The Excuses . . .
When I suggest a network is crucial for ALL engineers regardless of their place in life, I’ve heard a myriad of responses . . .
. . . Why do I need a network, I’m not looking for a job?
. . . Why bother, it’s not like I know anyone who can help?
. . . I don’t need to start now, I have time until I graduate.
. . . That’s only for rich, well connected people.
. . . Sounds like too much work and not worth the time. It’s really not a big deal, I’ll build it when I need it.
Answering the excuses . . . Why you need to start your network NOW
The excuses generally fall into two categories; either the person truly doesn’t see the need for the network or they are looking for an excuse to not do the work to build & develop a network
The former category can be dismissed once people truly understand the power of a network beyond its use for job searching (although that is a great use of it). Likewise, with a few simple mindsets and techniques, the latter can be shown to be untrue.
So is a network only useful for job searching?
I will concede that the greatest usage for your network is in connection within the job search realm. However, just because you are not looking for a job NOW, does not mean that you should delay developing your network. If you got fired tomorrow, do you want to start to reach out to your network or do you want to start to develop it? Having a solid network is an insurance policy against sudden changes in your employment.
Over the years, I have used my network for several other purposes as follows . . . One of the engineers that I hired to work on my team was someone that I met on LinkedIn initially. I have also used my network as a way to find information on a difficult engineering situation as well as using it as a way to help others get jobs.
To develop a valuable network, focus on the QUALITY OF CONNECTIONS and not the QUANTITY OF CONNECTIONS. Taking this approach to networking can take time to develop and will take constant care to keep it active, but is not really a time consuming project per se. It IS something that requires continuous effort, but you can see tremendous results in just an hour per week.
To those who are unsure where to start their network, I recommend beginning with your professors, classmates, alumni from your engineering school etc. As you develop your network through consistent growth, you will find that you are able to reach more and more people on all levels.
3 Action Tips to Get Your Network Started
Start/Update your LinkedIn account – LinkedIn is often referred to as Facebook for business. LinkedIn is currently the best online networking platform. You can find others in your field, join groups to learn more, and have details about yourself so others can find you. How can you create a strong profile? I recommend you review your profile every month or two and keep it as updated as possible. Try to avoid meaningless jargon like “go-getter” or “high energy”. Instead, add in some more specifics about your experience and skills. Think about what makes you different than other engineering students or professionals in your position and focus on these areas. Over time, you can add in recommendations, publications, skills etc. Try to see this as a living profile and don’t let it stagnate. Have a look at my LinkedIn profile to get a better understanding of where you want to progress towards. Is my profile perfect? No, but I am always trying to improve upon it and think I have gotten to the point where it is very strong.
Find that common connector – Fact, people like to help others with whom we feel we have a connection. It’s why we instantly bond with a cousin even though we had never met. Similarly, it’s why we will respond quicker to an email from someone who went to the same engineering school and major as you. However, don’t limit yourself to relatives and alumni of your school. There are a ton of connections you can make such as same home country or you both were in Boy Scouts. FYI, I have created a list of 30 Potential Connectors that you can use to help you build your network. This list is included in my guidebook that I noted above that is sent to all new subscribers.
Be Consistent; Perhaps reach out to 1 person each day/week – This is a marathon not a sprint. Make a simple goal to reach out to one person each day in an effort to build your network slowly and methodically. Don’t worry too much if someone does not accept the connection. The key here is to have continuous momentum moving forward to eventually build a strong network. Want to read more about this topic? Here are some of my favorite networking books:
- Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
- The Seven Levels of Communication by Michal J, Maher
- First Impressions by Ann Demarais – Not specifically network related, but first impressions have a big impact on networking
Need some additional guidance & materials?
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- Guidebook for Developing Your Engineering Network. Detailed instructions to supercharge your connections plus tips specifically for LinkedIn! The perfect guide for your job/internship search.
- 10 Networking Tips for Introverted Engineers. Don’t let your introversion hold you back! Use these tips to start networking without the anxiety.
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