Networking Trends in the Tech Industry

A few weeks ago, I was mulling over how people interact with others in their professional network.

More specifically, I was focused on the High Tech industry (because it’s the industry I happen to work in, I’m a freelance Software Engineer and networking is a big part of how I get leads).

There’s no official guide/ documentation on how to network with others, so I was curious about the following questions:

Do people tends to have similar tendencies when they network with others, or does it depend on the person?
What tools (software or otherwise) do people use to manage their professional network?

I wrote up a quick Google Survey and mailed it to some of my professional contacts, and surprisingly, I got a pretty high response rate.

I guess others are as interested about these question as I am.

Survey Results

Relationships with your professional connections

While people tend to have more connections with people they work (or worked) with and people they went to school with rather than people they randomly meet at networking events, it’s interesting to learn that the source of a lot of people’s professional connections are friends with similar professional interests.

People report having not having that many connections they consider useful in their professional endeavours, especially when you compare it to the average number of connections a LinkedIn user has.

Managing your professional connections

Unsurprisingly, LinkedIn is the most popular tool that people use to keep track of their professional connections.

Nobody uses a paper rolodex anymore, but quite a few people rely on their Phone Contacts.

Other answers included Twitter, Evernote, a recorder, and someone wrote their own note taking app especially for meetings.

Communication with your professional connections

One mantra you hear often is to keep your professional connections “warm” by contacting people often. However around 50% of people seem to not do a whole lot to keep their contacts engaged.

While email is the most popular medium (much more popular than LinkedIn), most people will tailor the communication medium they use to the person they want to communicate with.

While I imagined that most people used their professional networking to try to find a job, people overwhelmingly use it to have a conversation and stay up to date with trends in the industry. Thus, I would wager that the best way to get contacted by others in your professional network is to have a specific set of skills that others can understand and be useful when they need advice (In my case, I’m experienced with Front-End, Back-End, and Mobile Engineering, but I tend to advertise myself as Mobile Engineer since it’s what I’m most experienced as and it helps others frame their professional connection to me).

This was the most interesting response to the survey, in my opinion. When people are asked to think of a specific person in their professional network who could help them solve a problem, they overwhelmingly rely on their memories rather than a software tool.

Conclusion

People have a lot less connections that they consider useful than they have on LinkedIn. They use a variety of tools to both keep track and communicate with their professional network. They overwhelmingly rely on their memories rather than software to “query” their network, and they often use their network to have discussions with people about trends in the industry.

I think my conclusion validates my prior hypothesis that the current generation of network management tools like LinkedIn are more designed to build a massive network and keep people engaged with the tool rather than helping users manage and communicate with their professional networks.

Thus, I’ve decided to develop a networking software to help people engage with their technical professional networks and fulfills their actual needs rather a social network that people don’t use to contact their connections.

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