There are currently 18.5 million software developers in the world. A number that is only steadily increasing even as you read this sentence. This is a positive reassurance that our profession is headed toward technological advancements that bring continuous change in the way we live and think. It’s also a testimonial of how competitive getting into the field can be. While there are tons of studies and stories of how careers advance by speaking to the right person at the right time, things can be a little more tricky for developers.
Here are the top 5 developer networking tips that have helped me the most in my journey as a young software engineer:
1. Being proactive
This has to be first on my networking tips list. I’ve personally witnessed the importance of always taking the first step. Recruiters meet with and speak to hundreds of developers about a potential job on a daily basis, so it’s easy to go unnoticed. You have to be the one to initiate that LinkedIn connection request, that conversation at an information session, or to start an email thread regarding your interest. Your attitude needs to project your passion for programming. Your enthusiasm should drive the conversation and reflect your ambition and drive.
2. Socializing in the right groups
The amount of programming you study is almost always inversely proportional to your extraversion. Half the battle is won when you market yourself right, but it may not be the only way of going about it in the developers circles. Instead, what takes precedence here is finding your fit and meeting more people like you. You will always find someone who knows more about a skill than you do. Some good places to start are hackathons, student clubs, meetup groups, and social media. It will only help you stay focused and get a little more knowledgeable about your career direction. And who knows, you might even meet your future employer in one of these places.
3. All that talk
It’s one thing to meet recruiters and engineers from a company, it’s another ball game to hold a conversation. In most cases, recruiters only have a few minutes to chat before they move on to the next in line. What I have learnt from experience is knowing what skills and qualities to project. Speaking about your personal project in intricate detail with an HR person does not make for interesting candidature. Prepare and practice exactly what parts of your resumé you would stress over in each conversation. Then estimate the follow-up questions and prepare for them too. Sound confident, not rehearsed.
4. Maintain your contacts
You may have met a recruiter at a career fair, or have a friend who introduced you to somebody at a company you’d like to work at. Ask to keep in touch. I know a lot of friends who met someone at a career fair and had everything going for them except that they didn’t have their email to reach out for a follow up. Not only is it smart to ask for email addresses or to ask to follow them on LinkedIn, it is also a way to make the otherwise detached process of networking a little personal. Touch base with recruiters you met last semester. Let them know your progress and passion for the field, connect with people by sending them personalized notes about what interests you, point out a specific conversation detail and look to build a relationship.
5. Keep swimming
It’s very easy to find yourself lost in this sea of developers who seem smarter than you. I only took to programming after I started grad school and was one of the odd ones that was either too late to the party or was a complete outsider. What really set me apart in the end was the fact that I did not give up. I know of people who took rejections too personally and stopped their applications. Sure the hiring process is tough to endure, but it is important to keep your head above the water. All those hours in the library, all those speeches in front of a mirror, all the ups and downs that you will face in the process were only put there to make you better. And in the end, guaranteed, it will all pay off and it will be worth it all.
Although the ways to go about networking may have changed, it still remains an essential ingredient to make a career move. No matter how many software engineers this world churns up, the significance of a productive human interaction would still remain.