How 42 Students Maximize their Networking Skills

It’s Not *Only* What You Know…

When it comes to networking we have all heard that saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” that can leave us feeling a little lost if we don’t know anyone in the field we want to go in. Plus, it is never a good idea to underestimate the importance of developing your fundamental technical and communication skills. At the same time, a candidate who was referred by an employee has about a two-thirds chance of being hired, with 26% of hires coming from referrals. It has also been said that landing a job through a referral may lead to more job satisfaction. This may be due to being more familiar with the company culture through the referred employee, or the referred employee referring you because you seem like a good fit for the company culture.

Luckily a network is one of those things that you can grow quite quickly, you just have to start putting yourself out there. Not quite ready for the job search right now? You should be networking long before you are ready for that step. Not only may it help assist you in knowing what direction you want to head in (it is great to get personal insight from people who work in the field) but you will be more prepared the day you do begin your job search. Below are a few tips from 42 students and alumni on how to grow your network. 

Go to Events & Meetups

42 students are always curious to know what’s going on in the tech industry, so we host and attend networking events and meetups. As part of the tech community in Silicon Valley, we love interacting with those who are just as excited about tech as we are. Events on and off campus are a great way for our students to get involved in the local tech world and give those who aren’t familiar with 42 a chance to spend time with members of the community. 42 alumna, Queenie Ho, shared with us during a recent interview the value of attending events and meetups, “Go to meetups, just go and talk to them, most people want to help you, there are a lot of people out there willing to help you but they need to know that you exist and the only way they know that is to meet you.”

Hackathons

42 hosted 21 hackathons in 2018, including Google Developer Group’s DevWeek hackathon, AngelHack’s 11th global Series hackathon, Act in Space hackathon, Call for Code challenge, and more. Students who want to meet new people and practice their coding skills attend hackathons that take place off-campus as well. You can find hackathons through Meetup, Eventbrite, and Major League Hacking. This is a great way to meet potential employers and show them you have the skills needed to take on real-world challenges. 42 alumnus Salim Salaues, a DevOps Engineer at Scality, shared in an alumni profile, “I know hackathons are a great way to do it, I know several other people who got job offers through hackathons. Along with applying to different companies, while at 42 I did several hackathons. It’s a good way to show bigger companies what your skill level is, and it bypasses some of the preliminary screenings that might get you dismissed.”

Guest Speakers

42 arranges guest speakers from diverse tech backgrounds to share their experiences directly with students. Interacting with a guest speaker is a great way to connect with someone who may have a shared interest. If you communicate that you are looking for something in their field, they may be able to serve as a referral someday. 42 student Jem Cope shared her networking experiences with guest speakers, “When guest speakers come here I add them on LinkedIn because it gives you a specific person to talk to at a company. If I send my resume to a company without a referral it is like sending it in a black hole. You have a better chance of hearing back, especially if they met you before. Ask guest speakers questions about stuff you are genuinely interested in. The higher up someone is, it may seem harder to talk to them, but just remember they are still people.” It is also good to look at local Meetups that may cater to specific interests, such as AI, design, project management and more. A great advantage of being near Silicon Valley is that students have access to a lot of great speakers who are leaders in their field…some of our students even got to meet Python creator Guido van Rossum at an off-campus event!  

Just Talk to Someone

 Sometimes the biggest hurdle is knowing how to start a conversation with a stranger. 42 student David Mendelovits shared some advice on how he approaches someone new, “Say you are are in an environment where people are also into tech, like at a convention, the bigger your network, the bigger your reach is. You just have to go up and say ‘hi’ because they have something to talk about and you have something to talk about generally.  It takes time to get comfortable doing this, so focus on introducing yourself and don’t worry about what comes after. I’d recommend asking whatever questions come to mind. If someone has their own booth at a convention they have a lot of materials and you can learn what product they have and more about their experiences. It becomes a good opportunity to learn as well as connect. If you are in the correct environment, you can talk to anybody. ”

Use Social Media

In-person interactions are important when it comes to networking, but social media is still an essential component. By using LinkedIn or Twitter, you are taking control of your own personal brand and creating an online space where your interests, experiences, and accomplishments can shine.

LinkedIn

Not only is LinkedIn a great tool to do research on companies, jobs or people in the field, but it is an important step in the follow-up process, no matter how you are introduced to someone. You never know if that person you chatted with at a conference or that classmate you worked on a project with can connect you to your next opportunity. 42 student Justin Crisp gave some insight into how he uses LinkedIn, “Everyday that you are in a community, like at 42, you have an opportunity to connect with someone. If you connect with someone and you have something in common, you should add them on LinkedIn. I think LinkedIn is probably the best platform for keeping your connections.”According to Fortune, since 2017 LinkedIn has 500 million users in more than 200 nations across the globe and boasts more than 10 million active job posts. Around 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find top candidates, but like any tool, you need to build a profile that will have all the right elements to help you land your next opportunity. Some tips from The Muse include taking the time to build a complete profile, edit your LinkedIn page URL so it is customized with your name, treat it like a resume with a strong first-person summary and bullet points for your experiences, and try to have at least 50 connections. Founder of Kafali Pay, 42 student Obsaa Abdalhalim, finds LinkedIn to be a useful networking tool for his startup, “The first good step, without spending a lot of time and resources, is LinkedIn. You can go there to do some research on different companies and people in the industry. You connect with interested potential investors for your product and these people introduce you to the accelerator networks. For any startup that is a good step, to introduce yourself and make a LinkedIn page for your startup. When you go and pitch to the people they have to see you are the face of this company, that you are serious about it. ” 

Twitter

You can also create a Twitter account to connect with people who share your interests and grow your professional network. According to Omnicore, there are 500 million tweets sent per day with 326 million monthly active Twitter users. That is a large network of potential connections that can be used in addition to LinkedIn. An article in The Muse explains how Twitter can be used for networking, “Building a personal brand on Twitter isn’t just about posting one or two articles every day; it’s about creating your own content that shows your audience (and potential followers) what you’re about. For example, the next time you see an article you like, don’t just post it; add a quick sentence or two with some commentary on the piece. Or, ask your followers for their thoughts on the article. Commenting on the content other people post is just as effective at building a personal brand for your own Twitter account, so don’t feel like you’re limited to only thinking about what you post on your own feed.” Jem learned about the value of Twitter when she participated in a project at 42, “LinkedIn is really great, but Twitter is really great too. I have a Twitter just for programming. There is a yellow brick road project, and I underestimated how that would help me create an online presence but I connected with a lot of people that way. The easiest way is to make it visual, such as taking a picture of an event and posting it on social media. That only takes about 30 seconds. I personally stick to LinkedIn and Twitter. I think if you have too many things you have to manage, it becomes less genuine because you are juggling too many balls.”

Look for Volunteer Opportunities


Become A 42 Ambassador

The 42 Ambassadors are a team of experienced students who assist and represent 42 at various events on and off campus. Whether it’s giving a tour to a group of educators or executives, assisting with a presentation or volunteering at a tech conference, ambassadors are able to improve their networking skills while also sharing their experiences as a student. Students need to apply to this volunteer position before being selected into the ambassador program. Jem is a current 42 Ambassador and shared why she joined, “You get a lot of experience thinking on your feet and explaining stuff about the school. Part of the reason why I joined ambassadors was to push myself out of my comfort zone, otherwise, my initial instinct would be to hide in a corner. But with the ambassador program, there are set dates and you are committed to doing that.”

42 alumnus Oliver Belanger spoke about his ambassador experience in a recent alumni profile, “Your job as a 42 ambassador is to network and interact with people from cool companies. This is an opportunity that 42 has provided so you can gain access to people you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. People like to help people but they don’t want to waste their time, as long as you can show them you won’t be a waste of their time or resources they will help. Especially at 42, we are focused on getting stuff done and putting our heads down to work. But you also need to talk to people and interact with people. When you are interacting with them, tell them what you care about, what you are interested in. Especially if you make it to a point where you can get an internship, bring it up in conversation. People like hiring people who care and will put in an effort.”

Volunteer Outside 42

There are other volunteer opportunities outside of 42 that may be helpful when it comes to networking. According to a recent article in The Muse, volunteering not only helps you further develop or learn new skills but it is also, “an easy and completely natural way to meet some new connections in your area. Generally, volunteer opportunities have a pretty friendly, low-pressure environment. This means that you can have genuine, engaging conversations with people who share your interests—without that awkward air of expectations.” David shared some advice on how to connect with tech-related volunteer opportunities, “I’d email 20 organizers with a short introduction and tell them what I was studying and tell them I wanted to get involved with the tech community.  Over a week’s time, I would get 4 or 5 responses. Very quickly I was a volunteer at several conventions, in 2018 I volunteered at around 15 events. I would recommend searching Eventbrite for events you may like and contacting the organizer from there. A lot of the events I volunteered at became consistent volunteer opportunities. Last year I volunteered for the Asia America Multitechnology Association (AAMA)  and had the opportunity to learn about several emerging technologies. Apart from that, I spent a lot of time volunteering with CODAME, an art and tech nonprofit. I would set up art exhibits and assist in the construction of the event. Most importantly I got to participate and have a ton of fun. Lastly, I would recommend you collect cards and numbers and follow-up with your new contacts the next day via email or LinkedIn.”

 

Remember the Connections You Build @ 42

The great thing about 42 is that our peer-to-peer learning structure is a great lesson in how to network. Since there are no teachers, students need to go up to another student to ask for help.  42’s collaborative dynamic of a healthy and abundant exchange of ideas comes from students working together to confront and troubleshoot challenging situations without any prior knowledge. This type of teamwork naturally leads to forming strong bonds between students that will help them build a network that can assist them later on in their careers…not to mention the personal enrichment from making a new community of friends.  Jem shared, “Meeting all the other students at 42 is a big reason for being here. I could study from home, but I learn so much from my peers. All the students here are going to go out and get a job. Anyone you have a connection with, you have multiple connections with companies when you leave.”

published by Stacey Faucett – January 16, 2019