Advice & insights: masterclasses from industry leaders

Kyle Elliott Decodes the Future of Tech Careers: Networking and Branding Strategies That Work

Kyle Elliott

Kyle Elliott

Career Coach

Key Takeaways

  • Get Social, Smartly: Dive into LinkedIn for big-picture networking and hit up places like Reddit or Discord for the nitty-gritty, community-driven stuff. Make sure to actually chat and engage—don’t just lurk!
  • Choose Your Channels Wisely: Not all social platforms are created equal. Hang out where the people you want to impress are spending their time. Share, comment, and be genuinely helpful.
  • Be Clear and Friendly: When you reach out to someone, tell them why you’re connecting and what you’re hoping to chat about. It’s like saying “hello” at a party and then suggesting a great topic to discuss.
  • Keep Your Online Self Fresh: Update your profiles as if they’re your digital wardrobe. You want to look your best when opportunities come knocking. And yes, that means ditching the metaphorical ’90s cargo shorts.
  • Flex Your Team Spirit: When talking about your skills, don’t forget to mention that awesome project where you worked with people from all over the globe. It’s like highlighting your ability to play well in the sandbox, but with more impressive results.
  • Interviews Are Conversations: Before an interview, do a bit of homework on the company, then think of it as chatting with a future colleague. Share stories that show off why you’d be great to work with, not just why you’re qualified.

Networking Evolution in Tech

Struggling to make connections in the tech world’s ever-changing digital landscape? Kyle Elliott, who’s been there and done that, breaks it down for us. In a straight-talk Q&A, he spills on how to really use social media, network without the awkwardness, and craft a personal brand that gets you noticed. Kyle’s got the insider tips you need to cut through the online clutter and actually move your career forward.

“Networking has changed dramatically over the past decade because of the digital boom. Social media has made it significantly easier to find and connect with people in your industry and at your target companies. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the need for tech professionals to move their networking efforts online to avoid getting left behind.

Within tech, more niche groups are popping up that focus on specific demographics and functional areas within the industry, as many professionals are looking for colleagues with similar backgrounds and experiences whom they can connect and network with.”

“Social media platforms play a key role in professional networking, particularly in the tech sector. LinkedIn, X (formerly Twitter), Discord, Reddit, and similar platforms and communities make it easier than ever to network with people in the industry and at your target company.

As a LinkedIn Top Voice (the platform’s highest honor), I have a bias for the platform and appreciate how it allows you to be only a few clicks away from more than a billion people. If you’re looking for a new job, you can quickly search for your ideal contact and send an outreach message in a matter of seconds.

That said, I’m seeing other, more tech-specific platforms, such as Blind and Fishbowl, pop up that are also great opportunities to connect with like-minded tech professionals.”

“The biggest mistake I see tech professionals make is not harnessing the power of networking. The job seekers I speak with often share that they are afraid of being rejected, so they count themselves out before they’ve even tried to connect. While it’s true that some people you reach out to may not reply, there are going to be many who will take you up on your offer.

Importantly, though, a major mistake tech professionals make when networking is not having a clear call to action (CTA). You don’t want to bury your ask or pull a bait-and-switch when asking for support with your search. You need to be direct with your request and make it as easy as possible for the recipient to support you.”

Personal Branding in the Digital Era

“Many jobs are landed by way of the “hidden job market.” This phrase is thrown around a lot but what it boils down to is roles being filled through a non-traditional channel, such as a position that is only open to current employees, recruiters finding you via the LinkedIn search algorithm, or a role being offered to a contact of the hiring manager before it’s publicly marketed.

Building a personal brand won’t guarantee you a job, but it can give you a leg up and help you be one of the first people considered when these “hidden jobs” open.”

“One of the primary mistakes people make when building their personal brands online is setting them and forgetting them. You don’t need to make personal branding a daily practice, but you should carve out time each week or month to cultivate your brand and network. I often encourage my job seeker clients to create a recurring meeting with themselves on their calendars so they don’t forget aside time to develop their brands and networks.

Another mistake I often see when it comes to brand building is an overemphasis on quantity. Professionals, especially those in the tech industry, which is evolving at a rapid pace, often feel as if they must join every new platform and social media channel. The reality is that you can’t be on every platform and channel, at least not if you want to do it well. Instead, focus on one or two channels where your ideal contacts hang out and give them your full attention. As a tech career coach, I’ve found LinkedIn to be a goldmine since people are on the platform with the primary intention of networking and learning.”

How to Stand Out in the Saturated Job Market

“One of the biggest skills that tech companies are currently seeking in candidates is the ability to work with colleagues who are culturally diverse and spread across time zones and continents. Notably, many recruiters and hiring managers are interviewing professionals who are not just claiming a commitment to diversity and inclusion but who can also share specific examples during the application and hiring process.

Tech companies are also looking for candidates who are comfortable – and preferably thrive – in uncertainty and change. Again, employers want candidates to be able to share specific examples and stories that back up their claims.”

“I find most professionals tend to blend in when writing their resumes, updating their LinkedIn profiles, and preparing their interview talking points. Standing out is more important, however, as the most successful professionals intentionally choose to identify their unique experiences and attributes and then shine a light on them. 

Importantly, you don’t want to be different just for the sake of being different. Instead, you want to connect the dots and explain the benefits of your unique background and skills. If you’re transitioning from engineering to product, for instance, you might consider highlighting how you can deftly speak the language of your cross-functional peers and translate technical concepts for non-technical stakeholders.”

“Building upon that previous example, I often work with engineering leaders who are moving into product. Rather than hiding the fact that their background is technically focused, I coach them to focus on their technical acumen and cross-functional success. I encourage them to target companies that are engineering-led and have a history of hiring professionals with engineering backgrounds.”

How to Identify What Sets You Apart

“If you’re not sure what sets you apart from others, you’re not alone; it can be difficult to discern what’s unique about you when you spend 40-plus hours a week doing the same work as others do. Instead of recreating the wheel, start by reviewing any pre-existing documents that may have captured your strengths and talents, such as performance reviews, quarterly business reviews, and LinkedIn testimonials.

You can also conduct a “Mini 360” to gather additional insights from colleagues, managers, and stakeholders who have seen your strengths in action. This can be as straightforward as asking, “What are some of my top strengths?” or “What sets me apart from other engineering leaders?” As you receive feedback, take note of any trends that come up.”

“I might catch some flack here, but I’m a proponent of marketing passions and hobbies on your resume and during the interview as long as you simultaneously explain how they’re relevant to the prospective employer. For example, it’s not enough to mention that you coach your child’s sports team. Instead, you want to use this activity as an example of a relevant skill. Perhaps it shows that you’re patient, stay calm under pressure, and bring a coach mentality to your work.”

How to Prepare for Interviews

“For starters, you always want to ask your recruiter for guidance on how to best prepare for an interview, as they want you to succeed and are often evaluated, at least indirectly, on how well you perform, so it’s in their best interest to help you prepare. Moreover, many companies, especially larger tech ones, have a plethora of online resources on how to prepare for their lengthy interview processes.

Additionally, you can refer to online community forums like Glassdoor, Team Blind, and Fishbowl to uncover first-person accounts and tips from people who have previously navigated the company’s interview process.

Importantly, you want to know what types of interviews you’re walking into, as you can expect several rounds before receiving a job offer from a tech company, and each one requires a different strategy. Your recruiter will typically let you know what to expect from the various interviews, which might include a hiring manager conversation, a technical interview, a case study interview, a peer interview or interviews, a cross-functional partner interview or interviews, and a presentation, to name just a few of the possibilities.”

“Many of the job seekers I speak with prepare for their interviews by attempting to rehearse an answer for every common question possible. While this strategy works if you get asked one of the questions you prepared for, it can quickly backfire if you get caught off guard when the interviewer asks a curveball question.

Instead, I recommend rehearsing a half-dozen detailed answers and then reverse engineering them to fit possible interview questions. For example, if you prepare a story that encapsulates your leadership style in action, you can then use it to not only answer potential leadership questions but also those related to managing people, diversity and inclusion, your strengths, and the list goes on.”

“If you interview with enough tech companies, you’re bound to be asked a question about your weaknesses or gaps in experience. Rather than focusing on the gap, double down on your unique value proposition and the experience that you do have.

I challenge my coaching clients to remain honest in their answers while also never letting the word “No” come out of their mouths during a job interview. If you’ve never directly managed a team, but have led groups of peers on technical projects, you would simply share an example of an initiative you led without calling attention to the fact you haven’t formally been a people manager.”

How to Manage Your Mental Health When Job Searching

“A job search can be mentally draining, particularly if it’s taking longer than you expected. I recognize it can feel challenging when you’ve been at it for months, but try to identify ways to make your search more fun. This might look like adding regular breaks throughout your day, rewarding yourself for working on your resume and submitting applications, or partnering with a friend to make the process more enjoyable.”

“Your job search will be far more enjoyable if you focus your attention on the aspects that are in your direct control, like the number of applications you submit or networking messages you send, and less on the areas beyond your control, such as the number of interviews you land.

In the current employment market, you might also want to consider revisiting any “must-haves” or “deal-breakers” for your next job, since your next role doesn’t have to be forever. Easing up on some of your requirements can often help you land a new role faster, especially in the hyper-competitive tech industry.”

“It can be helpful to connect with a community of fellow job seekers, but be careful that their primary intention is to empower and lift each other up. While it’s okay to vent from time to time, you want to be careful not to get sucked into negativity around the job search, as you don’t want to bring this same energy with you to your interviews.

You might also consider investing in a career coach to support your job search efforts. We hire service providers for other aspects of our lives, like buying a home and preparing taxes, so it makes sense to hire a professional to support you in finding a job since you’ll spend 40 hours per week at it.”

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