Land an iOS job by focusing on relationships

A few years ago, I was just getting started with contract iOS development, and barely scraping by. I needed more income and more work, but I didn’t really know how to find it.

Then I had a stroke of good luck. Kevin, a friend of mine, asked me if I was looking for work. One of his former coworkers – now a manager at a new startup – was looking to hire an iOS developer. He had asked Kevin if he was available, and like many good iOS developers, Kevin was fully booked. So Kevin referred me to the manager, told him I knew my stuff, and I landed the gig – which turned out to be a lucrative multi-year contract.

Focus on relationships and referrals will come

And my story isn’t unique – relationships are huge, and a great way to get a new job. I’ve landed most of my full-time and contract jobs through my connections. In fact, in the past five years I’ve had 8 clients, and 7 of them have come from knowing someone who either (a) hired me or (b) referred me. On top of that, I’ve worked on multiple projects for some of those clients, so the vast majority of my work in the past five years has come from relationships. Oh, and that one special client who was the exception to the rule? They found me on Stack Overflow and learned about me from the way I answered questions. So as I see it, they – and all my other clients – knew me before I started working for them. In every case, we had a connection, even when I didn’t know it.

And it’s not just me who’s been so lucky to land work through my connections. It’s my friend Kevin, and my friend Randy, and my friend Aijaz. It’s Brennan Dunn, a master of consulting, who says that “in a perfect world, you’d have referrals.” So how do you build that perfect world?

To answer that, let’s look at what Keith Ferrazzi says in Never Eat Alone:

“I’ve come to believe that connecting is one of the most important business—and life—skill sets you’ll ever learn. Why? Because, flat out, people do business with people they know and like.”

Did you catch that last sentence? “People do business with people they know and like.” So to build the perfect world Brennan talked about, take Ferrazzi’s advice: Get to know people and become someone they like – and you’ll have tons of success in finding the work you want, no matter what you do.

Oh, and connections aren’t everything – you also need to have a set of core skills to land iOS development work. But once you have those, connections are everything.

But who do you want to know? Where do you meet them? And how do you get to know them? Let’s go back to my story and talk about what happened before Kevin helped me land that gig.

Kevin and I met at a local user group. I don’t actually remember which one, or when, but we were both involved in the Java, iOS, and Ruby user groups in our city. And since we kept seeing each other at them, eventually we started at saying hi to each other.

But it wasn’t until we both attended a local conference that we really became good friends. During one of the time slots, I asked him which talk he was planning to go to. He didn’t really know, and neither did I – none of them sounded all that great – so we decided to skip the talks and just hang out at the bar. We talked for a solid hour about all kinds of things – programming and non-programming – and that’s when we really solidified our friendship in my mind. After that, we always talked when we saw each other at user groups, and we’ve continued the friendship even though we’re in different cities now.

So the lesson from my story with Kevin? Become friends with iOS developers and you’ll land iOS work.

But where can you meet iOS developers, and how?

One easy way to meet other iOS developers is to go to local iOS user groups or meetups. Look for CocoaHeads or NSCoder groups – or just search for “iOS user group” or “iOS meetup” (without the quotes). They seem to be all over the world, so it’s likely there’s one in your area.

So once you’ve found one you’re planning to attend, your goal should be to meet people like Kevin – developers who do iOS professionally, either full-time or on contract. They have connections to people who hire iOS developers (their managers) and they have iOS experience, so they hear about job openings and freelance gigs when they come up because people want to hire them. And when they hear about new iOS work, if they’re not looking for a new gig, they’ll pass it on to you.

Another great way to meet iOS developers is at conferences. As I mentioned, Kevin and I got to know each other at a conference – and I’ve met lots of other developers at iOS conferences. There are tons of great iOS conferences out there – including WWDC, CocoaConf, 360iDev, and more, so it’s likely that there’s one near you. Start going to them, start meeting people, and start taking steps toward landing the iOS job you want.

My preference is to go to small local conferences rather than ones that are far away, because this allows me to get to know the local iOS community. There’s a higher concentration of local people at small local conferences. And those people are the ones I can hang out with for lunch, coffee, or drinks long after the conference is over. So I’ve gone to tiny local conferences (in my city or nearby cities) that are focused on iOS development, mobile development in general, and even web development. And each time, I’ve been lucky enough to run into people I know from local user groups, and we’ve gotten to know each other better by hanging out in a new context. And those are the people who refer the best projects to me.

Remember that as you’re connecting with people, your focus needs to be on getting to know them and building genuine friendships. Nobody likes it when you’re just out “networking”, trying to squeeze whatever you can from them, without being willing to give. As Ferrazzi says, “it’s better to give before you receive. And never keep score. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.”

To land a job as an iOS developer, you also need a set of core iOS development skills – and you can start building those skills with the free 5-Part Guide to Getting Started with Swift.