More than half of engineers consider themselves to be introverted — which often hinders their ability to communicate with others. This is problematic, since 85 percent of all jobs are filled via networking.
Professionals shouldn’t only think about these connections when they need a career change, though. It should be an ongoing activity. To help engineers make the most out of their connections, we put together a list of five need-to-know networking tips.
1. Sign up for (and use) LinkedIn.
You may have heard the hype about LinkedIn, but this social network has no plans to slow down anytime soon. In fact, two new members join LinkedIn every second. But are engineers taking advantage of social media?
According to a recent study, they are. More than half of engineering respondents said they either use social media to search or share information with their professional contacts and/or stumble upon work-related articles. This makes sense, since LinkedIn allows professionals to stay up to date on the latest industry trends, follow modern technologies and learn about new tools and insights.
A great way for engineers to maximize networking on LinkedIn is through groups. These groups, which are specific to various topics, allow users with common interests to share content, find answers to important questions, view jobs and establish themselves in the industry. Great examples include Mechanical Design Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and The Engineering Forum. To find a group for your specific industry, simply use the search bar feature.
2. Join a professional trade association.
Professional organizations have two major purposes: to share knowledge and to connect people. While these groups have lost traction over the years, they’re making a big comeback. According to a Entrepreneur, 58 percent of millennials already belong to a professional organization, and 77 percent of those who are not intend to join one.
But why? As it turns out, professional organizations, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and National Society Professional Engineers, offer engineers an opportunity to contribute to the industry. To get the most out of your member experience:
- Attend meetings and events. If your group holds regular meetings, workshops or other events, be sure to attend them. Even if it doesn’t seem to fit right in your field, you can still benefit by expanding your reach and learning something new
- Continuously connect. While it’s great to meet new people and exchange business cards, the relationship shouldn’t stop there. To keep the momentum going, add connections on LinkedIn, send them an email and keep in touch from time to time.
- Get involved. If you’re looking to create long-lasting relationships in your field, consider joining a committee or serving on the board. Not only will it give you an opportunity to be a leader, but it will help boost your communication skills.
If you’re apprehensive about joining a new organization, bring a colleague along to your first meeting. It’ll help you feel more confident walking into a new situation.
3. Find a mentor or mentee.
Mentorships are beneficial for engineers at any experience level, since they provide seasoned veterans and aspiring professionals with an opportunity to learn from one another. More specifically, they allow engineers to:
- Build a network. Having a strong connection with someone in the industry, regardless of his or her age, allows both parties to double their professional network’s reach.
- Expand on their knowledge. While it makes sense that mentees have a lot to learn from their mentor’s experience, veteran engineers can learn a lot from their protégées, as well. Younger generations may provide new insight on old problems, offer tips and tricks for navigating emerging forms of technology and bring an inspiring hunger for the trade.
- Improve their intercommunication skills. Quite often, engineers define themselves as introverts. Finding a mentor or mentee allows engineers to enhance skills they aren’t always called upon to use, such as leadership and communication.
4. Attend a conference or trade show.
Forty million Americans attend a convention, trade show or conference each year. These type of events combine like-minded people from all over the world in one place — making them the perfect opportunities to interact with fresh faces in your industry.
- Pitch a presentation. Well versed in an area you’re passionate about? Consider pitching your topic to a conference committee. This will allow you to share your research and experiences and position yourself as a top expert in the industry.
- Start a conversation. If you have the opportunity to talk to someone, take it. You can meet someone in a breakout session, happy hour or meal that could have a dramatic impact on your career.
- Follow up with interesting people. A conference is a great way to get in the same room with some of the key leaders in your field. If you aren’t comfortable talking to them right in the moment, try to get ahold of their contact information.
5. Prepare a personal pitch.
We aren’t always given notice before handed a networking opportunity, but all engineers should still be able to successfully communicate who they are. Often referred to as an elevator pitch, this technique is a great tool to have readily available for conferences, work functions and general networking events. It should be:
- Short and focused. There’s a reason it’s called an elevator pitch — you should be able to clearly complete it in 30 seconds (the time you’d spend in an elevator).
- Informative. Your pitch should introduce who you are, explain your experiences and interests and communicate what kind of career you want.
- Strong. If you only have 30 seconds to prove to someone that you’re worth talking to, make sure you’re confident in your pitch. In order to assure a successful pitch, prepare what you want to say ahead of time and practice it regularly.