Can you imagine what having a network like a start-up CEO could mean for an IT job searcher?
Start-up CEOs all have certain characteristics that help them succeed in their job roles: dedication, the willingness to shift gears quickly, and confidence.
And the good ones are constantly networking because they know how valuable it is… and how much it can help them in a time of need.
But just because you’re not a start-up CEO doesn’t mean you can’t have one of their killer networks to boost your career at every step along the way. All you need is a little confidence and about 10-15 minutes per day on average to get started.
1. Go to Conferences & Meet Ups Religiously
One of the easiest ways to find local IT-based professionals to expand your network is by checking Meetup.com and attending different meetings and going to tech-based conferences religiously.
At these conferences and meet ups, you’ll meet and have conversations with people in your target industry. Add them on LinkedIn after the event and send an occasional message every few months to stay in their memory.
2. Try to Help
Rather than being the guy who’s constantly spilling out his elevator speech, throwing out his business cards, and trying to increase his own bottom line, do the opposite.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but imagine meeting someone who was always willing to help out at conferences by making introductions or doing some free on-the-spot consulting. You’d be far more likely to help out that guy and send beneficial connections his way than the elevator pitch guy, wouldn’t you?
Startup CEOs do this a lot and the quality of their networks reflect it.
I always focus on giving and trying to help,” says Kyle Samani, CEO of Pristine. “I find that most business people are too focused on their own business and don’t allow serendipity to happen to them. By offering help, even when it’s not asked for, I’ve built relationships that continue to reap rewards. Those whom I’ve helped have returned the favor 10 times over.”
3. Short Outreach Messages on LinkedIn
Since CEOs don’t have the need to over-pitch themselves or the time to write a long, cumbersome message, their LinkedIn outreach is short and to the point.
They’re also not trying to strike a deal and get someone signing a contract with their fist ‘hello.’
They understand that a little flattery goes a long way, and use it to their advantage.
A message a startup CEO sends to someone they don’t know over LinkedIn might read something like this:
I just saw [your company] featured on TechCrunch. Really love the work you guys are doing and I’d love to learn more about it.
Can you recommend a link where I can learn more about [the work the company does]?
Simple, with a touch of flattery, and to the point, right?
The best part is, after Jessica responds with a link, it opens the door for a longer message and more meaningful conversation.
4. Have Real Meetings With Real People
Even if all you can manage to do right now are small informational interviews, the practice of putting your face in front of another person’s for a beneficial, quality conversation is something startup CEOs recognize the importance of.
In-person connections are far more memorable than online ones, and you’ll be much more likely to stay in touch and help each other out once that initial in-person meeting is over.
5. Join Industry-Based Organizations
If you’re near a chapter of something like the Association of Information Technology Professionals, join it and attend the meetings regularly.
It’ll only take a few hours each month, but the payoffs will be huge—especially when you find yourself in the market for a new job position.
Linking up with local people who work in your industry allows you to help each other out and advance each other’s businesses.
6. Join a Mastermind Group
Or for extra CEO-like bonus points, create one.
A mastermind group is a group of like-minded people with similar goals who get together on a regular basis, share goals, exchange advice, and hold each other accountable.
If your dream job is to be a lead programmer for iOS games, you can create an iOS Developers’ mastermind group. Invite other developers that you think are going places in their career so you can surround yourselves with like-minded, determined, hard working people to help each other make strategic, beneficial steps in your careers.
7. Jump Into Active Social Media Conversations
Even though in-person connections are highly important, don’t underestimate network connections gained online just yet.
One of the easiest ways to get started is by joining a regularly-hosed Twitter chat around a certain industry-related hashtag. (For example, #AppChat happens at 2 pm ET on Thursdays – find more here.)
After the conversation ends,” says Jayson Demers, CEO of AudienceBloom, “reach out to anybody you engaged with directly and ask for more information about who they are and what they do.”
8. Stay in Touch, But Not Too Much
Startup CEOs don’t annoy their connections, and you shouldn’t either.
The truth is there may or may not be a way for you to work with each other right away.
To stay at the top of someone’s mind, send them a short message every three to four months, but don’t go over that amount unless the situation calls for it.
In Conclusion: More Advice from Real Startup CEOs on Just Doing It
At the end of the day, the most important part of building a CEO-worthy network is simply making the effort to actually do it, even if it makes you a bit uncomfortable at first.
As an introvert who spent most of his life in the basement on the computer, [networking] was extremely hard for me at first, which is why I avoided it for so many years,” says WireFuseMedia LLC’s CEO Cody McLain. “However, once I committed to a few events, it got easier as time moved on. Now I’m almost a pro at recognizing what other people are feeling, and knowing how to move conversations and exit conversations. It’s all just another skill to be mastered, so don’t fret at messing up or feeling awkward.”
And then, once you’ve met some professionals, one of the most important things you can do is follow through and stay in touch.
Following through (staying connected) is the most important quality in a successful connector,” says Brennan White, CEO of Cortex. “For years, I was that guy who got along with everyone at the networking event. I was (and am) outgoing and friendly. However, upon leaving the event, I never process-ized the follow up and the cultivation of the connections I had made. After years of doing this I had a harsh realization: all of your networking hours are wasted unless you keep the people you meet in your orbit.”
On to you: what’s the best piece of networking advice you’ve ever received? How did it help you expand your network and make quality connections?