Hello tech lady,
To ease my transition from nonprofits and education to technology, I’m reaching out to you for advice on how to make that leap. Any best practices, things to watch out for, or things to avoid? Ideas on where to find mentors (I’ve made some blind connections on LinkedIn, semi fruitful). I’ve started applying for jobs and will be looking for both internships and apprenticeships, but I find first hand advice really invaluable.
— Gabrielle Hodgson, Creative Director, via email submission.
When I look back on my career path, it has not been a straight and easy path. It took many zigzags and I tried a variety of jobs on the journey to find my call code. Many were epic failures that left me unhappy, but some were important stepping stones that led me to the tech roles I loved and eventually to where I am today as VP at Forbes. Before finding these techie roles that I thrived on, I tried my hand at server, bartender, house cleaner, administrative assistant, video store clerk, graphic designer, lifeguard, and swimming instructor, to name a few. Navigating is never perfect and you should expect to make a few mistakes along the way.
At first glance, this seems like a complex and very specific question, but it can be simplified into a question we can all identify with: How do I get where I want to be? There are obvious answers, such as B. gaining expertise through training and certification, but for me, networking has proven to be the most valuable of all, although the approach can vary depending on career stage.
If you’re just starting out in your career or working towards a career change but haven’t got your foot in the door yet, seek connections through social media like LinkedIn and Twitter. Individuals in the industry are always an advantage, but also connect with organizations that you consider leaders in your field, especially when you have options that suit both your field and you as an individual. Women in Engineering (WIT) is a prime example for me as a woman in technology. Do a little searching and you will find your niche.
Look for either junior or intern positions to apply for. Do your homework and find out who the hiring manager is, and if possible, text them directly to show their interest. It works, and to prove it, I’ve shared the names of several Jr Engineer candidates who pinged me on LinkedIn over the past few weeks and they’re now set up with interviews. Hiring managers won’t curse you for contacting them, and if they do, you probably don’t want to work for them anyway. So don’t be shy.
Another benefit you can take advantage of is organized mentoring programs. Just last week, I saw the Girls in Technology (GIT) mentor-protégé program mentioned on Twitter and applied to be a mentor. Monitor relevant organizations offering professional support and apply to be a mentee to receive individual help.
If you’re already in the game, I can’t stress enough the importance of constantly building your network. Schedule one-on-one meetings with co-workers and executives just to introduce yourself and check in regularly. Don’t miss the opportunity to ask questions or provide input in individual and group sessions. I often notice radio silence when a call for questions comes up, and it’s certainly a wasted moment if it’s not used to familiarize everyone with it she. You don’t get these opportunities often, so when they arise, seize them to set yourself apart.
Establish yourself as a problem solver by incorporating improvement ideas into your check-in conversations. Not only will you build a solid professional relationship by proactively scheduling time with your co-workers, but when you find ways to improve operations through these discussions, positive talk will spread and you will be an unstoppable force.
If you’ve been in the game long enough to be considered experienced, your networking strategy should evolve to establish you as an expert. Find panel and presenter opportunities at conferences and training events, and volunteer. The more public you speak, the more you establish your brand.
The most important thing for you as an experienced professional is to lead by example and prepare those younger than you. Take on as many mentees as possible. Get involved in organized mentoring programs like the aforementioned Girls in Technology (GIT) mentor-protégé program. Pass on your knowledge gladly and willingly.
It is our responsibility to train the next generation to take the helm. If not us, then who?
Do you have a question or a professional challenge that you would like answered in a future article? email me [email protected]. And you can read the previous column Girl on girl crime at work.
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