During the 2008 financial crisis, I was fresh out of college and looking for a job. It was definitely a challenging time to be job-searching. I remember going out in my interview clothes with a stack of résumés and walking door-to-door in shopping centers looking for hourly retail work without much luck. After a few months of surviving on babysitting gigs, tutoring sessions, and credit cards, a friend recommended me to her manager at Starbucks, and I finally got a reliable part-time job. My network saved me then, and I’m working it again now as I job-search during a global crisis even bigger and scarier than the last one.
Networking is different now. I met my Starbucks coworker because she lived in my apartment building. Although I started off this job search with in-person meetups, a month ago I had to shift my strategy totally online. Here are some of the resources that have been most useful to me. I hope they will help you, too.
Twitter is a great networking resource for anybody in the data science, analytics, or visualization fields. Lots of top voices in these fields are not just tweeting, but also constantly interacting with each other (and potentially with you!). Following industry leaders is a great way to encounter new ideas, engage in major debates, and get familiar with the culture of your chosen field.
Here are my tips for using Twitter for networking:
- Follow some folks whose work interests you (see my recommendations below). If you see an opportunity for a meaningful interaction, take it! For instance, I enjoyed a book by Jacqueline Nolis (@skyetetra) and Emily Robinson (@robinson_es) and tagged them in a tweet recommending it to my followers. They liked and retweeted, which got me a few new followers (and some warm fuzzies).
- If you’re working with a particular language, package, etc., tweet about your work and tag the relevant account. Matplotlib (@matplotlib), for instance, is great about liking and retweeting projects if you tag them. Since they probably have more followers than you, this can get your work in front of a much bigger audience.
- Same goes for hashtags; using them wisely can help make your tweets more visible in the community, which in turn can help start conversations with people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. Use the hashtags that are a) relevant to what you’re talking about and b) most frequently used in the community. For instance, #DataScience is much more common than #iheartdatascience, so using it will help you join a bigger, less niche conversation (which is probably what you want when trying to expand your network).
Here are some of my favorite Twitter accounts in the fields of data science, analysis, and visualization, in no particular order:
(Feel free to follow me, too! I’m @j_re.)
I admit I was a bit of skeptic at first about how Slack workspaces full of people I don’t know could potentially help me find a job. But I don’t mind saying that I have had more than enough positive experiences in the last few months to make me a believer. Slack is great for networking because
- a workspace can accommodate thousands of people, some of whom might have exactly the connections you’re looking for;
- it’s all asynchronous, so you can participate in conversations without having to show up at any particular time;
- you can probably find a workspace and some channels tailored to your particular interests, which means you can contribute (and get) much more with every interaction.
Here are some Slack workspaces that have really been working for me. Although several of them are specific to my location, you may have something equivalent in your area.
- My local tech community workspace. This one is great because the folks on it are the same people I saw at meetups (when meetups were still happening!), and the content (e.g., job ads) is all specific to my location. I live in a college town with a medium-sized tech presence, and we manage to have a pretty active Slack workspace. If your area doesn’t have one, consider being the brave soul to start one!
- My local Women in Tech chapter workspace. My nearest WIT chapter is actually based in a city 100 miles away, so this is a great way to get involved in that community even though I can’t be there in person (even in non-pandemic times).
- My local PyData chapter workspace. Again, my nearest PyData chapter is actually 100 miles away, but this workspace lets me participate on an equal footing with all those Pythonistas who can’t meet in person now anyway.
- The Out In Tech workspace. This one has given me by far the greatest return on the very small investment of checking for updates once or twice a day. Seriously, if you identify with the LGBTQ+ community in any way, join this. I’ve gotten job interviews, internal referrals, invitations to apply to not-yet-listed positions, and access to all kinds of awesome events, with virtually no effort on my part. Out In Tech has members all over the world, and the workspace contains channels for many major cities, including distinct jobs channels for those cities. Right now OIT is hosting virtual events every weeknight, including a mini jobs fair every Wednesday. Run, do not walk, to join this workspace!
- My bootcamp’s workspace. I recently graduated from Flatiron School’s online data science bootcamp, where we used Slack every day for class. After graduation, I still have access to the workspace, including channels focused on alums and jobs. It might be worthwhile to do a little research and see if any organizations with which you’re affiliated have similar alum/community workspaces. You’ll have an automatic conversation starter with everyone there!
Fairygodboss is a jobs platform focused on women. In addition to job listings, the website also features blog posts and company reviews focused on women’s experiences. The companies that list on FGB are ones committed to hiring and retaining women, and each company’s profile page highlights aspects of their culture and benefits that they hope will appeal to women.
An especially awesome feature of Fairygodboss is that they offer virtual career events, including job fairs. I attended one a few weeks ago, and I’m registered for the next one, too. It works like this: you submit your résumé ahead of time, and you may be contacted by various companies asking you to “stop by their booth.” (You don’t have to be invited to visit a company’s booth.) A “booth” at the virtual fair is basically a chat room with recruiters present to talk to anyone who shows up. A recruiter can invite you to a private chat where you can discuss specifics of a particular position. Come dressed for an interview in case a recruiter wants to chat over video!
Bonus: virtual conferences
This one is a bonus because I haven’t actually attended a virtual conference yet, but I’m registered for two early next month. In theory, a virtual conference is an opportunity to hear interesting talks and network from a pandemic-approved distance. I expect that the networking bit will be a little trickier than at an in-person conference because you can’t just turn to a person standing nearby and say, “So, what do you do?” But I’m looking forward to giving it a try anyway. Both of the conferences I’m attending had free registration, plus I don’t have to shell out for travel and lodging. No matter what happens, I think it’ll be worth it.
Here are the links, if you’re interested:
- Women in Data Science Puget Sound, Monday, May 4, all day
- DSS Elevate: Elevating Women in Data, Thursday, May 7, 12:30-4:30 EDT
If you have a killer networking strategy that I haven’t listed here, pop into the comments and let me know! (Really, I want to know.)