For years, I have heard about networking and how important it is. Though, I wish I had realized the value and taken action much earlier in my career.
Working for essentially the same company for 18 years, through various projects and initiatives, has helped me to build strong relationships with many people in the company. Because of this, I did not see the need or the value in branching out.
A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to say “Yes” to a networking opportunity. That “Yes” lead to exciting changes in my role and to the career growth I was craving, but it also came with imposter syndrome and a feeling of trial-by-fire learning. Don’t get me wrong, I love a challenge and I am qualified, but change is difficult as I was consciously and constantly putting myself outside of my comfort zone.
This new opportunity forced me to network outside of my company. I found that when I leveraged the new contacts, they had experiences to share, insights to bring and advice that was invaluable. I often look back to think of what I could have done earlier in my career with this type of network supporting me.
Here are some of my key reasons to continue to grow my network now and why you should consider starting today:
This is the reason most people think you need to network; to build up professional contacts. This is true, but it is not the only thing you gain from being open to meeting new people and hearing about their journey. I know that when the time comes to start looking for a new opportunity, I have many people that might be able to connect me with my next one.
We all sometimes lose our zest for our current state. Through my network building, I have had opportunity to meet very inspiring people. People who I maintain relationships with because they have a natural ability to bring energy into any situation. They are often passionate, creative and willing to go “off-script”.
What I found is that as your career grows, the need for objective advice grows as well. You will need to bat around ideas and concerns with someone who has no direct involvement in your space, company or industry. These people can give you unbiased insights or look at a situation from a perspective no one within your company can. All you have to do is ask.
Another area that my network has helped me, is in giving perspective. People that I depend on are willing to share their perspective on my situation and pick apart my perspective. These are the people who help you see your blind spots and challenge your assumptions. This is invaluable.
My advice to you, build your network. Build a diverse network; include people from other industries and areas of technical focus. Technology is pervasive and knowing how it is used outside of Technology & Engineering industry brings tremendous insights you might not typically be privy to. Had I understood the value of network years ago, I would have had a much larger group of contacts that I could rely on when I encountered challenges who could share their experiences with me.
Don’t be afraid to go out and meet new people, strike up a conversation or just be accepting when someone strikes one up with you. Look at them as a person first and you’ll be surprised how naturally conversation can happen.
There are 7.8 Million people living on Long Island, so despite what some may think, it’s a wonderful environment for networking. Below are a few networking resources our Long Island Women in Tech team use to keep in touch in the industry both locally and globally.
- Long Island Women in Tech – Join a local event or Tech Social, attend our online sessions to learn a new skill or volunteer to help us bring tech to our local community. We also offer mentoring and support as you face challenges or questions throughout your career. You can join the conversation on LinkedIN, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
- TechLadies – Career questions, interview help, resume assistance, job inquiries and listings or basic “how-to’s”. This group is 24,000 strong and has a vast range of knowledge to help you in any sticky situation. Mostly California/Bay Area based though members are global and there is a bunch of East Coasters there to help out as well.
- Moms in Tech (MINTS) – Great virtual group for first time or soon-to-be moms. Members are global but there are a bunch of NY based techies who comment and help answer questions. Help ranges from mom/baby/pregnancy to job and career focused conversations.
- Systers – Started as a ListServ by Anita Borg herself in 1987, Systers is the first known virtual networking group for women in tech that now has 7,800 members. There is a Slack group to join or you can keep on the email list. Emails can get intense (there are a lot of people active here) so make sure to filter them out of your inbox so you’re not overwhelmed.
- AnitaB.org Local Groups – Sponsored events in and around NYC (and other major cities). AnitaB.org is a well known organization for Women in Tech. They run the annual Grace Hopper Celebration which is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. Though they do not run events on Long Island, they do partner with Long Island Women in Tech in some events.
- ChickTech NY – NYC based events for networking and education. This is a well-sponsored organization with great speakers, teachers and contacts for career-minded individuals. Although their sessions are all in NYC, we hope to partner with them to bring events to Long Island in the future.
- Women Who Code NYC – Multiple coding education events each month in NYC and many (if not all) are free. These events are well attended and the sponsors are usually companies looking to hire. It’s a great way to learn something new while networking and getting your resume into the right hands.
- LISTnet – This organization is focused on helping local Long Island tech companies expand and also runs networking meet ups and technical sessions for individuals out of their Plainview office. Their events are usually free and they partner with Long Island Women in Tech for the “Tech Together Social” once per quarter.
- LaunchPad Huntington – LaunchPad provides co-working space for local startups and often hosts events at their Huntington location. Keep up on their latest tech events through their Meetup group.
Do you have other networks to add to this list? Let me know in the comments section below.