Friday, 31 December 2010

Social Networks for the DBA


Multimillionaire

There are a lot of social networks about.  I gave up Facebook because I got fed up of people throwing sheep at me.  I managed to solve one Facebook mystery – the reason that all these gorgeous Russian babes wanted to be my friend.  If you look up Jack Whittaker on Google you will find that Jack Whittaker of Culloden, West Virginia won $300 million of the state lottery – he even looks a bit like me! 


Babe Magnet

I can’t get on with Twitter – I don’t have anything to say to the world in less than 140 characters.  Neither do most Twitter users, but they just say it anyway. 

So – LinkedIn, then.  It’s rather more adult than most social networks.  The idea is that you can connect to other professional people, learn what they do, give and get advice on serious and not-so-serious subjects, look for jobs, maybe find potential new members of staff. 

Start with your profile.  Click here to see mine:  http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jackwhittaker

Essentially it’s your CV online – what you do, where you work, how long you have been doing it.  You can say as much or as little as you want, you can put all your past jobs in there in or just your current one.  Make sure you say the key words that matter, as this is what people look for.  For example, if you want people to know that you are familiar with SQL Server 2008, make sure it’s in your profile, or your Specialties (sic - sorry about the American spelling). 

Then you want to make connections.  Start with the people you work with – if they are already on LinkedIn, you can send them a request.  Most people are happy to connect to you.  I have 20 or so pending requests - possibly people who wish to deny knowing me, but I suspect really they don't look at Linkedin very often.

Here's some advice that I found useful - it's ten mistakes, so just do the opposite!

Here’s why – suppose I was an employment agency, looking for a French speaking DBA in Bristol.  Select Advanced Search, put in the keywords DBA and French, put in the location, and it finds 30 DBAs for me with at least some knowledge of the language.  I can look at those people’s CVs, connect to them, send them a message if I want.  And it’s free.  Now that’s much more attractive to an agency than paying 20 grand a year to access the job sites. 

From my point of view, the more connections I have, the easier it is for them to find me, and the closer I am to the top of the list.  I have 200 or so connections; those people in turn know 40,000 other people; and the 40,000 know 3,000,000 or more.  So I am three degrees of separation away from all those people.  I may not know the man in Mauritius at the other end of the chain, but I know someone who knows someone who knows him personally – and that means I can get in touch with him directly if I want to.  And if he happens to be looking for a French-speaking DBA to work on a tropical island paradise, he can get in touch with me. 

Helpful hint - if you ever have anything to do with an employment agency, always send them a request to link in - they usually have several hundred contacts.

The other thing that is worth doing is to join groups which are related to your professional interests - so for example, go to groups, type in Qualitative Data Analysis, and it finds three groups.  Join up, read the discussions, contribute.  If someone sounds sensible, tell them so and ask to link to them. 

We were arguing in the office about whether it's worth rebooting a Server on a regular planned preventative maintenance - some said yes, others took the view that if it ain't broke, don't mess with it.  I started a discussion on one of the many DBA groups and pretty soon we had a consensus - leave well alone. 

Remember that you are marketing here, rather than selling - you want agencies to find you and it is easier for them to do so if you know lots of people in the field.  Try to avoid the direct sell - there's a guy who posts on one of my groups to say that he is looking for a job but never posts otherwise - I get the impression that he is posting everywhere, essentially spamming us. 

As well as that, agencies (and even some companies) post jobs on these groups - if a relevant one comes up, great, apply.  But if you see something that isn't relevant, it might interest one of your contacts.  Pass it on - say "It's not really suitable for me, I'm looking for X rather than Y, but I thought you might be interested" 

Think about where that gets you.  Someone in your field now knows what you are looking for.  They feel well-disposed towards you, even if they are not actually job hunting.  If they see X, there's a pretty good chance that they will tell you about it.  If an agency approaches them, there's a good chance that they will refer you. 

So you can market yourself online, you can learn stuff and get technical questions answered, you can have fun.  What’s not to like?

Happy New Year!

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