The 10 Commandments of Networking

September 2017

By Bob Waltenspiel, Sales Director, Securonix; Co-Founder, IT in the D

David Phillips and I have been putting on monthly events for IT professionals since 2007. We currently have over 7,000 members in our organization and have been asked to be guest speakers at countless events. While we don't proclaim to be experts, this list of commandments is what we have learned from networking over the past 15 years. 

COMMANDMENT I: Thou Shall Understand Priorities

Whether you realize it or not, you have a job right now.

That job is to find a job.

Let us say that one more time for proper emphasis: your job…when you do not HAVE a job…is to FIND a job.

That means you get out of the recliner.  You get out of bed.  Now is not the time to be lazy.

COMMANDMENT II: Thou Shall Figure Out Thy Message

We don’t care how desperate you are, realize one major truth: you are not everything to everyone.

You need to have a clear, clean and concise message.

Decide who you are.  Decide what you are.

Are you a developer?  Are you a project manager?  Are you a tech lead?  Are you a front end designer?  A back end developer?

If you don’t know who you are and what you are, then how are you ever going to be able to convince someone else to give you a job doing anything?

COMMANDMENT III: Thou Shall Be Prepared

Treat every interaction you have every day as if it were a job interview.

Remember what the first Commandment was?  Your job is to find a job, and that means you have to always be ready.

Always have business cards on you, no matter where you’re going.  Simple ones you printed off at home.  Free ones you got through Vistaprint.  Doesn’t matter where or how you get them…get them.  And carry them.  Always.

And while you’re doing those cards, make sure you have a normal sounding email address.  You are not “wildstud987@thehookup.com”.  You’re not.  Get a nice, normal, clean and fresh email address at GMail if you need to, and you put that on those cards.

Get that LinkedIn profile updated.  Keep your cell phone charged.  You are always available for a chat, an in-depth conversation, or…even better…an interview.  Don’t miss calls.  Don’t be away from email for entire days on end.  Be prepared…and stay focused.

COMMANDMENT IV: Thou Shall Fixeth Thy Resume

There’s a reason why we have Bad Resume Guy and Bad Resume Guy 2out here – even though we constantly hammer on the importance of networking, at some point, someone’s going to want to see your resume.

So for crying out loud, make sure it doesn’t suck.

Remember that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” resume – just open a template and follow the instructions in those two Bad Resume Guy entries and you’ll be off to a great start.

Make sure you have your accomplishments highlighted – did you exceed quota?  Did you deliver projects on time and under budget?  Did projects you were responsible for launch with fewer defects than anyone else’s?  Call them out.  These are your talking points during an interview, and should be your quick talking points during an informal conversation as well.

Commandment V: Thou Shall Giveth…In Order to Taketh

You’ve got some free time on your hands, so you might as well put it to good use.

Companies like to see that a potential candidate is not only strongly talented, but also has a civic mindset as well.  Being helpful, being involved, and getting engaged with local community efforts and charitable organizations is a great way to do just that.

Offer to help the church update their website that hasn’t been touched in three years.  See if a group like Operation: Kid Equip needs help in their warehouse packing boxes up for shipment out to families with kids who need supplies.  Call Habitat for Humanity and see if there’s a project you can dive in to.  Check with a local shelter and ask if they need volunteers.

Things like that will help set you apart from the competition…while keeping you busy and your mind off of your own circumstances for a bit.  

COMMANDMENT VI: Thou Shall Utilize Social Media Properly

If you’re looking for a job and have your resume out there, you’re probably being googled as you read this.

Remember back in Commandment III when we told you to have a “clean” email address?  Here’s another good use for that – build yourself a nice, safe, clean Facebook account that’s free of party pictures, your political rants, your gun collection, or anything else that a prospective employer might object to for some reason or another.

If barbers can find new jobs via Instagram, then you can use social media to help you as well.

COMMANDMENT VII: Thou Shall Knoweth Things

It doesn’t matter if it’s over coffee or during a formal interview…knowledge is power.

If you’re meeting with a friend for coffee because she works where you want to work, do a little homework beforehand.  Sure, it’s a meeting with a friend, but even friends judge you on a regular basis.  Show a little effort and initiative, and it’ll do wonders for leaving an impression.

Score an interview?  Same thing.  Google the company to find the latest news about them.

When someone asks why you want to work there, talk about the challenges you’re looking forward to taking on, the opportunities you see in their market space, or the interest in the industry…anything but “to have a job”.  That isn’t the answer.

That’s never the answer.  At least not in public.

Again, take the advice we’ve given you in the past.  Read what to do when preparing for the interview, the day of the interview, and then after the interview.

COMMANDMENT VIII: Thou Shall Not Lie

It’s a small world.  Don’t learn that the hard way.

No matter how desperate you get, no matter how frustrated you become…now is not the time to “get creative” with your resume.

Stick with the facts, and don’t start making stuff up just with the hope of getting your foot in the door.

Because they’ll find out.

And you’ll be gone.

And they’ll start talking to others about you…and that’s a situation you never want to be in.

You can recover from a lot of things, but having a reputation for lying on your resume is a really hard one to recover from under any circumstances.

COMMANDMENT IX: Thou Shall Lather, Rinse and Repeat

Jobs and relationships can both disappear in the blink of an eye, so always be doing everything you’ve read so far on a regular basis.

Take 10 to 15 minutes per day to keep up with LinkedIn.  See what connections are posting.  Check out who just got a new job.  Look at job postings.

Make friends with every recruiter that you can.  Reach out and make new connections.

Keep hitting networking events.

Don’t stop volunteering.

Keep your resume updated, flexible and fluid.

Athletes aren’t the only free agents in the world – only you will look out for you.  You probably already realize this, given that you’re looking for a job after all…but it bears repeating.

COMMANDMENT X: Thou Shall Follow Up

This is probably the most important part, and yet the part that people forget more often than not.

Thank people for their time.

Send a follow up note.

Fire off a LinkedIn connection request.

Have solid references that you’ve asked to be your references and will actually be good references for you at the ready, and send those along with your follow up thank you note.

Follow up on a regular basis…but not so much so that you become an annoying psycho who always gets routed to voicemail.  If the recruiter says “call me next week”, then call next week.  Not the next day.  Not two days later…next week.

You can read the entire blog entry at http://www.itinthed.com/2697/the-new-and-improved-10-commandments-of-networking/

Bob Waltenspiel is one of the original founders and resident “Sales Guy” of IT in the D, working for such tech giants as NTT, NEC, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and most recently Cisco Systems.  Bob was recently awarded the Elite 40 under 40 designation from L Brooks Patterson, he serves on the TIFA Board for the City of Auburn Hills as well as sits on the Oakland County Business Roundtable. Bob is also on the Board of Directors for the German-American Marksmanship Club, served for 2 years as the President of the Auburn Elementary PTA, and is a regular speaker for the Michigan Shifting Gears program, winning 2013’s “Outstanding Contributor for the Transformation of Careers and Lives”.