There is no doubt, we are seeing a challenging time in the economy, and it is trickling down to the Information Technology (IT) sector. One of the most important parts of weathering a storm like this in the IT industry is focusing on ensuring your network of coworkers, alumni and friends is strong. By developing a strong network, you have a team to folks you can turn to for advise, recommendations, job postings and the inside track on potential job leads.
The other benefit to networking, beyond looking for a new position, is to develop professionally in your current position. By interacting with others in your field and similar fields you can build your personal toolbox by learning from other peoples' experiences and skills. By regularly working with others you can see what methodologies they use to be successful and what tools they have developed and found to ensure they are efficient in their roles.
Here are some common methods myself and others have used to build a community within the IT space:
Users Groups – Most cities today have multiple users groups including Linux, Oracle, MySQL, Dell and DB2 just to name a few. These organizations are always looking for speakers and folks to hold lab sessions. Volunteer to present, volunteer to organize meetings and volunteer to recruit other speakers. It is a wonderful way to meet folks in similar roles as well as share your knowledge and experience with others.
Brown Bag Events – Host a brown bag at your office, invite your coworkers and do a short talk about a topic that interests you or you think would be of relevance in your environment. This gives you publicity within the company, and allows members of other teams to see the skill and experience they have available when new projects come up.
Operate your companies test bed – Often times companies will have a test and quality assurance environment to use for testing new software deployments, to complete software builds and to test new vendor hardware. Often times this environment does not fall on corporate IT, or the quality departments to manage, but is somewhere in the middle. Volunteer to manage this environment and take real ownership of it. This will give you a great forum to meet people in other departments, as well as share your ideas in a way that will allow them to be utilized in production for the company.
Blogging – Blogging is a simple, effective method to put your ideas out in the public for comments, development and to show your level of expertise in a field. Blogging allows you to share ideas and findings as you write them. Blogging provides communication in a forum that while not peer-reviewed, others can comment on your postings and post additional follow up information.
Conferences – Presenting at conferences is a wonderful way to show both your level of experience, as well as new ideas and methodologies you can bring to your field. Conferences provide a peer-reviewed environment that you can submit papers and do talks. These type of environments show not only your level of expertise, but that others in your field value your contributions and capabilities.