The Ultimate Guide To Networking for Data Professionals
Did you know that 85% of career positions are filled through some form of networking?
It’s no secret that networking is vital for career success, but how do you go about it the right way in the data science world, and especially in the age of social distancing?
When we think of networking, many think of handing out business cards, impressing people with your small talk, and bonding over a fun night out. But these days, networking can take on so many other forms, and making it work best for you is what matters most.
When it comes to career development you can leverage networking to:
- connect with like-minded individuals in your industry.
- grow your personal brand and credibility.
- discover what a particular job or career involves on a day-to-day basis.
- find out how someone’s career has developed over time.
- receive early notice about vacancies in the future.
- arrange a work placement or visit a workplace, and so much more.
Our guide to modern networking for data professionals provides you with actionable advice to get started right away! You’re less than 10 minutes away from a bigger network, increased connectedness, and an improved personal brand. Here are a few topics we will cover below:
- What is Networking?
- Why You Can’t Avoid Networking
- How to Network the Right Way?
- How to Successfully Network Online
- Key takeaways
Taking time away from learning cutting edge tools and techniques, or working on your portfolio may not seem like a worthwhile idea at first, we’re here to outline the pros of stepping away from your screens to connect in real life –or online–and explore new perspectives and make your talents known to the world. Let’s get started!
What is Networking?
Do you ever wonder what it means to network or how it can possibly help you improve your career?
According to the Oxford dictionary, networking is the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting. The key part to remember here is the word “exchange.”
Many specialists will attest to the power of networking, and if you haven’t discovered it for yourself, it’s time that you embrace the possibilities it can bring to your burgeoning career.
Why You Can’t Avoid Networking
There’s no denying that improving your skills, and boosting your portfolio are steps that will greatly impact your career. But networking can have the same effect!
If you’re dismissing it as an “old-school” way of career development, then it’s time to take a look at these fascinating numbers:
- 70% of people found their role through a connection at the company.
- 70% of professionals think that career success is improved by professional networking. (LinkedIn)
- 72% of professionals who network in person admit they are influenced by looks and handshakes. (LinkedIn)
- 85% of positions are filled through some form of networking.
Taking control of your professional connections can have a huge impact on your career, but remember that networking should be an ongoing activity that you take part in. Be sure to avoid these networking don’ts:
- Only networking when you need the work
- Being afraid to attend in-person events on your own.
- You avoid doing any homework beforehand.
- Forgetting to take a person’s contact information, or not following up with a personal message.
How to Network the Right Way?
Networking is an art. And as with anything, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
While there are many ways to grow your LinkedIn network by
First, let’s be clear about what networking is NOT:
- Adding random connections to your LinkedIn network with people who work in the data industry.
- Dismissing your existing network
- Connecting with someone for purely personal gain or to ask for a favor, like a role or future work.
Adding value, being genuine and helpful are the key takeaways to getting networking right. If you are adding value, you’re more likely to attract the right people and make meaningful connections that last.
How Do You Get Started?
If you’re new to networking, getting started can feel quite overwhelming. From online meetups to large in-person events or one-on-one meetings, how can you make an impact with every connection you make?
We suggest starting with 10 of your existing contacts. This may include former colleagues, friends, and social media contacts. Start building on your existing relationships first and then branch with new contacts when you feel more comfortable.
Here are a few ways to begin nurturing your relationships with new contacts:
- Prioritize networking and avoid overwhelm by scheduling this time in your calendar. Block out time every month to reach out to contacts and attend professional industry events.
- Make networking as simple as possible by developing a system for touching base with your contacts. This will reduce the overwhelm if you are new to networking.
- Never lose touch with recruiters. If you’ve developed a professional relationship with a recruiter at any point in your job search, remember to follow up and thank them for their time. Let them know if you have landed a new role, but make them aware that you would like to remain on their contact list.
- Make a list of professionals you admire, or companies you want to connect with. And don’t forget about key decision-makers within your own company! Is there anyone you would want to introduce yourself to? Use this list to then determine which events or forums you need to join in order to make these contacts a reality.
- Once you’re nurtured the relationship, add value to the relationship by offering advice, introducing them to some of your contacts, meeting up in person, or simply saying hello.
How to Successfully Network Online
Maintaining a social presence and personal brand these days remains a top priority for data scientists–especially when social distancing has forced the cancellation of many in-person networking events.
For those who are hesitant to participate in traditional networking, this is your opportunity to shine! By maintaining a strong presence across social media, a personal website or blog, and generating content that has a long shelf life and attracts interest, you can attract an audience, build a solid reputation and demonstrate your skills and credibility.
Here a few tips to remember when starting or maintaining your online presence:
- Maintenance is key: Choose channels that you can maintain and update regularly, especially LinkedIn and Github.
- Be social: When using channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter, don’t forget to interact with your audience. It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason, after all! Reply to comments on your accounts and on others, share your opinion, or other helpful information such as recommended products and tools.
- Produce evergreen content: Create blog content with a long shelf life to attract the largest audience, over time and do your best to optimize your SEO.
Building an online presence isn’t the only way to network online. Here are six other avenues that are just as relevant and bring in even more like-minded industry members your way.
- Join online communities: Joining Discord and Slack communities, Facebook groups or online forums is a great and easy way to meet new members of the global data community.
- Host a podcast or pitch yourself as a guest: If you can commit to it, start a podcast or propose yourself as a possible guest for your favorite data-related podcast. Your appearance will likely draw feedback from fans and bolster your credibility as an expert in the field.
- Speaking opportunities: Seek out opportunities to speak at online conferences or meetups if you’re comfortable giving presentations before large groups. This is one of the best ways to boost your personal brand before a large and highly interested audience
With so many options to choose from, where do you begin? First, we always recommend establishing an online presence. Every data professional can benefit from sharing and promoting their work with a wider audience. Second, choosing the type of networking that aligns with your personality will help you maximize its potential. If you are an extrovert, choose opportunities that are more public. If you identify as an introvert, begin by choosing channels that require less public-facing demands.
Dipping your toe in the water via Discord and Slack channels is a great starting point for most data professionals these days. And if you’re unsure what to post on social media, take inspiration from some of your favorite data professionals in the space.
Networking can be an intimidating component of career development, but we’re sure you’ll agree that the benefits far outweigh the downsides.
Using the practical advice outlined in this guide, and applying it consistently, you’ll be able to carve out more credibility in the industry, attract the attention of industry professionals and land more lucrative roles.
And while networking is done best when it’s tailored to your specific communication strengths, keep these main points in mind:
- Always be networking and engaging with industry members genuinely.
- Focus on building relationships and avoid making a request first.
- Offer help and value where you can.
- Always follow up and do it regularly.
- Take your connections offline and meet up at gatherings or events.
Taking the time to connect with new acquaintances, improve your conversational skills, and broaden your industry views are just some of the benefits that networking affords. Get out there and start connecting!