Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Want to Improve/Change Your Career? Get Hooked up in the Community!

Are you hesitant about getting involved with professional communities in your area? Get over that hesitation and dive in. Or at least get your foot in the water.

Community involvement rewards me in many ways: I’m around smart people who love to share their knowledge, I find new ways to solve problems, I get energized by those same people, etc., etc. (I also get lots of great bacon at CodeMash.)

If that’s not enough for you, consider the simple fact of how involvement you’re your professional community can impact your career opportunities. All four of my last jobs have come directly because of my involvement with the Heartland community. Let me run those short stories by you so you can get a picture of just how my participation in the community helped.

I left the workforce in 2005 to be a stay at home dad. During this time I wanted to stay current with things in the .NET world and I got sick of driving to Columbus to their .NET group, so I started the Dayton .NET Developers Group. I worked with James Avery and kicked off the Dayton-Cincinnati Code Camp, one of the region’s first software conferences for any community. Because of this work (and my blogging and co-authoring Windows Developer Power Tools) I was awarded my MVP status from Microsoft. In the space of just a short year I’d grown a tremendous network of really smart folks who were passionate about the same things I was.

Community contact job 1: When it came time to re-enter the workforce in 2006 I spread the word I was looking for work via a blog post. Within two hours I had three contacts, one of which was my community pal Chris Woodruff who referred me in to NuSoft where I landed a position as a principal consultant.

Community contact job 2: When it became time to move on from NuSoft I reached out to my community pal Brian Prince who was running the Solutions Practice at Quick Solutions in Columbus. Brian had a great group of folks working from him who were all heavily involved in the Heartland’s developer community, and I knew it would be a wonderful opportunity. We met for lunch on Wednesday and on Friday I had a job offer in hand. Brian was the only person I reached out to for my search.

Community contact job 3: Life at Quick Solutions was terrific; however, it was a minimum of a three hour commute each day and that was just too much impact on my family life. I reached out to a couple community contacts, but my main lead was through two more Heartland community homies Dave Donaldson and Leon Gersing. They hooked me up with Telligent where I had a great run of various accomplishments. I can’t recall how many different people I spoke with about opportunities, but I am fairly sure it was no more than three or four. All were folks/companies I knew through my community network.

Community contact job 4: My new position at Telerik also came about through community contacts. I learned about the test tools division at Telerik by chatting with a few folks at a couple conferences, and I started looking in to the tools and frameworks. I reached out to one pal at Telerik and inquired about opportunities. One thing led to another and soon I was sleeping on the floor at Chicago’s O’Hare airport after having flown down to Austin for a face-to-face interview with the testing tools folks. (No, Telerik didn’t make me stay overnight in an airport; serious weather issues diverted me to an epic journey to get home in time for work the next day.)


There you go. My last four jobs, all through community contacts. Not once did I use, Craigslist, or a recruiter.

Here are some specifics about why you as a job hunter should look to community contacts:

  • Better chance of finding open opportunities. You’ll hear about neat opportunities before they’re posted on job boards, etc. Moreover, you may find companies willing to make openings for you if you’re a good fit for them.
  • Better chance of getting past screens. Personal referrals count for a lot with companies, and your chances of getting past initial screens and actually landing an interview are much higher.
  • Better chance of a good fit. Since you will know those community contacts, you’ll have a better understanding of the potential employer’s culture, mindset, and staff. That exposure over time is a much better picture than you can get during a short interview process.

Community involvement is a wonderful thing for oh so many reasons; however, if for no other reason, get involved so you have a better channel to protect and advance your career. The bright, passionate, engaged folks you really want to work around are all deep in to the community. Hook up with them. It will help you and your career.

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