It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
That old cliché isn’t entirely true in the IT job market because employers aren’t going to hire you if you’re unable to demonstrate that you have the skills needed to succeed. But to get a new job — or even your first job — in IT, you will have faster and greater success if you take full advantage of your professional and personal networks during your IT job search.
Research estimates that 70% of jobs are not published on online jobs sites like Dice.com and Indeed.com and that 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections. In addition to helping you discover appropriate job openings, your connections can also provide valuable advice for your job search and career development. Let’s take a look at basic ways to leverage your networks to find your dream IT job.
Why is networking so effective?
Networking has always been an effective way to find a job. That’s because people generally prefer doing business with people they know or who know people they know. A résumé and a cover letter aren’t good tools for making a personal connection and having an employee at the company recommend you will provide a competitive advantage. Networking can also unearth a job lead before a position is even advertised, giving you a head start and an inside track on applying for the job.
Reaching out to your contacts
Before actually contacting people, write down your career goals, information needs, and the names of specific employers that interest you. Providing your contacts with specific information makes it easier for them to think of appropriate leads or other useful information.
When you reach out, be sure to:
- Be specific about what type of work you want
- Ask your contacts whether they know anyone in the appropriate field or the right company to contact
- Cast a wide net — you never know who can provide assistance
You may feel reluctant, nervous, or vulnerable when reaching out, so you may want to use different contact methods for different people. You can send emails to friends, families, and close former coworkers. For more distant contacts, LinkedIn is both efficient and effective. The professional networking site is likely already on your radar because of its business and employment orientation.
(read: The Anatomy of an IT Job Search)
If you haven’t already joined LinkedIn, create a profile immediately and then start contacting LinkedIn members you know to make connections. If you’re new to the site or need to expand your network, make a list of your friends, family, former classmates, current and former coworkers, current and former clients and vendors, and anyone else you’ve interacted with professionally. Once you’ve found them on LinkedIn and made connections, take a look at their lists of connections to identify contacts that you overlooked and people you don’t know who may be helpful in your job search — such as professionals in the IT industry and recruiters — and send them a connection request. Don’t forget to include a brief message about who you are (“I’m Jack’s friend” or “I worked with Tara.”) and why you want to connect. Then let your LinkedIn connections (except current coworkers) know that you’re in the market for a new job and exactly what you’re looking for in a new position.
LinkedIn offers many other useful features for IT jobseekers, including giving and receiving recommendations and endorsements, courses and certifications, and insightful industry-related content written by members. To expand your network, join LinkedIn professional groups, including those focused on the IT industry. These groups are both broad, such as the Global Information Technology Professional Association, and narrow — such as Software as a Service and Women in Software Engineering. And don’t forget the job-search groups, such as the Technology Jobs Network.
IT recruiters use LinkedIn, so having a profile will help them find you. Plus, a well-written LinkedIn profile will supplement your résumé. You can use LinkedIn to research companies that interest you and see who works there. You can also sign up to have relevant job openings sent to your email.
Don’t overlook old-school networking techniques to advance your job search. Invite a former coworker to lunch, schedule a call with a supervisor or a C-suite contact at a former employer, or write to your professors or mentors to ask for a recommendation.
Other ways to make the most of your connections
Some of the people in your network may be willing to critique your résumé, discuss job-hunting strategies, help you prepare for an interview, or provide leads or a recommendation. If you have a connection at a company that you would like to work for — or if you’ve already applied for a job there — don’t hesitate to contact them. Not only can they give you insights into the company and its hiring process, as well as giving you an insider’s look at what it’s actually like to work there, but they may also recommend you to the HR recruiter or hiring manager, giving you a leg up on the competition.
Keeping your network active
Whether you’re a programmer, an engineer, a cloud specialist, or other IT worker, connecting with people you know and tapping into the hidden job market will help you land the right job faster. And don’t forget the most important aspect of networking: reciprocity. Once you start your new position, keep up with your contacts, provide help when they are in need, and continue to develop your career through your expanding professional and personal networks.