Where do you meet these people?
Your first stop should be a local Meetup in your tech stack. Be a regular attendee. Show up before the presentation begins and talk to people. If there’s a group going out for beers afterward, join them. Better yet, get involved with running the group. These groups are run by volunteers. They all need help stacking chairs and letting people in after the doors lock.
Here’s where I made my strongest network connections
Meetups aren’t the only options in town. Some of the best connections I’ve made were people I met at a tech-focused Toastmasters group called TechMasters.
I joined, jobless, after the downturn in 2009. Before long the group leaders asked if I would help out. I accepted and eventually became club president. I was a regular member of the club for 5 years.
I landed years of consulting work based on referrals through people I met at TechMasters. To this day they remain some of my best contacts in the industry.
Remember when I said you shouldn’t treat people like prospective clients? I wasn’t there to find clients (I barely knew what consulting was when I joined). I was there to improve my speaking ability. I met people who had the same goals. We shared a common bond. It didn’t hurt that many of the other members were consultants. I learned a lot from how they carried themselves and operated their business.
I’m busy after work or don’t live near any meetups
Not long ago, meetups were the only way to interact with people in your tech stack. More recently, Slack groups have become a good way to meet people around the world. There’s a Slack channel where the types of people you should be meeting congregate. Find it. If not, be a hero and start one yourself. The same rules apply online. Don’t treat people as prospective clients.
Where else can I meet people?
Conferences and tech events. Anywhere tech people go to learn and socialize. If you’re uncomfortable showing up without knowing anyone, volunteer. Like with meetups, volunteers make these events possible. If you’re helping out, you’ll meet a bunch of people without any effort.
Also, look for organizations looking to do good. Teach kids to code. Help under-represented people get a foothold in the industry. Anywhere people are working together for a common goal can provide an environment to meet people.
The most lasting connections will be with people you interact with on a regular basis.
What other benefits do I get from building a network?
Having a network of people who know who you are & what you do is a major benefit in itself. But there are more benefits that aren’t immediately obvious. We’ll go over those in a future post. Stay tuned.
Where can I learn more?
This is part of a series to help software consultants learn find their own clients by building a network. Other posts are here