Building a Better Network Is Easier Than You Think

Posted by Pat Tovo

building a networkWe’ve preached it here many times – one of the best ways to find your perfect cyber security job is to network, with the goal being to build your group of connections.  The response often heard is, “I’m just not well connected.”

Nonsense! Everyone, yes, even you, is easily capable of growing their network through every day activities and with a little bit of looking to new sources. Even if you’re just entering the cyber security community, some determination mixed with creative thinking can grow your circle in a short amount of time. Whether you are in an active job search or just looking to grow your skills in the industry, a strong network will offer many opportunities.

As you build your connections, keep in mind some important guidelines.

  • Prepare your elevator speech (article link) so you can be ready at any time to communicate your skills and goals.
  • Be respectful of people’s time; organize your thoughts so that time spent in requested meetings is productive.
  • Be ready to reciprocate by helping others in their professional endeavors.

Now let’s review some opportunities for growing your network. 

Colleagues – Past and Present

This is a no brainer. Colleagues are the folks most familiar with your capabilities and should be considered as potential references as well as resources. Building solid relationships with co-workers is a must. Of course it makes for a productive current work environment but also as colleagues move along in their career path they can be your inside connection to new opportunities.

While you work side-by-side with teammates on a daily basis, it’s also important to build a strong social circle. Getting to know co-workers on a personal level will only strengthen your ties. Join the company softball team. Organize a potluck. Invite them to happy hour. This bond will serve you well throughout your career.

While you may not want to ask current colleagues for assistance with a job search, you can call on them to help grow your skills. If there is someone in the organization you admire or who is in a position you aspire to, request an informational meeting with them. People like to talk about themselves and share their successes. Your interest can be a terrific way to create a good impression.

Fellow Alumni

Attending alumni events offers a wealth of opportunity. There is a certain bond that forms in college and classmates are typically eager to help fellow alumni. Even if the folks attending events are not from your “era” you still have your alma mater in common, which is a solid foundation for building your network. If there aren’t events being held in your community then organize one! That’s an even better way to get your name and skills in front of a large group of people.

Make sure that your current contact information is in your alumni database. Most schools send out newsletters or have an online presence. This is a terrific resource for finding folks who work at companies that interest you. Reach out and request informational interviews to get the inside scoop and hopefully an early heads-up when a position is to become available.

Industry Organizations

Maybe the most productive way to network in the cyber security community is to join industry organizations. These groups offer a wealth of information, opportunities to advance your skills, and an easy way to meet people who share your passion. Many cyber security hiring managers want to see a demonstrated commitment to the profession and community, and this is one of the ways you can confirm that dedication.

If there are no organizations in your community, do some online research and seek out conferences, seminars, events or meetups. Spending time with leaders in the industry is time well spent. You’ll learn new things, meet new people, and probably have a bunch of fun.

Everyday Contacts

As you go about living your life you come in contact with many people who could become a valuable member of your network.  Use this list as a thought starter:

  • Neighbors
  • Extended family
  • Other parents
  • Sports leagues
  • Church
  • Barber/hair stylist
  • Fellow health club members

The point is you need to be aware that everyone is a potential connection. While you may not ask the person next to you in the grocery line for a job lead, conversations with neighbors at a cook-out can be a great way to talk about professional goals. Everyone knows someone who knows someone.

You may be uncomfortable at first talking about your aspirations, so instead why not ask a possible connection about their life. Showing an interest in others can naturally lead to talking about your own goals. Be clear about what you’re looking for and that makes it easier to work the information into a casual conversation.

And you thought you were not well connected! Hopefully you were making mental notes (and maybe written notes) as you read through this article.  Your mind should be ticking off all the ways your network can expand. Pump yourself up. Get excited about all the people you’re going to meet and the ways they can help you with your cyber security career. That enthusiasm will serve you well.

Pat Tovo guides job seekers in conducting successful employment searches through targeted prospecting, effective resume writing, and polished interviewing skills. She enjoys facilitating workshops and working one-on-one in career counseling.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 5:00 pm

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