IT careers: 9 networking etiquette do's and dont's

What are the unspoken rules of personal networking in the IT career arena? Here’s how to stay polite with new and existing contacts - who may be the ticket to your next job
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IT career networking etiquette rules

There’s zero doubt that networking can be a key factor in landing your next IT role. Who you know can indeed be as important as what you know, particularly if you’re attempting to advance into a new or bigger role, a novel industry, or a new geography. That CIO role you covet won’t just land in your lap. However, networking can be more nuanced than it seems.

You could be breaking unspoken rules of etiquette – which could hinder your IT job hunt.

You may be inadvertently avoiding behaviors you assume are no-no’s or awkward that in fact are not only perfectly acceptable but also quite valuable to your search. At the same time, you could be breaking unspoken rules of etiquette – which could ultimately hinder your job hunt.

What should you do if you don’t know anyone in the city or sector you’re targeting? Should you tell connections at work that you’re looking? Are you annoying my network by reaching out? What should you say after you land a job?

[ What are the hottest IT job skills now? Read also: IT career goals 2020: Most-wanted technology and core skills. ]

9 career networking etiquette rules to follow

Networking effectively and respectfully is an intentional practice that may go against some of your assumptions. Here’s some advice from IT career experts on what’s advisable and what isn’t.

1. Don’t be shy about networking

That icky feeling you have tapping your network? It’s normal, but do not let it slow you down. “Don’t be afraid to tap your network to let them know you are ‘on the market’,” says Kelly Doyle, managing director at technology executive recruiting firm Heller Search Associates. ”People are often flattered when asked to share their knowledge and they generally like to help. Just one conversation can open the door to other new connections.”

2. Do ask for added intros

“It’s not who you know – it’s who knows who you know,” says Andrew Atkins, senior vice president of research, innovation, and practice for executive coaching and leadership development firm Bates Communications. “The conventional job hunt advice is to use your network. But it’s less likely someone you know will give you an offer than that they’ll give you an introduction to someone they know.”

When touching base with connections, ask them who else they know that they think would be helpful for you to meet. Doyle is often on the receiving end of such conversations with first- or second-degree connections and almost always can think of a couple of avenues or people to pursue.

3. Don’t network only when you need something

Professional relationships, like any other, require work and attention to thrive.

IT leaders with strong networks nurture them over time. Professional relationships, like any other, require work and attention to thrive. Keep communication flowing with your inner circle of connections and use technology to stay top of mind with your broader network by sharing important articles or updates on LinkedIn, for example, endorsing others, or responding to questions.

4. Do expand your LinkedIn universe

Speaking of LinkedIn, look for new connections, particularly if you’re trying to advance into a new role or move to a new geographic location. “Be sure you’re connected with professionals in the area you’re looking to grow your career as they often will post if their companies are hiring or relevant information to help you in your job search,” says Brandon Parezo, principal, technology recruiting at LaSalle Network. They may also post links to relevant networking events, meetups, or job openings.

[ Are your social manners lacking? See our related story, 6 LinkedIn etiquette mistakes IT leaders hate. ]

5. Don’t be afraid to take the lead

“Use online research and internet job postings to find hiring managers and potential managers at target companies and reach out directly for an exploratory interview,” says Lisa Rangel, founder and managing director at Chameleon Resumes. “When you hear about or see an interesting position for which you want to apply, use LinkedIn to find connections at the company, if not the very person who is recruiting the role.”

“There are also many confidential job openings.”

Check to see if there is someone in your network who can connect you to the hiring manager to ensure your resume gets attention. “Today, it’s not enough to just apply to a posting that you come across,” Doyle says. “Many of the best jobs aren’t advertised on public sites, and there are also many confidential job openings.”

6. Do follow the local news

“Stay up to date on the latest happenings in the location or market of interest for your next job,” Doyle advises. “Follow and subscribe to updates from organizations or publications that have a pulse on local markets, like VentureFizz. It’s a great way to know which companies are growing, and who’s hiring.”

7. Consider talking to people you work with now

“If you enjoy working at your current employer, ask if what you’re seeking is available there first.”

If you’re certain you want to leave your current role, have a talk with your manager. “Whether it’s seeking higher compensation, additional responsibilities, or a new role, if you enjoy working at your current employer, ask if what you’re seeking is available there first,” Parezo says. You may find what you’re looking for internally. If not, this can free you up to open up about the search with colleagues.

8. Do work the alumni network angle

Get active in school and workplace alumni networks and look for people who might be able to help. That common connection can make the process of reaching out to someone much more comfortable. “Use this as leverage to meet someone new and expand your job search,” Rangel advises.

9. Don’t forget to close the loop

Networking is a two-way street, and circling back to those you’ve reached out to is not only polite but keeps the door open for further helping one another in the future. Do this even if the person you reached out to wasn’t integral to the role you actually chose. “Once you land a new job, circle back to those connections you tapped earlier,” Doyle says. “Let them know how your search worked out, and offer to reciprocate the favor.”

[ What are the new trends in IT talent? Read the new Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: IT Talent Strategy: New Tactics for a New Era. ]

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.