When it comes to growing your engineering career, it’s often who you know that makes all the difference. Most engineers know that professional connections are important, but they still neglect to network because it can be an overwhelming and time-consuming process that takes months or years to generate results. However, if you are serious about growing your career, you need to invest in networking.
Start With Social Media
If the thought of walking into a room full of strangers overwhelms you, begin by networking on social media. LinkedIn is the obvious first choice because its main purpose is to build professional connections. Be sure your profile is complete and updated with your most accurate information and join engineering groups related to your specialty. Participate in the conversations there, and each week, try to add at least two new LinkedIn connections.
You can also find groups on Facebook that are dedicated to engineering and career growth. Twitter can be useful if you know how to cut through the nose. No matter which platforms you choose, the key to success is to spend a little time each day contributing to conversations and making connections.
Get Out And Get Active
Though it can feel daunting, face-to-face networking is still one of the most important and effective networking strategies for engineers. If mixers are too intimidating, start with conferences and seminars. These settings involve less pressure than a traditional happy-hour-style event because everyone comes to seminars and conferences to discuss specific topics, learn from experts, and share ideas. Put yourself out there – before and after a talk, introduce yourself to the people sitting around you. Visit booths, chat with presenters, etc. Then, make sure to follow up on social media after the event is over.
It is also worthwhile to attend those dreaded local mixers. Choose engineering-specific professional groups and bring a colleague with you to your first few events to make it less overwhelming. As with anything, practice will make you more comfortable, and over time, you’ll grow to know the people who attend these events and they will become part of your network.
Partner With a Recruiter
Networking is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes, you need to move more swiftly to build your network. If you are looking for new job opportunities in the immediate future, working with a professional engineering recruiter can be a great way to open doors quickly. Strong recruiters have spent years in the industry, building their networks, and developing great relationships with employers. Partnering with a recruiter gives you instant access to that network and can lead to a host of opportunities you wouldn’t find searching on your own.