Networking To Find A Job

References and Your Network

Long before you start interviewing, you should be building your network and finding good references. Whether it is for your first job or your twentieth job, employers are likely to want to hear from your references. Good references can do anything from simply proving that you worked somewhere to providing references for your good character, work ethic, and skill level. Even for your first development job, it can often be very worthwhile to have a number of good references to vouch for you. In this article, we’ll discuss the process of networking and getting good references. A good network is both helpful for finding job opportunities and for finding people who can serve as references.

Why Networking Is Crucial

You may have gotten the idea that programming is a solitary profession, populated by “hacker” loners who do everything from a basement somewhere without interacting with anyone else. While that’s a popular TV trope, it hardly resembles the life of most successful programmers. Sure, you can get a certain level of skill and maybe even a job or two, just by yourself, but being a true loner really makes things more difficult.

The fact of life is that nobody pays you anything for anything if they can’t find you. While you may have an elite level of skills, if employers can’t find you, they aren’t going to pay you for them. In addition, most programming projects that can be completed by a single person have been completed by a single person already. You’ll be hard-pressed to come up with a project that you can do all by yourself. In reality, you not only have to work with other people but you have a distinct and sizable advantage if more people know who you are and have a good impression of you; it makes it a lot easier to find both the first job and subsequent jobs. Furthermore, if people like you enough, they may seek you out with potential job offers when you aren’t even looking. I’ve gotten some of the best jobs I’ve ever had because someone thought of me when their company was hiring.

The value of a good professional network simply can’t be overstated. Besides the job prospects, it offers opportunities for mentoring, for learning about new technology from people already using it, and can allow you to find out which companies you don’t want to work for in your local area. In all honesty, a good professional network can often exceed the value of high skill in many cases.

Local User Groups

Your first and best choice for starting to build up your professional network is to find one or two local user groups that deal with your chosen language and platform and to attend their meetings with some regularity. The best place to find potential meetups currently is Meetup.​com. You may have to work your way through a few groups to get to one that actually meets your needs. When picking a group, bear the following criteria in mind:

  • Does this group meet consistently, at a time and location that allows me to do the same?
  • Are the members friendly and accepting of new people?
  • Do the members have a good range of experience? Are there people there more experienced than you? Are there people there less experienced than you?
  • Are the meetings well organized?
  • Are the topics of the meetings actually useful?

You probably should attend two or three meetings for each group in order to be able to evaluate these effectively. In particular, the first item and the last two items are difficult to determine with just a single meeting. The third item may be a little counterintuitive as well. In general, you don’t want to be the least experienced person at a meetup, because it may make you feel awkward when you ask a question. In addition, if you are a little too new for a particular meetup, you are often better off finding another group until your skills improve.

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