S1E12: The importance of networking for new opportunities with Sandy Jones-Kaminski

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In today’s episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast I speak with Sandy Jones-Kaminski.

Sandy is the founder and chief connecting officer at Bella Domain Media. She is also the author of, I’m at a Networking Event, Now What? Sandy specializes in networking online and offline, and helps people use LinkedIn to find the right connections.

In our conversation, Sandy details the best ways to communicate with new connections. She tells people to adopt a “pay it forward” philosophy of networking. This means asking others what they need first, rather than always worrying about what you need. Sandy also suggests following up with connections and learning how to share your knowledge.

Sandy’s insight into LinkedIn can help you generate leads and get found by the right people. She shares her tips on improving outreach and getting more comfortable at networking events. She also provides practical suggestions on what not to do when creating your LinkedIn profile. Ultimately, Sandy shows us how to maximize our networking presence in person and online.

Hey everyone, welcome to the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford. And a quick, happy belated 4th of July if you live inside the U.S. In today's 12th episode, I have special guest Sandy Jones-Kaminski. Sandy is the founder and chief connecting officer at Bella Domain Media. She is also the author of, I'm at a Networking Event, Now What? Sandy has an expertise on how to network online or offline, with a deep knowledge of how to use LinkedIn to find connections and get found by the people who matter most. In our conversation she shares networking tips and how you can stand out on LinkedIn. The Show Notes for this episode plus a full transcript can be found at learntocodewith.me/12. Enjoy the interview!

Hey guys, today I'm here with Sandy Jones-Kominski. Sandy is a networking and a LinkedIn expert. Hey Sandy, how are you doing today?

I'm good Laurence, how are you?

I'm doing great, thanks so much for taking time to talk with me.

My pleasure, I'm excited to dig in.

Great. Could you just introduce yourself quickly for the audience?

Sure. I'm Sandy Jones-Kaminski and I'm the founder and chief connecting officer of Bella Domain Media and I'm also the author of I'm at a Networking Event, Now What?, which is a book I wrote a few years ago and I think we're going to find a lot of good content that we can talk about regarding that book today, so I'm excited to have our chat.

In my business, I combine my expertise and how to network online and offline with a deep knowledge of how to use LinkedIn to generate leads, find connections, and to get found by the people that matter most to you. So I work primarily with solopreneurs, small to midsize business owners, and tech professionals that are looking to gain more exposure and basically improve their digital footprint so they can be found. So that's it. That's a lot actually, that's not a little, that's a lot.

Yeah, I know we've talked about this before. I'm really excited for some of the tips you have for me and other people as well. Just to kind of get the ball rolling, for people that are transitioning into tech, could you just elaborate a bit on the power of networking and what kind of opportunities networking can bring?

Well, we can't underestimate the value of networking. It's something we've all been doing forever, whether we've called it that or not, right? Getting to know people in a class, getting to know people in your neighborhood, on the bus, wherever it might be, at an event, that's networking. Just getting to know people is a way of connecting and growing your network, right? Often when we're, I like to give the airplane example. Sometimes you're sitting next to people and you end up having great conversations and you exchange cards or contact information and you look at it as just maybe a social conversation, but in reality, it's definitely a networking conversation as well. If you're smart, you're taking that connection and you're following up with them digitally, online or through email. My preference is, I encourage people to follow up through LinkedIn and use that as a tool to solidify that connection that you made.

We can talk more about that later but the power is that, everything gets done through people in this world. Whether the people are writing code or whether the people are creating marketing plans, whatever it might be, we get everything done usually via people. So if you're not developing a network of connections in your life, you're going to have a hard time getting things done. I just believe that it's something that most of us do naturally, whether we're reluctant networkers, as I like to call them, or not, right? You just meet people or you get introduced to people and often we find new opportunities through people. We might see a job posting somewhere or a freelance gig that we want to go after but the reality is that trying to access some of the people in your network to help you turn what could be a cold call, or let's say a cold email, into a warm one, is the ideal way to approach trying to find something new. We all know how much better it is when we have a name we can drop or somebody writes an introduction email for us, and you don't those things without getting to know the person attached a little.

Yeah, that's all really good stuff. You mentioned early on that really everything we do, or just the people that we engage with, could be on the bus, on the airplane, the line at the store, that's networking. For someone who is looking to get a new career, say as a web developer. What kind of places would be the best places for them to go do that? Do you have any tips on figuring out where they should be?

It depends. There's two different, even three different approaches you could possibly take. You can try and go to a meetup or an event where a lot of people similar to you could be. Giving an example of going to an association, let's say there's a Ruby on Rails group or a Java group. You go into a meetup that is centered around those type of people, that's one approach that you could take. You're going to meet a lot of peers, right? You might meet some recruiters and you might meet some hiring managers, but it's often, you're running into a lot of competition, is what I say. Which, sometimes it works out because sometimes they might have heard about a position or interviewed for a position that they're not interested in or they're not a good fit for and then they might tell you about it. Or say, "I met the hiring manager, I can introduce you." That's a 50/50 shot. You don't know if that's going to be the case but sometimes people are more comfortable in that kind of environment because it is with peers and people that they know speak their own language more.
I also encourage people to go into environments where you're not one of many. Go into an environment where you stand out a little bit more. Maybe your skills are something that's unique to the group. That can be going to a conference.

Let's say, ad tech is a big conference for the advertising technology. You go into that setting and that has people from all walks of life and disciplines and skill sets. In those situations, it's more likely that you'll be unique because advertising tends to have a lot of marketers in it. But if you were a developer or you were a UX designer, you're going to be a little unique there because there's not going to be as many traditional people in your discipline there.

So sometimes it's smart because you'll stand out in the crowd. You'll meet people and then people will be more inclined to say, "I met a web developer yesterday, he was cool and has great insight about WordPress," or whatever it might be. That's another, it's not like I can say an exact place but I just want to get that thinking out there. Think about going into situations where you might be unique, for example.

The other thing is not underestimating online. We're lucky in that today LinkedIn has groups of every shape and size and discipline and geographic area. I always say, we're pretty fortunate, you and I both live in major metros and there's stuff going on every night of the week practically. You could go to something if you were so inclined. But there's a lot of people that are working remote and they're in less populated areas and they don't have as many in-person networking opportunities. Taking advantage of some of the groups on LinkedIn that are either geographically based or discipline based or industry based, that's a good place to show your stuff and share your knowledge and participate in some of the discussions that are going on or sharing insightful comments about things that are being discussed.

That's a form of networking as well, right? The idea that oftentimes people see somebody commenting on LinkedIn and then they check out your profile and next thing you know you might have an invitation to connect with that person. Then you can also check out who they are and then start a discussion maybe from there. Look at each other's profiles, see what you have in common, share my favorite question for networking: “What are you working on these days?” I don't know if we've talked about that before but there's just this idea that, instead of making it an awkward, "What are you looking for?" Starting a little softer with, "What are you working on these days?" And then it's like the follow up to that is, "Do you need help with that? Are you trying to connect into Amazon? Are you looking to get an introduction for ABC news? Sort of letting that conversation happen, even digitally, as well as in person, that conversation works in both settings, to find out if there's a way you can help someone else first, right?

This is a big part of networking that a lot of people are uncomfortable with and I want to touch on this because this is where a lot of the reluctance comes in is that most people don't like going out into the world with their hand out. Nobody's really comfortable with that. 'Help me, give me, I need.' We know there's some crazy people that are comfortable, that do that all the time. Those are the people that networking a bad rep because that's not what it's supposed to be.

The idea is to get to know people, find out what they're working on, see if there's anything they need help with that you can offer them, and then making sure you do the follow up. If you said, "You know what, I read an article that could probably help you write a good opinion piece about that, I'll make sure I send it to you so that you'll get notice on Blogger," or whatever it is. Doing that follow up is the other leg of the stool there. That you have to sort of take that leap of faith first and find out more about the other person and find out what they're in need of. Where they're in need of help. I can't emphasize that enough, in terms of how many people miss that. They're so nervous and they're so reluctant about what they're going to say and what they need help with that they ruin the experience for themselves and quite possibly the other person because everyone's uncomfortable.

One of the things that's important to think about in terms of networking is that there is an etiquette to it, right? We all know the term etiquette, and what etiquette is about is about putting the other person at ease. That's what good manners are, right? Good manners are about putting another person at ease when you're interacting with them. So a hostess, we always talk about that, what's a good hostess? Or host. People that can make everybody feel welcome and can help introduce people to each other. That's part of what, most people who are reluctant, if you stop and think about what the mission really could be, and that's putting someone else at ease and finding out what they need help with. It helps you get rid of your nerves. All of sudden, you get out of your own head and you stop worrying about your elevator pitch and how you're going to say it and you just focus on having a real conversation with someone and finding out what they need help with and then letting them to have the opportunity to ask you. Because most people understand that reciprocity, right? "What about you, what are you working on, what do you need help with?" Then you can say, "Actually I'm working on this project right now and I'm looking for some copywriters to help me get it, or editors to help me edit my new podcast, or whatever. So whatever your current need might be, then you have that opportunity to share.

Yeah, I love that. I love having the intention of helping someone rather than just thinking of what's in it for you. I just want to circle back a bit because, I'm just thinking about all this in my head. So say, I'm going to a networking event tonight, I'm not actually, but say if I was. When I'm meeting someone in person, should I try to kind of help them right away and ask, really take an interest in them more so than talk about myself? Or is the helping more so for the follow up, like the follow up email?

think it's often both, but initially, it's about them. It's about the other person. You have to imagine, if everybody had that orientation, and this is what I write about in my book. I have lots of helpful tips about how to do this and how to ask, and it's why I'm so obsessed with this part of it. That people understand that it's a pay it forward sort of philosophy that you have to sort of have with networking. Bottom line, that's the deal. We might all have needs, but the reality is, when you step into a networking situation, you need to switch your orientation to see if you can find a way to help somebody there.

I tell people to always have goals when they go to a networking event, and the goals can be as simple as, "I'm going to make sure I talk to five new people and I'm going to see if I can help at least three of them. Offer some kind of help." Because the help, remember, help comes in the form of ideas, knowledge, resources, and resources can mean a blog post, a person, a company, right? There's all sorts of social capital, is what I refer to it as, that we all have, whether we realize it or not. You have ideas, you have good thoughts. Sometimes when you talk to somebody and you find out what they're working on, or another good question is, "What brought you to the event tonight, what motivated you to come to the event tonight? Are you a developer, or are you interested in ORCA?" Whatever it might be, sort of finding out. Nobody wants to launch into that stuff, right? We're not comfortable doing it, nobody wants to hear it right away. They don't really want to hear you introduce yourself and your elevator pitch. It's not a natural conversation, it's awkward, it's weird. Sometimes you're at an event where they do want everybody to go around a table and do that, and yes, that's when you do that sort of a thing. You introduce yourself and you talk about what you're working on or what you're looking for, because that's what that event requires.

But when you're going into a more relaxed, social mixer sort of situation, or you're going to a learning program but they always pad it at the beginning, a half hour of networking and at the end, a half hour networking. In those situations, it's really about having a conversation, about what's motivated people to come to that event that night or that day or be where they are. I always tell people to use the situation as another good opener. I always compare it to a wedding. When we go to a wedding, we all have a question we can ask a group of strangers at the table. What's the question? Do you know the bride or the groom?


Everybody asks that because that's how you sort of get context. Then, from that main question, there can be like an hour of conversation at that table. Everyone's telling stories about how they met Laurence or how they met Sandy or whatever, and you go into that detail. The same thing can apply at a networking event. "Is this your first meetup with this group? Have you been to this meetup before? Which speaker are you most interested in hearing today at the conference?" Using where you're at and the venue as a way to initiate conversation and then sort of moving into it.

This is what I tell people: you can't avoid the requirement of small talk. It's just impossible. Everybody wishes they didn't have to do that and they say they hate small talk, but that's what makes the networking part easier. When you do have some small talk and you don't have insincere, fake small talk. You make it about an experience you're mutually having. So that's the event, right? That's the conference you're at. That's the wedding you're at. Whatever it might be, sort of using that as a way to break the ice.

Again, I always liken this stuff to everyday life. If you go to someone's house, an open house happy hour they're having because they just moved into a new home. How do you start talking to those strangers? You say, "How do you know Bob or Jill?" You start with the context, the location, where you are. "Do you live in the East Bay?" All those things are normal conversation starters that we have when we're out socially. When you go into these networking environments that are more professional in nature, you need to break the ice as well. Too many people just get all caught up in worrying about what they're going to say, what their elevator pitch is, and how they can launch into their, "I need" speech. The reality is that you can't open with the "I need" speech.

I know. Elevator pitches or speeches, they honestly give me anxiety, I think. Preparing one, saying one, so I just love the approach of going into a situation trying to find things you can talk about, like the question, the bride or the groom, or just trying to offer help. Or I guess first, breaking the ice with some small talk and then trying to find a way that you can help.

Right, and the way, again, back to that question, "What are you working on these days?" This is a question that anyone can ask of anyone. You can ask that of a student, right? Who you see is at a conference, they're a student who's there free. "What are you studying? What are you working on?" This question can be asked of anyone to anyone. It's a way to sort of get into, "Do you need help with that? Do you need more Blogger names? Are you looking for contacts at Amazon? Because I don't know anybody now, but I have friends that work there so I might be able to find somebody." So that whole thing of using that as a way to see if you can help them. And asking people, "Do you need help with that?" Because sometimes people say, "No, I got this whole strategy, it's working, but it's driving me crazy and taking up all my time." And it's just a social conversation then at that point, right?

Yeah, I love that, "What are you working on these days?" Exactly as you said, that could apply, or be relevant to someone who's a business owner or to someone who's a blogger or to someone who works full time at a company. It's just a great way to get that conversation going and seeing how you can help. Great stuff.

I just want to reiterate, you listed off a bunch of ways, giving ideas, giving resources, writing a blog post...were there any others? Because something that, and I've had this exact question be asked of me before, "I want to connect with people and I keep reading that a great way is to offer value and to help them out, but I feel like I have no skills or I feel like I have nothing to help them with, what should I do?"

I have a hard time believing that.

Yeah, I do too.

They feel that way because they usually get paralyzed with fear. So something is shutting off their brain because they're so worried about, "Am I going to have launch into my elevator pitch?" You're not alone. Tons of people have anxiety about that. I still hate saying that stuff. I'd rather have a much more natural conversation.

I encourage people to just get more comfortable with a clever introduction, is what I always say. Try to be, not silly, but lighthearted about your approach. If you're in HR, say you're a corporate back watcher over at Bella Doman Media. Or you say you're a bean counter at whatever. Doing things that make it easier for you to just blurt out that piece, that initial introduction and not have to worry about that elevator pitch. We could spend a whole half hour on that. This idea of not thinking you have any value, it's impossible. Everyone has points of view, everyone has knowledge about certain things.

Again, if you feel like you don't have anything, the ability to just say, "I don't know anybody in that world, but why don't you give me your card and if I do meet somebody there, because I'm going to this conference next fall, maybe I can email you and send you their name. Or if I come across any jobs like that, I'll send that to you. Because this is the thing, we all come across so much information today, right? We're inundated with it. We see stuff all the time and what I tell people is, instead of seeing something and thinking, "Oh, I think Laurence would be interested in that," and then just sort of going, "But I don't really have time," stop doing that. Stop and take the 30-45 seconds to send off an email or put a comment up on their status update or retweet their tweet. Do these things that, most of have that natural instinct, right? When you read something or think about something, you think about somebody. You think, "Oh I bet Sandy would be interested in that." Act on that. Do it. Send it. Those are the things that I mean by resources.

Sometimes other people come across knowledge or information online or in a conversation that we don't have access too. We're not at the event or we don't read TechCrunch, there's certain things we don't do. Thinking that you don't have anything to offer other people is crazy because, maybe you can't offer it in that moment, but what's wrong with saying, "I don't know anybody in that world right now, but let's exchange cards because if I do, I will make sure I send them your way.

That's also a good way to deal with people that are too pushy. That are trying to say, "Well I'm looking for people who want to find a new financial planner and I'm going to help them." They're trying to press you to, "Do you have any friends that just bought a house because those are people that need to make investments," you know, whatever. Saying, "You know what, I don't, but why don't you give me your card and if I do I'll be in touch." Sort of taking, diffusing that, saying, "Okay, relax already. Give me your card and if I can, I'll let you know."

Yeah, that's a good idea. Especially instead of giving them your card because then they'll probably be calling you asking if you need a financial planner or something.
In any case, I want to transition a little bit more to jobs and LinkedIn, as well. The one kind of question I want to finish off with networking, if a person is looking for a new career in tech, what role does networking play alongside of applying for positions? Is there a balance, percentage?

I think you have to do a little of both. There's no avoiding that. Here's the key: you might see a job posted and you are going to apply for that, right? Great. You're just going to go into a queue out of a hundred other resumes. If you look at stuff on LinkedIn, it even tells you how many people applied for a job. So you can see that 327 people already submitted for that job. All that's going to happen then is that they're going to use a tool that scans your resume to look for all the keywords that are in the job description posting and you're going to get a score and the higher number of matches, the higher your score. I'm talking about keywords here. If you said, 'Managed team,' that's something that it will look for. If that's on your resume, that might be in a job posting. That will heighten your score.

I'm just sharing all that because a lot of people know how that works today but there's still a lot of people that don't. They don't think about modifying their resume or modifying their cover letter, they're just sending the same generic stuff out, which is just maddening, it's crazy to do that today. You have to customize them. You won't even get looked at. The big differentiator here is that if you have done the digging to find out whether you have a friend connected to that company, or a friend of a friend, you will immediately break out from that pack.

A lot of online job applications ask, "Did anyone refer you to this position, or do you have a contact that told you about Amazon," or whatever it is. All of those are immediately put into a different queue. Because, if employees are referring people, or telling people to apply for jobs, or even, a lot of these bigger staffing companies have referral programs that, they'll pay outside people. If you were to see a posting for, let's say you submitted your friend's husband, their name through your referral program, you would get a referral fee from them. They'd give you $500, if that person gets hired.

Oh wow.

You don't have to be working at either company. A lot of these big staffing companies offer that. That's one just side note in terms of being able to call out the name of somebody. That will put you in a separate queue. Those employees are probably going to get a referral bonus, so they get more attention right away because the internal recruiters or the hiring managers want to know if people are referring friends of friends, because everyone wants to hire somebody that's somewhat of a known commodity. That's important to do the work.

This brings us back to your question about networking. You have to do some networking to get those names. It may not be that you know them directly, but it's the husband of your friend or it's the neighbor of your contact. Whatever it might be. What I tell people is if you do some homework and you see that a company has a position, going to LinkedIn, type in the company name and see if you have any connections to that company. You can do this pretty easily because it'll show you. It'll even tell you how many degrees away. I can just type in Amazon, I'm doing it as we're talking. The first thing that comes up in the name search box on LinkedIn is Amazon the company, right, which I could go over to. The second listing is a person I know that's there.

Right away, I'm like, "Oh, of course, Peter. Shoot, I can ping him and find out, and this is the big question that you ask. "Hey, do you guys have an employee referral program?" Then Peter says, "Yeah we do, send me your resume, I have to submit it." Or you say, "Hey Peter, my friend Laurence is interested in working at Amazon. Do you guys have a referral program?" Because then all of a sudden, he doesn't know you yet, right? But all of a sudden, he's like, "Oh, I should help her. I don't know her but maybe I can set up a time to chat with her and then I'll submit her." As soon as you find an opportunity at a company, you need to do this homework and see if you have any 'in' there. Like I said, it can be a direct connection and it can also be the second degree, where you ask your contact and you say, "Hey Sandy, I saw that you're connected to this guy Peter, do you know if Amazon has a referral program, or can you ask him because I'm really interested in this job there." Then Sandy's like, "Sure, let me check with him." I want to help you if I can, right? You already saw the job, you didn't make me do all this work. You already know who I know there, so then I ping Peter and find out and sure enough I'm able to say to you, "Hey, I'll do an intro email: Peter meet Laurence, Laurence meet Peter." Then you guys will take it from there. Then you might send him your resume and then Peter goes and submits it into the system. Because any internal referrals go into a separate queue.

That's a much more hands on approach, but a lot of times, the company may have it set up that you don't even have to, the employee doesn't have to submit it, right? It'll just have a space, a name, a block for a name to put in. In that case, he'll still get credit because all you had to do was put in Peter Davis. Then it will put it aside. So that's how those things go hand in hand, right? It's not networking, I don't think it's the question
you asked, but I'm giving you a different answer in terms of…

No that's great. It leads perfectly into LinkedIn because in your example, and LinkedIn's the perfect way to do this because it shows all of your first, second, and even third connections so that it's really easy to know who you know that works at the company you want to work for. And if you don't know someone directly, then who could introduce you to someone else that works there.
Real quick, what are some of the most cringe worthy mistakes that you see people make on LinkedIn? Whether it's their profile or just the way they use it.

We could spend an hour on this. One of the main things today, and especially in the context of what we're talking about, is to send an invitation to connect without personalizing it. We all know, we all hate getting them. Why we think the people we do that to don't hate it, is beyond me. We don't like getting those weird invitations, "Who is this? What do they want? Are they going to start spamming me?" Blah blah blah. There's all those funny memes going around about people saying, "I connected with them on LinkedIn and now they won't stop calling me." That kind of thing.

The deal is, you can personalize that invite and the way you do it is often by visiting the person's profile directly. Resist that urge to hit that little 'Connect' button that shows up on some of the screens and go, instead, directly to the person's profile and then hitting the connect button there, where then it opens up that window where it says, "How do you know Nicholas," right? It's like, colleague, classmate, we've done business together, friend, other, I don't know, it won't work. If you hit 'other' you have to provide an email address. Now, today many people are very savvy, and on LinkedIn they know to put their email address in their profile somewhere. So it's often in their summary section. It could be in their advice about contacting, right? There's places where you can put your email address.

And again, I argue that if you can't find an email address for somebody online, you probably shouldn't be in tech. Most of us know how to find an email address. You can do a Google search on a person sometimes and you'll see their email address show up on a press release or, you know, on a company page where they're talking about, on the blog, or something.

If you can't find one easily, something cool that has recently been changed is that, okay I'm just going to preface this by saying if you don't have the LinkedIn mobile app on your smartphone, you're crazy. It is something great to spend time with when you're waiting in a doctor's office. Instead of playing a game, go on to LinkedIn, check out how your network's doing, see what's going on, look what's happening in your industry, read some groups. Do stuff on there so that you're more engaged. What LinkedIn has done is they've actually made it possible now, on the mobile app, to send an invitation to connect and personalize it
without the email.

Oh wow, that's interesting. That's like a little secret there.

Yes, and I'm working on a podcast about it. I was doing some LinkedIn sessions at a private event Thursday night and I just shared this. I had some screen grabs of the screens on mobile and it was like this, "Oooohhhhh" went across the room because everyone who uses it fairly often, that's been one of the roadblocks. You want to send a personalized invite but you didn't have their email. Now, in the mobile app, I don't know if it's a bug, if that's out yet, which your audience will appreciate. It could be a bug, but as of right now, if you hit the three little dots that show up on somebody's profile page on the mobile app, you can send a personalized invite.

Without their email address.


That's good to know.

Yeah. In terms of more, there's tons of stuff, just trying to be thinly veiled where you're trying to promote yourself. There's so many mistakes people make on there, right? Today, there's so many people sharing such weird personal stuff, too. It's like people are trying to turn LinkedIn into Facebook. It's just a place you should use caution and stay professional. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean you need to do it. And politics especially, right? I can't even believe how many people are getting political on that platform and alienating an entire segment of their target audience because they thought they just had to post that there.

Right. Unless you're maybe like, I'm trying to think of some exception, like you work in politics or something? That would be the only thing. It's the same thing with posting information about food. Unless you're a chef or you're going to culinary school, it doesn't really make sense if it's not relevant to your industry.

Yeah, and I have one last one, because this is the slide I have in my deck that, if you are a veterinarian, you can maybe have a picture of you with a pet on your profile. But even then, you should be wearing your doctor shirt or lab coat or whatever, if you're going to hold a dog or a cat. This is not the place for these pictures. The pictures on LinkedIn are to identify you. They're to give people a professional context for who you are and there's just so many crazy examples of, we've all seen them, right?

You can see where there's these weird pictures where people have cut out other people because they think that's the best picture of themselves that they'll ever get and they crop out their ex-girlfriend or whatever. It's just so tacky. We all have cell phones, we can all take a selfie. I mean, go get a professional headshot is what I really say. They're not that expensive anymore, but using a much more professional approach to that head shot and making sure people can see your eyes.

I'm looking at one as we're talking and she's got the shoulder of someone else in it and she's wearing sunglasses. It's not even like a tight crop on her. She's just like a little speck in this photo. I have no trust developed there. We all know that when you see a photo of somebody, it helps you make a connection. You see who they are, you have more context. There were lots, in the early days, lots of fake profiles. Didn't have photos. So especially on LinkedIn, it's a trust thing that you have to show who you are.

Yeah, definitely. And I think, just not even on LinkedIn, on any photo online, the sunglasses especially because that blocks your eyes. That's such a way to connect with people and again, build trust. I think another one would probably be not wear a hat in the photo.

Get it together, right? On the photos. Come on. Nobody really cares that much what exactly you look like. They just want to know you're not an alien or whatever.

Yeah, definitely. And it raises flags when you don't have a photo or you have some very offbeat photo.

Yeah, and not in a good way. The whole office is laughing about it then. Like, "Oh call her in here." They're laughing about it. You're not going to get called in. They don't care about your cat. They want to know that you know social media.

Yeah, okay, so one last question and this you can do, it can be a pretty short answer for this. A person has no technical experience whatsoever, but wants a job in tech. What can they do today to take a step in the right direction?

I would say, find an association or a meetup or a group that's connected to the technical world you want to be in. Whether it's a code, whether it's an industry, and volunteer to do something with that organization. Because this is a great way to get your foot in the door for a new anything. Whatever it might be. I always argue with people. Don't tell me you don't have time to volunteer to do something with a group.

Everyone has time, because guess what? Today you don't even have to show up in person. You could just volunteer to post, the blog posts that the president writes once a month on social media. You can offer to edit the newsletter. You can offer to do jpgs for them when they need an image. If there's an industry or a technology that you want to get involved in or learn about, find groups that are associated with that and then find a way, be up front and say, "I don't really know how to do this type of coding yet, but I really know how to use Twitter, so I'd love to help you with your tweets and using HootSuite to set up your schedule or I'd really love to get involved. Or volunteer to work for free at one of their meetups. Do the check in at the front desk or whatever.

But doing things, offering to kind of get involved with something that you're not yet a part of, is super smart. Because people then take note and then, as you start to develop the skills or the knowledge you need, you've already established some networking connections with a group that could possibly help you find a job, get an informational interview, I mean whatever it might be. When you get involved in those things, and you do, and you can even volunteer to write blogs. There's a lot of things people can do to help an industry or an organization. Look for people who have already sort of got a foot in the door to that body of whatever, whatever it is. Look for ways that you can contribute without the hand out. You're offering first, you're offering to give first.

I often tell the story about there was an association I was involved in up in Seattle when I lived up there and almost every person on that board of that association had gotten their jobs through someone else on that board. It was a big board, first of all, but when you get involved with groups like, people start to get to know you and they start to see your integrity and they start to trust you. Do you show up on time? Do you send out the newsletter when you said you would? Do you post the tweets without typos? Do you do all these things that help people get a sense of who you are? And even though maybe it's just like a surface knowledge of each other, they have some context so that when it comes time to get that job or to start asking for those info interviews, people kind of have a sense of you and they're happy to help you. So that's my big tip.

That's a great one, I love that. I used to volunteer when I first started learning how to code at an organization called Girl Develop It. I just did stuff online for them mostly. I did a few things in person but I would do, it was a local chapter, their Facebook page. I would update that. It can help you meet new people, it's something for you to do, especially if it's in the industry you want to get in. Okay, this is the real last question: where can people find you Sandy?

Okay, real quick, the other point about that though is it's also great resume equity and it looks great on your LinkedIn profile, right? I noticed that GirlDevelopIt stuff on your LinkedIn profile, so it's another thing that will help you shine. Having that volunteer experience.

People can get a hold of me through my website, which is belladomain.com. Just find me through the website or find me on LinkedIn. I love connecting to new people but make sure you take that minute to personalize. Mention that you heard me and Laurence talking today or whatever it might be and yeah, that's it. I love helping people kind of figure out, increase their digital footprint so they can get the opportunities they want. Whether they're jobs, whether they're freelance gigs. All that great stuff.

Okay, great. Thanks so much again, Sandy.

Oh, my pleasure, thank you.

I hope you enjoyed the conversation I just had with Sandy. Again, the Show Notes for this episode, plus a full transcript, can be found at learntocodewith.me/12. In today's show, we talked about the power of LinkedIn, and I believe that LinkedIn is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door for a job interview. If you're not on LinkedIn, you're making a huge mistake. And that's why I created my five day LinkedIn Crash Course.

This crash course will show you the basics of getting your profile set up, how to write a stand out headline, summary, and experience section, and exactly what hiring managers and recruiters look for when sourcing talent. You can get the crash course at learntocodewith.me/linkedinbook. Again, the URL is learntocodewith.me/linkedinbook.

I hope you enjoyed the conversation I had with Sandy and I'll see you next week on the Learn to Code With Me podcast.

Key takeaways:

  • Go into environments where you stand out from the crowd. Attend events where your skills are unique to the group.
  • Get to know people and find a way to help them. Stop worrying about your elevator pitch and focus on real conversation.
  • Ask the perfect networking question: “What are you working on these days?” This creates a social context for the conversation instead of an awkward one where you are asking for something.
  • If you’re not developing a network of connections in your life, you’re going to have a hard time getting things done. Use LinkedIn as a tool to solidify your connections with the people you meet.
  • Everyone has something to offer. You have ideas, knowledge, and good thoughts. Act on those resources and share them with the right people.
  • Use LinkedIn as a way to find those 2nd and 3rd-degree connections. Employee referral programs can get you in doors that would otherwise be closed to you.
  • Personalize your LinkedIn invitations. If there’s no context, people are going to dismiss your attempt to connect.
  • Find an association or a meetup or a group that’s connected to the technical world you want to be in. This is a great way to get your foot in the door. When it’s time to start interviewing, people will be happy to help you.

Links and mentions from the episode:

Thanks for listening!

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