One of the best parts about being in any industry for 10+ years is that you get to move from trying to find connections and actively building connections to being someone who has the ability to be the one that helps others connect.
I’m not talking about venture capital style of connections, but mostly just a network of friends and colleagues that you respect, who would do you a favor or two of chatting with someone. Having this level of access to other folks is certainly a level of privilege that should be acknowledged and opened up to others.
This isn’t advocating to pass along every single email or LinkedIn request that you get, but it you do get these you should read them in earnest if they are from an individual looking for help and if you can help, try to. I would also consider going a step further. Open yourself up to connect with folks face to face where possible if you’re comfortable doing that. Putting a face to a name and email dramatically changes perception and understanding.
This is about advocating against the idea of closed off networks that exist purely to create have and have nots sets of folks. Even within the tech community, getting into a large company is hard, but once you’ve been in one it’s relatively easy to move around between them. There are a number of factors for this (yes tech interviews all suck), but part of it is literally just being able to connect with someone that’s had those experiences and help people level-set (and shit, maybe become an advocate for them).
One way that I’ve been trying to be more generous with my time is by literally offering my time to others for free. Similar to how professors hosted office hours, I just open my calendar up to folks and advertise on Twitter (or any Slack groups that I’m part of) and see if anyone signs up.
There is no gate keeping, no screening, just a calendar form. I just show up to whatever appointments folks booked on my calendar with hopefully a little context of what they’d like to discuss. I don’t think I’m some industry pundit, but I do recognize that anyone who has been doing roughly the same thing for 10 years might be able to provide advice for someone earlier on in their career. Also, it just feels like the right thing to do to try to give back to folks in this very small way.
Setting up your own hours
It’s relatively simple to setup a calendar for appointment slots if you’re using something like Google Calendar for work or school, so I’ll outline that approach as well as a newer one that anyone can do if they don’t have an enterprise GSuite account.
For any of these approaches, I’d recommend making a new calendar in whoever your calendar provider is. I personally just find it a bit easier to manage all of these appointments in a new calendar. There is also maybe a bit of de-risking your personal calendar if you’re limiting which calendars are being looked at by default.
I recently switched to using Calendly to make it easier for non-Google account having folks to book time (and provide a bit of a nicer interface). I would write a tutorial on how to use it, but really, this is exactly what Calendly is set up to do. If you follow their wizard you will end up with office hours that folks can book without issue.
I like this as it allows non-Google account holders to book, looks nicer, and lets me ask people how they want to meet (Hangout, Zoom, Facetime, etc.) which is half the battle when trying to schedule time with anyone in the first place.
(Note: this approach will only work if you have a corporate or school GSuite account)
After creating your new calendar you need to make it public so that folks will be able to find the appointment slots.
- Click the settings gear icon
- Click Settings
- Click the name of the calendar you just created under the “Settings for my calendars” section
- Click the “Make available to public” checkbox under “Access permissions” section (Note: this will make this particular calendar public to 100% of the Internet)
You will then have to add a new event on the days/hours you’d like to offer these office hours. Do that just like you would for any calendar event but make sure you have “Appointment slots” selected as the event type not “Event”. Here is a support article from Google if you get stuck.
When you visit the appointment page of this event you should be able to publicly share that URL and people will have to book it with another Google account. I would use a link shortener like bit.ly to make this link a bit more memorable/digestible for folks.
I’ve been lucky to connect with a bunch of folks looking to ask questions about going into management, or that are managers just looking for someone to talk through some issues with. I also am really looking forward to whoever else decides to sign up and chat since I’ve been able to learn something new about someone (and typically myself) every time I’ve had the opportunity to chat with someone.
If you’re curious about this article, or idea, or just want to chat about something else I encourage you to take a look at my open hours and grab some time at https://bit.ly/bsm-oh.
Looking forward to chatting with you 💬