. Join a tech Meetup. Watch the Craigslist “gigs” section. These are all ways to join a project either pro bono or for a little side cash. All along the way you’ll be making connections.

Keep in touch with people at work
People leave for better (or different) opportunities. That’s just the professional world. Keep in touch! You never know when they’ll need an extra body at the next place.

There are tons of statistics about employers favoring “inside” candidates. All those stats are probably all right in their own way. Think about it anecdotally. How many people do you know who networked into a job? Depending on the size of your company, any hiring manager or HR pro is happy to take a recommendation for a single qualified candidate rather than sift through a pile of resumes. Keep in touch with people when they (or yourself) leave. At a minimum, send them a LinkedIn invitation to connect. You never know what doors that can open.

You also never know when you might need to learn something from an old coworker. Someone might have left the company, but why not shoot them a note every so often? Perhaps, they have time to meet up for a quick drink? A fun happy hour catching up with a former colleague can be the greatest investment of time you’ve ever made. Be genuine in your outreach; keep it casual and don’t reconnect with loaded expectations. If done with finesse, this type of networking can pay off dividends in the short-term and the long-run of your career.

Connect with other IT professionals online
Get involved in online communities. Get a mentor. Join the CBT Nuggets Learners Community. Connect with other IT professionals online. You might end up finding an interesting opportunity. You might have a question about your network (yes, that network), or career. There are plenty of people willing to help online. Is that your professional network though? You bet it is.

Professional networking might sound dirty, but it’s just connecting with people, sharing information, and yes, maybe finding your next job.

In the end, it’s passing along information. After all, that’s what a network does, right?

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