Some people get their first job out of college from internships. Some people find connections through friends and family members. Most of us, at some point or another, end up spinning the roulette wheel of job postings and career fairs. And then there’s me.
My name is Brigid O’Keefe and about ten months ago I became a Junior Embedded Software Engineer and Employee-Owner at DISTek – after finding out about the company at a swing dance class. I know it sounds outlandish, but it all comes down to one word: Networking. The art of networking is a two-step dance all its own. If you can master it, you will find opportunities everywhere in your daily life.
The first step is learning how to observe and listen. Any good dancer knows to pay constant attention to everything and everyone around them on the dance floor. The music gives you a beat to follow. Your partner could signal the next moves they want to take with the slightest gesture. The people around you could either be your next dance partners, or your next victim if you’re prone to stepping on toes. Likewise, when you meet someone for the first time, there’s an equal amount of observing and listening to be done. What is the “rhythm”, aka, the context of your situation? What moves is the other person trying to make? What do they care about? Are there subjects that you should avoid in your conversation? Is there a problem you could help them solve? Not everyone will be able to give you a lead on a job search or business opportunity. However, when you are an attentive and helpful person, you will build a group of attentive and helpful people around you, who will be ready to listen and guide you to your next open door.
The second step is to move with confidence once opportunity knocks. When you dance, confidence sets in when you know the basic steps well enough to adapt them in whatever way you want. You don’t always know what you’re going to do next, but half the fun is that you and your dance partner get to figure it out as you go. Likewise, focus on your strengths, and be ready to apply them in creative or unexpected ways. You might even find people presenting you with new opportunities when you least expect it. When I picked up one of my dad’s old textbooks on circuit logic, I never expected it to be more than just a break from staring at Indeed applications, but at that swing dance class, someone I had struck up a conversation with asked me about a book I was reading. That opened the door to allow me to talk about my career goals, which led to being introduced to Wyatt, a fellow DISTek employee-owner, who encouraged me to apply at DISTek. After a phone interview and a few rounds of technical interviews with possible teams I could work on, you bet I practically did a jig when I got my offer letter.
The moral of the story is: use every chance you have to network and make connections. You just never know how life impacting one of those connections can be if you don’t take the chance.