Tuesday 22 March 2011

The Importance of (Social) Networking

This is post for the Contracting section of my blog. When I first started out or even before  I started  with my contracting business I was a bit wet behind the ears, a little naive and not really knowing what to expect. From some second hand stories from contractors that I knew and from reading websites like http://www.contractorcalculator.co.uk/ I got to understand the contracting process. This is the process that I used when  looking/searching for my first contract:



Now  there is nothing wrong with this process, I know many contractors that have used this previously and in fact it has worked for me on many occasions and is definitely a good way to start. Post your CV on to some of  the leading job sites, in the process apply for the contract that you are immediately interested in, the process of uploading your CV to the leading job sites makes it searchable and following that you start showing up in agent and recruitment searches for roles that you have not yet seen or even that they have not yet been advertised but your skills (at least the skills on your CV) match an up and coming contract.  Which is great just what you want. The problem is when you get those calls you may be in a contract at that present moment in time, or you have just to much time left before your current contract comes to an end and you need to start looking. When this was happening to me I felt like I was letting opportunities slip by the way side. I wasn’t able to work with that agent at that precise moment in time but I may be able to in the future, what I needed was a way of staying in touch with agents who called me up or sent me an email about a contract that I was well suited for. So how can you make these phone calls work for you, even if at that precise moment you are not looking for you next contract?

The answer for me started by asking the agent during the phone call to send me an email with all their contact information, this was great but it was kind of unorganised and remembering the specific agent and then searching for the contact information in the future was hard. So being a SQL Server person I knocked up a quick and simple contact database to store them in, this worked well enough. But then I stumbled across www.linkedin.com . I started slowly setting up a profile and then slowly adding to it and developing it into a good representation of my skills and what I have to offer. I looked up a few of the agents that I had worked with, spoken with previously and if they were also a member of www.linkedin.com I made a connection. Most the agents I have been in touch with have a www.linkedin.com profile. Once you are connected you can manage all your contacts from central location and you can send agents emails informing them of you availability or just generally keeping in contact. You can even use it as way of making contact with agents who you know have contracts ‘on the go’ that you are suitable for. This is utimately the networking process and I think all contractors need to network of suitably qualified people to call on to help them secure their role, whenever that maybe.

I guess the moral of this post is thus, Contracting is sales business, just because you are not looking for work (Selling) at this precise moment, contracting by its very nature means at some point you will be. It’s good to have a range of contacts that you can call on who are willing and are able to find you work (The purpose of the agent  is  sell your services), by using this process you will have a lot of qualified connections (Leads the sales people call it) that you know have looked to fill roles that you are suitable for, so it’s not exactly cold calling either.

I’d be interested in finding out if anyone else has a similar or completely different process. Please do feel free to leave a comment about how you approach networking

You are more than welcome to connect with me on Linkedin.com. I’m an open networker so you can send me a connection safe in the knowledge I won’t click on ‘I don’t know’ If I don’t want to make a connection

Please do follow me on twitter, the contract blog twitter account is @GREITContracts and if you want to follow me personally you please follow @SQLGRE

Friday 18 March 2011

Becoming a DBA: How to gain experience

Originally posted on www.gethynellis.com

Last week I had an interesting telephone call from a someone who I connected with on linkedin.com. On Linkedin I’m what they call an “open networker” which means I won’t click on ‘I don’t know you’ if you send me a connection request. If I don’t want to connect with you then I’ll simply archive your message/request.  I use linkedin.com primarily for work and business. I use it to connect with fellow DBAs and database professionals  and I also connect with recruiters/agents whose business is to fill SQL Server contract roles. At the time of writing I’m well over 500 connections but have a fair way to go before I get to 1000. If you would like to connect please do feel free to send me a request here.

A SQL person sent me a connection request which I accepted  and he then sent me an email and then phoned me up asking if I would help him out. The crux of the phone call was around him getting more experience using SQL Server. He has a Virtual Lab set up with a SQL Server in it, he wanted me to help him recreate real life examples of some of the problems a DBA faces.

Now having thought about this for a second, I decided that although I could help and create some contrived examples it would be much better for this person to solve full on real life examples. I told this person that although I could help with this request his best bet at gaining more exposure to SQL Server and more of the problems that people can experience with different aspects of the product would be to help try and solve some of these problems himself. I directed him at the forums on SQLServerCentral.com and over on MSDN and suggested that he use his environment to try and help people with their problems. Even if he didn’t know how to solve that particular problem himself, reading the posts and suggested solutions and then working through the problem in his own environment would help him learn.

I guess the purpose of this post is this, in helping other people solve their SQL problems, you gain great experience in aspects of SQL Server that you may never come across in your normal day job, which can only help build your knowledge and experience.

Feel free to send me a Linkedin connection request.