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I am finding a bit difficult to understand the "I am not good at networking" angle. Assuming a job change every 3 years, and 2 people to vouch for you at each, one would have a 10 people "marketing team" after 15 years. I am not talking about schmoozing with higher ups here; just impressing peers with the quality of work.

Am I missing something?

There are introverts, and then there are introverts. I can easily see somebody who is particularly introverted not developing a deep network after 10, 20, or even 30 years of experience, simply because they are very introverted (or socially maladjusted; the two are different, but in a world run by extroverts it is arguable that they may as well not be). I'm not that introverted, but I'm introverted enough that it is by sheer luck I have more than two people from my first few jobs I could ask for references or even directly for work. My last couple of jobs, however, have been another matter--I "got over it," as they say, and have put more effort into networking. I even recently developed a connection completely outside of work!

Leavnig that aside, sometimes people move or switch focus or have to take jobs at crappy "body shop" companies to make ends meet during a bust, etc. Hence the quality of the network isn't necessarily good enough to have the kind of "I need a job, whatcha got" connections you mention.

I'm spectacularly bad at keeping up with previous co-workers. I'll certainly admit to that---it's one of my "listen to my advice, what I'd do, and then do something completely different" points.

But then, I spent 8 years at one job and in grad school. Anyone I knew before that would be really hard to find even if they could be a useful network.

And I was really bad at connecting with my committee--I graduated, but without a good network there.

Then I moved across the country.

I've never had any problem finding work, if I shop my resume around to local contractors and "body shops". In fact, I've made a pretty good career out of that. But "exciting" work? Not so much.

At this point, I'm considering getting out of the field. And I love what I do. I just hate what I'm doing, if you can see the difference.

The problem is you think this is somehow normal. That's not how all engineers work. Maybe you work a job and do good work, but then the team disintegrates, people quit, you lose track of co-workers because they were just co-workers and not friends (even if you had an excellent working relationship). It's not necessarily normal at all to retain close relationships with past co-workers, even less so to routinely network through them let alone retain them as references.

The entire reason LinkedIn exists is because most people, even many very highly skilled people in professional career roles, find it difficult to make effective use of such networks, for example. And if you're an engineer who has experienced a rough patch of employment or worked at a company or in a role or under a boss they hated or experienced a period of burnout or underperformed somewhere due to any of those circumstances the whole thing gets that much more difficult.

What am I supposed to do exactly? Call up some co-worker from 3+ years ago and say "hi, remember me? Can you get me a job?"

I don't have a network. I have friends and I have colleagues, but I don't really have anyone that could get me job leads (maybe a couple of my friends)

Or you could call them up, ask them how they're doing, meet them for a coffee, then ask if their company is hiring for X and if they could refer you. At the very least this gets your resume put in front of the hiring manager and lets you bypass the HR nonsense. At the very worst, they say no and you go back to talking about his dog or whatever.

Keep in mind that most companies offer referral bonuses and programmers like to work with people they know and trust. I used to avoid doing this like the plague because I thought I was being a burden to people I consider friends. In reality, asking for a referral is mutually beneficial for both parties.

> Or you could call them up, ask them how they're doing, meet them for a coffee, then ask if their company is hiring for X and if they could refer you.

Every single one of my former coworkers, managers, and other people I dealt with on a regular basis is still at my former employer or retired. How do those contacts help me?

Quit overthinking it an go for coffee already! They know people; they hear about projects you don't; pick their brains. They will be glad to help, because they obviously are NOT interested in leaving their current job so you're no competition.

That might work if my former employer was not a defense contractor. Unfortunately, I left in large part because my co-workers seemed to have little clue as to what was going on outside their own little bubble and little interest in correcting that.

That's a perfectly fine reason for leaving, but you're the one who wants/needs help, so it could serve you well to temporarily drop the judgments & assumptions, and just give a few of said ex-coworkers a try.

If it turns out none of them can help you, you're out an hour or two and the cost of coffee.

Fair enough. You could go to meetups, go to conferences, engage other devs on social media. Send thoughtful emails to people who know people. Ramit Sethi has a couple of blog posts showing email scripts for getting busy people to say yes to coffee[1][2].

A longer term alternative is to make cool things and tell people about them. Write some open source or a side project and post it to HN. Lather, rinse, repeat until you get people emailing you asking you if you have time to talk.

Whatever strategy you use, the goal is to make a personal connection with a hiring manager directly.

[1] http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/ramits-definitive-... [2] http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/video-how-to-use-n...

That is what I am working on, and it is clearly on me that I have not accomplished anything along those lines yet. I have made a few good contacts this way, but nothing has panned out from it.

Hanging out with salespeople is the best way to learn how to network.

Something you notice immediately is that they never feel like they're being used when someone wants to "meet for coffee" as transparent cover for getting something out of them.

They realize that someday they'll need their back scratched, and there's always the possibility that they'll get something (a tip, a lead, etc.) out of an unexpected meeting.

Yes? Assuming your relation with this co-worker was good, why not? Many companies have recruitment bonuses so he would probably also be very happy to refer you.

> Assuming a job change every 3 years

There you go. I spent (really too many) years at one small company after moving from a top-5 city to a top-20 city. And some of my contacts have left town.

Also, even if I've got people who can vouch for me, how do I tell them I'm looking for work? (This might sound trivial but I haven't figured it out.)

I suspect no amount of networking would protect against moving away from the centres of industry.

Given the alternative is being stuck in a boring job, or low pay, or unemployment, what is so difficult in shooting an email asking if they know anyone hiring? What would your reaction be if you got such an email from an ex-colleague?

Yes. I"m 48, and I've worked in software for 26 years.

For two companies.

I think I'm probably the last generation that looks at long-term employment as a good thing, and the older I get the less risk I want to take in being "the new kid" who would be the first to go if anything went wrong with the company.

My network consists mostly of people who know I'm a "programmer" and that's about it. I hang out with tabletop gamers, artists and costume designers, video editors, etc. We're more connected by our hobbies than our jobs. Most tech people I've tried to hang out with aren't all that into discussing tech when we're not on the job. Heck, my enthusiasm for tech usually ends at 5pm.

I also don't talk to former co-workers much because I've moved on to different problems.

So, yeah, I'm bad at networking.

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