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How to Use Social Media to Build Your Network
Hot take: Twitter > LinkedIn
4 min read
Fun fact: I've been planning to write this post for weeks, and when Twitter was purchased last week by the dude who thinks he's going to colonize Mars and began what appears to be a rapid death spiral, I thought "Oops, I guessed I missed the boat on writing that blog post!" But really, for the most part the technique I was going to write down is applicable to any social networking platform.
This post is intended for folks early in their journey into tech, who don't already know other people in tech.
Also, check out my friend and homeworker Nyah Macklin's post on how to use Twitter to find open job roles to apply to!
So about that hot take
Yes, Twitter > LinkedIn for building a network while job hunting. You should still have an updated LinkedIn account: see Danny Thompson's series on how to build a great LinkedIn profile (though I know Danny's work because of his prolific Twitter presence, not because of LinkedIn, see: this hot take 😁). But LinkedIn is not a place most people actually like to hang out; it's more like a business card. It's incredibly difficult to get a job in tech without knowing people who can intro you when a good opportunity comes up, and people can't intro you effectively if they don't know you.
The social media cold-start problem
The question folks usually ask me is "How do I figure out who to follow?" And the great thing is, it's actually super simple! Simple, but time-intensive. I've seen folks build networks over the course of a few months (which is quite quick!), but they were still putting in lots of hours. There's no way around that: human relationships take time to nurture.
So here's the super-simple, time-intensive way to make friends in tech via social media: think of a few companies you'd be interested in working for, and then find accounts on your platform of choice (I'd recommend Twitter or Mastodon) belonging to folks who currently work for those companies, and follow them! You can even start from LinkedIn, since people often link their other accounts on their LinkedIn profiles. You don't have to follow everyone from a company, but follow a few who are active on your platform of choice; it's not helpful for this purpose if they have accounts and don't use them.
If the company has more than 50 or so employees, you'll want to tailor your search to teams whose work sounds interesting to you. You can look at job descriptions to find team names or job titles of interest, and then look for folks at those companies on those teams or having those job titles.
Once you've added a few people from each of a few companies, read their posts in your timeline and pay particular attention to the accounts they follow. If you notice people who are followed by several of the people you're now following, follow them as well! You can always unfollow later if you find their content isn't what you need. After a while you'll start to find you resonate more with some folks than others, which is the idea! Follow more of those people, and unfollow those you don't resonate with. Like/favorite and retweet/boost posts you find interesting, and just immerse yourself in the culture of the industry.
Join communities and build your tech-comms skills
You should also get involved in communities like freeCodeCamp,100 Devs, and Commit Your Code, communities that specifically for newbies. Look for study/project groups, people who are looking to do the same sort of work you are, and make yourself useful. Answer questions others ask, and ask questions yourself! Follow people from your communities on your social platform.
Building two-way connections
So now you follow a bunch of people, but lots of them don't know you! This is the part that takes real work and care, and the part that job-hunters frequently stumble over. I do not recommend asking people to whom you are a stranger for help getting a job (unless they explicitly invite this kind of request). Requests to pick folks's brains are also generally annoying.
A lovely way to initiate contact with someone is to not ask them for anything at all, but to thank them for something they've already done, like a helpful thread or blog post. Sometimes that will lead to a continued conversation, sometimes not (and don't try to force it).
Generally, make yourself noticeable by providing value, not by asking for someone's time. You can add value by answering questions thoughtfully and kindly, by posting links to resources you found helpful, and by connecting on a human level by engaging with folks' posts about their lives (especially their pets 😁!).
Basically, act like a whole human, not just a job-seeker.
And that's it, really, for establishing a little nook for yourself! I hope this was helpful. Thanks for reading. 😊
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