Lesson Monday

Your new Friend, the Meetup!

Meetups are likely to be a big part of your job search process, and generally an important part of your long-term career. They are a fantastic place to meet new people, hear about new projects, or hear about job opportunities.

For those of us who are more social, meetups are likely not that intimidating: You go, you eat some snacks, you listen to some talks, and you meet some new people.

But for those of us who are more introverted and struggle to make smalltalk, Meetups can feel daunting, even scary. Here are some tips to make the best of the experience:

  • Meetups are work. They are not chill hang time with your friends (although, when you make enough connections, they can be). Consider them work the same way homework is work and classwork is work. They are a necessary part of becoming a developer. Any time you spend nurturing your social connections is an advantage to getting your resume in the right hands.

  • Prepare for crowds. It will likely be busy and crowded. If this intimidates you, remind yourself that this is work. Make sure you know where the restrooms and exits are. Get there a little early to get to know the space for it gets too busy. Make an agreement that you will stay for one hour, and then re-assess.

  • Find a meetup that is on a topic you are truly interested in to get your feet wet. You’ll find it more easy to talk to people if you have an interest and some knowledge of the topic at hand.

  • Set your goals. What are you looking to achieve by attending? Do you want to hear cool talks? Are you looking for a job? Are you interested in telling people about the project you are working on? Let this shape how you interact with people. Prepare some key talking points to support what you are trying to achieve. You can prepare an “elevator pitch” as well, which is a short pitch that sums up your idea or your project in a nutshell. Read more about elevator pitches here. https://www.fastcompany.com/3004484/problem-your-elevator-pitch-and-how-fix-it

  • Research people to approach. Look at the invite list if publicly available, and look some of the people up on linkedin. Find a few key folks (not just one, you need some backup) and prepare some questions ahead of time. Then, approach the person in question if the opportunity presents itself.

  • Read the signals. If someone you are talking to starts talking to someone else, turns away, or leaves, move on. If you have a good conversation that seems interesting enough, and lasts for a few minutes, it’s appropriate to ask that person for their card. Don’t forget to follow up with them within 24 hrs after the meetup.

  • Watch your intake. Meetups are often accompanied by alcohol. Don’t make the mistake of consuming more than you should, and worrying that you acted inappropriately.

  • Don’t wall yourself off. It’s natural to only want to hang out with the people you know, but this is often counterproductive. Spend a little time chatting with people you know, then return to point 1.) You are here to make new connections!

  • Ask questions. If conversation seems stifled and you are not quite sure what to say, ask questions. What does your day to day look like? Have you been in Portland long? Where did you work before New Relic? What exactly does a Technical Lead Account Manager for Global Engineering do? Practice active listening, ask questions to keep the conversation moving. And if you sense your conversation partner is looking to exit the conversation, politely say something like, “I don’t want to keep you long, but I’d love to follow up with you. Can I take your card?” and leave it at that. Follow up within 24 hrs if you feel like it is a good connection for you.

  • Be flexible and open minded. Your conversation partner may tell you they hate Android Development, even if it is your favourite thing. Or they may tell you they think that there are no jobs in Java, and you just completed the Java track, and it’s the last thing you want to hear. Don’t argue or get prickly, but graciously let them know you disagree, or simply change the subject. Don’t take this first conversation too seriously. Seek common ground. If it can’t be found, find a polite reason to leave the conversation, and disengage.

During your time at Epicodus, be sure to regularly sign up for meetups to attend. Write your name on the Meetup RSVP board to encourage others to join, as well. You can check calagator and meetup.com to find out about meetups that are of interest to you. The earlier you begin your networking, the beneficial it will be.

At your job or internship, ask your colleagues if there are any meetups they attend. Ask for recommendations. do the same - also, many meetups are run by community organizations such as Women Who Code or Java User Group. Ask if there is anyone in your company that is involved with any meetups. Joining in and helping to facilitate is an awesome way to get involved.