|By Jeremy Mason, Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle|
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When you talk about "6 Degree of Separation", it really resonates within the IT Staffing Industry. Over the past 17 years, I've been fortunate to have met some extremely intelligent and interesting Independent Contractors. People from all walks of life, yet each person has one thing in common: IT (Information Technology).
The Staffing Industry has an enormous network and a large group within that network is IT contractors. While almost everyone does some work to build new connections, I'm always surprised at how many independent contractors don't do more to network with recruiters and other contractors.
Why should you network?
Networking is extremely important now more than ever. It allows you to both ensure a steady stream of work and share something in common with your peers. You already know (or should know) that by building and maintaining relationships with recruiters across the staffing industry, you'll be top-of-mind for opportunities and the first phone call they make when a new contract opens up. But building a network of other independent contractors in your field is equally important. These professionals can be your best support system when working on projects. Those new to independent contracting learn quickly that when you go out on your own, you lose the resources you once had when you were an employee. Suddenly you no longer have your "go-to" group of people when you encounter a roadblock. Your best option is to have your own network of other professionals you can call on for help.
How do you build that network?
The easiest way is to get active with Industry Associations, User Groups, and Community Portals. For example, check out your local CIPS Chapter. CIPS is an association of IT professionals and offers networking opportunities, certifications and accreditations. Also, keep your eyes open for invitations to networking events. Many staffing companies including Eagle, often host events where you can meet like-minded people. Bottom line, make space in your agenda for networking events and practice your networking skills. Many networking tips have been posted in the Talent Development Centre.
What about maintaining your network?
The problem is that we can forget these great connections. Life gets busy and we all forget to 'keep in touch', but we should make an effort not only to build, but maintain our networks. Whether you are an Independent Contractor, or working within the Staffing Industry, it's important to remember to reach out to the people you've met along the way and reconnect. Have conversations, touch base, or grab a coffee. You'd be amazed to find out where people have landed since you last met. In the staffing industry, recruiters improve their networks by getting involved with associations, picking up the phone and setting time aside each day to call old contacts. Independent contractors can do the same thing. Set some time aside (once a month is fine) and speak to the like-minded contractors and recruiters you've dealt with in the past; they will appreciate hearing from you!
Do you have a network of recruiters and other contractors? What sources have you used to build it? Share your experiences below and help other contractors grow their networks.