Those that follow me know that I am coming out of a week and a half of funEmployment. My previous employer decided we should part ways. This post is not about that. This post is about how seven days later I had an offer letter in my in-box. Most importantly, it’s on how you can do this too should you find yourself in this situation.
Whether you are currently unemployed or you are just looking to switch jobs, the first step is always the same.
Step 1: Build your network
As long as you are working, this step is never done.
I can’t tell you the last time I got a job from just submitting an application. I think it may have been when I was hired at the Christian Broadcasting Network back in the early ’90s. Since then, almost all of my positions have come from people I know either hiring me or introducing me to people they know. Your personal network is very important to your career. You need to know people who can help you, and who are willing to help you.
How do you build your network? I’ll be honest with you here, it’s not by trying to connected with everyone on LinkedIn. Your network is so much more than your LinkedIn profile, just like your resume is so much more than your Github profile.
You build your network by building relationships, personal relationships. Yeah, I know, this part is hard, it is time consuming, it can’t be automated. That’s the whole ‘personal’ part of it.
Still, it is easier today than it used to be. Back in the day, my network included those people that my parents introduced me to. not a trivial set of people, but by no means as far-flung of a network as it is possible to build today. These days, I can build relationships with people, even become friends with them, without ever having met them in person. Let’s me give you an example that is not me.
I have a friend on Twitter named Andrew Caya. (Make his day, follow him on Twitter) :) To the best of my knowledge, I have never met Andrew. He is in Montreal, so if we have met, it would most likely have been at a PHP conference. If we have met in person, I do not recall it. Until sometime last year, I did not know who he was.
One day however, when looking at my Twitter notices, I began noticing a pattern. Someone named Andres Caya had started liking and even retweeting some of my tweets. Not all of them but some of them.
This went on for a few months. Then I noticed that he subscribed to Nomad PHP. The next meeting, he was there in the Slack channel and started asking questions.
As time went on, Andrew and I started talking. Twitter, Slack, where ever we ran into each other. We greet each other as friends and talk.
I have no idea if Andrew was consciously trying to rise to my attention by liking and retweeting my tweets, but even if he wasn’t it worked. He has now joined my network. We interact on a regular basis. He took the time to build a personal relationship with me. He has cultivated it to the point that if Andrew wrote me and asked for an introduction to someone in hopes of landing a job, I would not hesitate.
Andrew put in the time to expand his network by one. I don’t know if he repeated the process, I just know he did it with me.
Does Andrew’s method scale? No. But neither does any method of building relationships. You have to put in the time, you have to put in the effort, it has to be sincere. If you do it though, then each relationship is one more door for opportunity to knock on when you need it.
Step 2: Build your reputation
It is not a matter of who you know, it’s a matter of who knows you…and that comes with the reputation you’ve built.
Those that know me know that I don’t often talk about bias, and that ‘privilege’ is one of my trigger words. However, I will admit that I have had doors opened for me that may not have been opened for others.
However, one of the most important doors ever opened for me – the one that led to my career in developer relations (DevRel) and training – I kicked in myself. It had nothing to do with who I was (I was nobody at that point) or who I knew. (I didn’t know anyone in the PHP community) This did however, lead me to a series of fortunate events that led to my eventual career in DevRel. All because I started building my reputation.
My road to DevRel started in a very selfish way. I was trying to build my name in the PHP community. To that end, I had submitted code to the site that Zend used to maintain. I was waiting very impatiently for them to approve and release my code so my name would rocket to stardom as people saw how awesome I was. (It’s my story, I’ll tell it like I want) Eventually, after waiting hours and even days for someone to release my code, I wrote and asked if there was a problem. I got a very nice reply stating that no-one maintained the list anymore so no-one was available to release my code. I sensed opportunity and jumped, I volunteered to maintain the list.
It took a few days to convince them but soon I was handed the keys to the kingdom. Can you guess what my first official action was? YUP, I released my code. I also began reviewing – and sometimes releasing – all the code that had been submitted by others. I didn’t release all of them, this was around 2004 and there were only so many MySQL wrapper classes that we needed as a community. Still, I cleared the backlog.
One thing led to another and by mid-2005, my actions led to an interview, which led to me being hired, which led to me taking over DevZone…you see where this is going.
I didn’t have a network at Zend. When I started volunteering, I didn’t even know I wanted to work there. I simply sensed an opportunity to gain access to a platform. A platform that I may be able to use to build my reputation. That reputation eventually led to a job…and a very satisfying career.
Step 3: Help someone else
Here’s the part I left out of the story above. The person that I was interacting with at Zend in regards to the code site, they helped me. They gave me a hand up when I needed it. Yes, they would have never known me if I hadn’t volunteered to do the work. But once they got to know me, they decided to help me.
I recognize that I would not have my current career arc had it not been for them. Also people like Mark de Visser, Marco Tabini, Keith Casey, Adam Culp, Paul Jones, Brandon Savage, and a bunch of other people who have introduced me to people, advised me on questions, and generally given me a hand up when I needed it.
If I have privilege, it is that through the PHP community, I have met some awesome people. People that have directly helped me in my career. I say directly here because there is a long list of friends who have advised me, inspired me, and at times dragged me kicking and screaming along my path. I’m not going to start listing them here because I’ll leave someone out, and I don’t want to do that.
Recognizing that the PHP community as a whole has helped me have the career I have, I also recognize that it is up to me to find those who need a hand up, and help them.
This post is not supposed to be self-aggrandizing. I’m not going to list off all the people I think I’ve helped. I will say that those who I’ve helped, I’ve tried to do so without any strings attached and without any expectations.
I am where I am not because of privilege, but because others helped me. I owe a debt to them. Helping others along their career path is my way of paying it back.
That’s what it takes.
- Build your network
- Build your reputation
- Help Others
Do this before you find yourself funEmployed. This way, when the time comes, you can more easily find a job when you need one.
Harvey McKay said it best.
Until next time,
I <3 |<