Everyone dreads them: the cringe-worthy networking events. You’re never quite in the mood for it, and it’s always (unfortunately) just what you expected.
But networking is critical to the job search—a recent survey showed 85% of jobs are filled by networking efforts.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to network without attending events that make you want to crawl under the table. Below are six options for designers and developers to grow their communities.
Engage with your peers
The more you engage with your peers, the more your network grows. This can include current co-workers, casual acquaintances from university, or new friends you make in the industry. Connect with them on different channels to make it easier to re-engage regularly. Follow them on Twitter, add them on AngelList, and connect with them on LinkedIn. And don’t be afraid to ask for their personal contact information to stay in touch.
Spending time with peers is a win-win. You can extend your network, and they get a chance to expand theirs. And who knows – your peer may come across a contact or a job opening that may not be right for them, but they’d be willing to put in a good word to get your foot in the door.
Connect regularly with mentors
We’re all familiar with the expression “time flies”, and there’s certainly truth behind it. It can feel like just yesterday you went for lunch with a mentor, but in reality, you’re long overdue to reconnect.
If you’re thinking of changing jobs, now is a good time to reach out. Mentors are often well-connected in a different way, and they can act as the bridge between you and your dream job by introducing you to their connections or recommending different skills to level up.
Every time you see your mentor, show them how eager you are to learn and the steps you’ve taken to grow since last speaking. Growing this relationship and a solid reputation will go a long way when their CEO buddies are looking to hire.
Not sure where to find a mentor? The best way is to let the relationship develop naturally. Try reaching out to a teacher you really enjoyed or someone in a career position you’d like to have one day.
Attend industry events
No, not awkward networking events. Keep your eye out for local happenings that relate to your industry. Meetup and Startup Grind are a great place to start. Poke around Twitter, agency websites, or coworking spaces to make sure you’re not stuck hearing about events after they happen.
Participating in conferences, hackathons, and workshops are another great way to meet a targeted group of individuals without the uncomfortable atmosphere of “we’re supposed to be networking right now.” You’ll get to know leaders and peers in your industry, discover new roles you never knew existed, and even learn a thing or two.
Make sure you take the time to trade contact information, so you can connect on different platforms once the event ends. The great thing about industry events is it’s not limited to new graduates or interns. You’ll find yourself connecting with designers, developers, managers, or even executives who can help you get a seat at the table.
Join online communities
Joining online communities allows you to connect with influencers on a global level, and discover new opportunities you didn’t know existed. As a designer or developer, the world of freelance and remote working provides endless options for employment.
Finding industry groups on LinkedIn, Reddit, Slack, Facebook, or other online forums is a way to engage with potential employers and peers on a daily basis. Explore Dribbble, Hacker News, and Twitter for new opportunities to shine. Don’t be afraid to engage in the group; you never know who’s watching and willing to hire.
Reach out for a one-on-one
Networking events can be intimidating with so many people to meet and so little time. Instead, try browsing through industry contacts online and narrow in on a few key people to connect with. Reach out to them with a personalized, thoughtful message and see if they’d be open to meeting for coffee or lunch. Taking the time to reach out on a more personal level can catch their attention more than a handshake in a room full of noise.
Don’t limit yourself to those who are hiring in the community. Connect with anyone who’s of interest: someone who has taken a career path you envy, a fellow graduate who landed a huge opportunity right out of school, or a team manager at the company you admire. Getting one on one develops a more personal relationship and allows you to connect on a deeper level. You can understand their role, what skills they value, and what steps they think you should be taking.
Build your personal brand
Building your personal brand in a visual field is an important element. Pick the social networks that you think you can excel at, and create a personal brand more than a personal profile. Showcase your portfolio work, connect with others in the industry, and let your personality shine through. By having an active online presence, you open up doors without realizing it.
Note that creating a personal brand isn’t a free pass to leave behind other networking opportunities, but it shows future employers your past work, your dedication, and your willingness to put in work. The more you grow your channels, the more you’ll have opportunities knocking.
Getting out there
You could argue one method over another all day long, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about putting yourself out there.
Find ways that feel comfortable for you, and do your best to use them to your advantage. If you’re introverted in a group setting but excel one-on-one, don’t try to force huge events that will make you crumble. Alternatively, if you in front of a large group, try to find industry events that give you those opportunities.
Regardless, networking comes down to connecting with other like-minded individuals. Always be yourself, and you’ll find what works best for you.
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