Advice about job networking shares a common message: you can make professional connections everywhere you go, if you have the right strategy and mentality. It’s a positive career mantra (i.e. keep your eyes open for opportunities), but there are more effective ways to quickly grow your professional network.

Whether the interaction is face-to-face or strictly virtual, these opportunities can be the catalyst that leads you to the next step in your career.

1.) Meetup Groups

Want to meet tech enthusiasts locally? Meetup provides a network of local groups catered to people of all expertise and interests. Not exclusively tech focused, Meetup nonetheless has an extensive list of tech focused groups in the Chicagoland area from the Chicago Startup Community to more specialized Big Data and Analytics Meetup.

Events can be formal lectures, interactive sessions, or Happy Hour meet and greets. Once you become a registered member, you can attend meetings at your convenience and build your professional network at your own speed.

2.) Society for Information Management

Senior level IT executives may seem outside your reach, but opportunities exist to introduce top talent with business leaders. SIM Chicago provides members with an opportunity to interact with Chicagoland thought leaders from the private, public, non-profit, and academic sectors.

Events running from September through May help attendees expand their technical understanding and explore innovations with subject matter experts. Plus, there are charity events throughout the year where you can build your professional network by meeting peers and top executives.

3.) i.c. stars

Volunteering is a great way to build your professional network while doing some good. And if you want to volunteer alongside tech professionals and business leaders, there’s no better place than i.c. stars.

The i.c. stars program trains promising talent to become future tech leaders, using the expertise and contributions of industry experts. Volunteer opportunities are available and anyone can get involved in the i.c. stars High Tea lectures.

Plus, building connections with the next generation of tech professionals can pay off in unexpected ways. They may be applying to expanding companies or startups, places that might very well need more seasoned IT professionals.

4.) Java and .Net User Groups

Though certain specialized languages and skills have risen in reputation, Java and .Net still dominate the field. Chicago Java Users Group (CJUG) and Chicago .Net Users Group (CNUG) connect you with thousands of Java and .Net experts, who are often immersed in other cutting edge technology. The odds of finding great career opportunities increase considerably.

5.) LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the gold standard for online networking. Using a LinkedIn profile as a keyword optimized brochure attracts industry peers, business owners, and recruiters with one consolidated effort. Create a searchable headline, make a keyword savvy summary that encapsulates your career, and fill your work history with strong industry related terms. It makes an elevator pitch without saying a word.

Additionally, targeting people who work at your ideal employers is much easier. Find who you want to network with and trace back how that person connects to your first connections. Plan what you’ll say in advance and prepare some sort of value to give your new contact (relevant industry content or news of an upcoming event kicks things off well).

6.) GitHub

The collaborative side of GitHub makes it the perfect place to build your professional network. Being a member allows you to do more than review projects and upload your own code. In the process of exploring and sharing code, developers can share news, build connections, and find out about job opportunities through GitHub users. The only trick is to make a repository and maintain an active profile.

7.) Hackathons

Hackathons offer developers, cybersecurity professionals, and other IT professionals the chance to test their expertise in a competition. They run between 24 to 48 hours, pitting the creative problem solving of individuals or teams against each other to complete a project that solves a general or specific problem.

Along the way, participants can network with their fellow competitors and even sponsors. Big ticket sponsors like Google host big events, offering an opportunity to build your professional network among top innovators. On top of having fun, you’ll walk away with stronger connections.

8.) Industry Events

Industry events and trade shows are swarming with great potential connections. Business leaders and IT professionals with connections throughout the Chicagoland area and beyond attend a variety of keynotes, breakout sessions, and meet and greets. Windy City DevCon just passed, but GoTo Con will be bringing techies together in May 2017.

Often, industry associations or any technical groups stay current on upcoming events and keep their members informed about where and when they can attend (just another bonus of joining groups).

9.) Reach Out to Recruiters

Having a recruiter in your professional network can expand the overall opportunities on your radar. Their job is to search for incredible roles with amazing companies, so you can expect them to find good roles. Plus, they are connected to many industry groups which keep them informed about the latest news that can expand your career.

Connecting with TransTech IT Staffing can be a great way to build your network and grow your career. We are an active member of the Chicago IT community, participate in trade associations like TechServe Alliance to stay aware of the latest trends, and have access to jobs across disciplines and industries. Check out our jobs today to simplify your next job search.