Indeed, real-world and virtual networking are complimentary. If you’re like me, your Outlook contacts folder has hundreds, maybe thousands of entries. But many of them are years old, and these days, people change jobs nearly as often as Italy changes governments. Joining one or more social networks is a good way to find -- and be found by -- valuable contacts that have fallen off your radar screen.
There are a lot of sites to choose from, but as we interviewed the men and women who do the hiring at startups in Silicon Valley and other areas, the names of a few popped up over and over again.
Before we list them, here’s a piece of advice from Samir Shah, founder and CEO of Zephyr, a quality assurance and test-oriented startup in Sunnyvale: Hit the technology discussion boards. “There are huge communities built around discussions of specific technologies. The people posting are a great source for us. We look at those boards and I often reach out to them,” he says.
And get this: Many of the people who have impressed Shah were posting or blogging about matters not directly related to their own jobs. Shah looks for people who demonstrate a great grasp of technology and know how to solve problems.
It’s hard to say which social networking site is best, but LinkedIn is the most talked about -- despite the recent surge in popularity of Facebook among tech professionals. LinkedIn boasts 14 million members in 150 countries. Search on a name by company or by former school and you’ll not only find contact information and a profile, but you’ll have the option of being introduced to that person by someone on LinkedIn who already knows you. Edward Kinsey, the founder of Ariba and now a principal of the Kinsey-Hills Group, says he reconnected with some 25 percent of the 3500 people in his well-stuffed database by joining LinkedIn.
Membership in Doostang.comis by invitation only, but if you have a friend who belongs, pull out all the stops to get a referral. Founded in 2005 by a pair of savvy guys from Stanford and MIT, it has grown to more than 250,000 members from companies such as Goldman Sachs, Google, Nike, Apple, KKR Summit Partners and many others. It’s getting a lot of buzz.
Xing, a social networking site based in Germany, has some 3.5 million users and operates in 16 languages. According to a recent article in Business Week, Xing users will soon be able to tap into profiles of 36 million business people contained in the database of partner ZoomInfo. Xing charges for premium services, such as the ability of hosts to add their company’s brand to groups.
Don’t laugh, but Craigslist.org should be on your list, too. Why Craigslist, the site of choice for apartment rentals and romantic liaisons? “It’s followed by much of the tech community,” says Delip Andra, founder and CEO of Minekey. Andra says he’s had more luck finding suitable hires on Craigslist than through the usual head hunter routine.
Now that we’ve sung the praises of virtual networking, we’re going to repeat something we heard over and over again as we scoured the Valley for job tips: Get out from behind that computer.
Nothing a job seeker or career builder can do beats real, old-fashioned networking. “I get tons of resumes,” says Barney Pell, CEO of Powerset, which is building a natural language search engine. But the ones he looks at are the product of a relationship with him, or someone he knows.