In a tough economy, jobs can be hard to find. Especially the right jobs, ones that make you happy and help you grow in your career. Even if you are satisfied with your job, having a network of programmers, managers, and other IT professionals is a great thing. You have people to bounce ideas off of, and a safety net of jobs that you have a head start on should something go bad with your job or company.
Looking through the list I came up with, there is a heavy emphasis on social networks. Maybe that’s because I’m a working parent, and in-person events are hard to attend. You’ll see some on the list, but I’m not racking up frequent flyer miles going to events. But I think it also has to do with taking advantage of communities that span the globe.
Follows is what I would consider the basics of getting your name out there:
- Local User Groups – These are invaluable. Once a month or so, you get to learn about a new aspect of your favorite community while interacting with other members. And you can often present once you know the group, which is a great way to work on your presentation skills.
- A Blog – Sharing your ideas, and getting feedback is a great way to engage other developers who will take the time to read a thought out blog post. It will give you practice at clearly communicating your ideas, and processing feedback (and spam comments). Write about what interests you, and write in the style you like. For instance, Steve Yegge’s blog posts are my all-time favorites, and they are novellettes, but I write nothing like that.
- LinkedIn.com – It’s like facebook for your job. Sure, there are a lot of recruiters on there, and some other hassles, but it’s still a great way to keep in tough with old coworkers and keep up with what is happening in your region and field.
- Twitter.com – If you’re a developer and not on twitter, I’m not sure I understand why. Sure, there’s a lot of noise, but it’s like a new form of IRC. There is just so much instant sharing of good ideas, and promoting of content. For instance, I’ve gotten into quora lately (see below), and I regularly tweet out quora questions that I want more people to look at.
- StackOverflow.com – Yes, stackoverflow is about answering questions. But you also get to seeing the same faces answering the same types of questions, etc. Your quality and clarity of answers earns you a reputation. And what you end up building is a great resume. I regularly feel like someone could evaluate a programmer by looking through their stackoverflow profile alone. It would tell you what kinds of technologies they are comfortable in, how clearly they communicate, if they get easily drawn into arguments, and how much detail they can go into when necessary.
- Quora.com – Quora is new and trendy right now. It’s a Q & A site that wants it’s content to end up serving as a Wikipedia of answers. It has lofty goals, and it has drawn a fairly elite crowd so far. Similar to stackoverflow, I think there is social benefit and a resume like quality built upon your content.
- Facebook.com – Why facebook? It’s for soccer moms and college students, right? Most of the other communities tend to host a lot of tech people in general, and can be a bit homogenous. While facebook is the most broad representation of people I know… friends, family, old coworkers, you name it. So that’s the way I prefer to keep up with my family and friends. But it’s also a great way to stay connected about jobs, local events, and other relevant info. There are groups on there for developers, and you never know when one of your friends in another industry will have info on work relevant to you.
- Online User Groups – With StackOverflow getting big, I don’t find myself using user groups as often as I use to. But there are still questions that are so specific to a community, that I know I’m better off posting in a user group than on a general Q & A site like stackoverflow or quora.
- Regional Conferences – I’ve gone to Codemash the last two years. The presentations are great, and I’ve always come away with new ideas and interests. But I also come away with new contacts for linkedin and twitter, new reading suggestions, new acquaintances and friends, and job leads. I’m not looking for a job, but it’s great to know you have some backup plans. And when my company has been hiring, I have several times recommended people that I’ve met out in the community, and had them well received as strong candidates.
- Start Your Own Event – Many conferences and user groups will host open spaces, or lightening talks. They are highly interactive and you’ll have a hard time leaving without some new contacts.
- Vark.com – This is an interesting new service you have to try to believe. You sign up, and specifiy some topics you’ll answer questions on. Then you ask questions when you have them (preferably that are not google questions, but need a human touch), and vark will find someone to answer and get that answer back to you. I asked for a recommendation for a portrait lens for my Sony a390 DSLR camera, and got a well thought out answer with buying options. Like StackOverflow, this is a resource first and a community second, but your profile is a great way to show off your ability to communicate and explain detail.
- Give Camps – I haven’t been able to attend one yet, but am really hoping to this year. It’s for good causes, and you’ll meet other developers in your area from all kinds of backgrounds. What a great idea.
About the sites that involve getting and receiving help (StackOverflow, Quora, Vark), you’re probably only using the site well if you’re both asking and answering questions. Asking a well worded thoughtful question with adequate detail is as much of a skill as answering a question.
Finally, my advice would be to simplify cross-posting to these groups by integrating accounts when you can. For instance, I have linkedin and facebook set to watch my twitter account. If I post anything with the #fb hashtag, facebook picks it up and posts it as my status. Similarly, #li is picked up by linkedin. Beyond simplying the effort of getting content out, all that linking back and forth helps out your search engine traffic as well.