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Expanding your network of IT professionals

Mark Williams
In a world where we spend so many hours behind screens, and in an industry that by its very nature advocates the forward march of technology, it may seem bizarre to be talking about how physically to expand your network of professional contacts, but there’s truth in the old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Not only can broadening your professional network help you learn about new job opportunities, but it can facilitate the exchange of relevant ideas.

We can’t talk about expanding a network without talking about LinkedIn – but once you set up a LinkedIn profile, make sure you continue to engage with the website so you get the best from it. Upload appropriate industry blogs or thought pieces you’ve written; if your content is well-crafted and relevant, other users will engage with you. Join groups covering your areas of professional expertise – and find out about real-world meet-ups with “people like you”. Twitter is also a useful professional tool if you look beyond its argumentative aspects and concentrate on using it to discover the latest trends and find out about influencers in your sector. 

So, if you decide to move beyond online networks and into the real world, what do you need to know? Well, start with those colleagues you might meet on a project. Building a network could be as old-school as getting on well with the person next to you, sharing ideas, recommending them for a job or they put your name forward for something they think might be suitable for you. 

Attending industry events can really help to build relationships – meeting and talking in real life will spark ideas (and possibly differences of opinion) in a natural, tangential way that online interaction cannot. Of course, it requires a certain level of courage not just to attend conferences, meetings and events but actually to talk to other delegates. But once those barriers have been broken down, you’ll benefit from an extended network.

But what are the benefits of a strong professional network, apart from the exchange of information, ensuring you’re totally up-to-date with developments in your industry? Well, pretty high on the list is finding out about new jobs, but referrals are also incredibly useful. If you are given a positive “review” on LinkedIn, or you are able personally to vouch for someone’s professionalism, you’ll increase your own standing in your industry. Asking a professional peer’s advice might also prove useful if you’re facing a tricky task on your current project. 

Just one final thought: networking is valuable, but so is being yourself. No one wants to be bombarded with business cards – make sure you’re remembered for the right reasons by asking questions as well as talking about yourself and finding common areas of interest instead of dominating the conversation.

Read our related blog: Is this the right IT role for me?
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