Networking in engineering is vital for propelling your career and expanding your business, particularly in this age of AI and globalization.
Let me share with you 8 tips on how to amp up your networking game in engineering:
#1 Quality trumps quantity
Sure, you might know tons of people with thousands of LinkedIn connections, but how many of them would actually vouch for you? It’s like having 10,000 Facebook friends – how many would jump on a plane to help you out in a crisis? Not many, I bet.
So don’t let your inner lizard brain trick you into thinking more is better. You don’t have the capacity to truly connect with 10,000 people anyway. Focus on forging deep, quality connections instead.
#2 Nurture every worthwhile connection
A top-notch doctor is just as priceless as a skilled plumber. Dealing with a burst pipe beneath your home might be even more aggravating than nursing a broken arm. Don’t undervalue any connection, or believe you’re above someone. The letters following your name don’t make a difference – everyone brings something valuable to the table.
Keep in mind that the C-grade buddy from school could become your boss someday. If you don’t cultivate that bond, you might drift apart, from best friends to total strangers.
It’s like nurturing a growing plant. Neglect to water it, and it’ll wither away. So, stay in touch with people on a deeper level. Simply be an amazing, genuine person, and you’ll create authentic connections.
Important Note: Whenever possible, meet people face-to-face as it’s more impactful. Emails can be easily overlooked, while a physical presence is hard to ignore. This is especially true when someone is constantly bombarded with messages.
#3 The immediate impact of connections
Every connection has potential value, but it can take time to materialize. Some connections may have an immediate impact, while others could take years to bear fruit – the latter being more common.
Picture this: you help a fellow engineer who later becomes a venture capitalist. When you launch your own company, your existing relationship allows you to bypass the typical hoops you’d otherwise have to jump through.
However, don’t treat people like commodities; you’ll burn bridges quickly. Building genuine relationships is a gradual process that can’t be rushed.
#4 Diversify your connections
Don’t limit yourself to connecting with specific types of people.
I get it, in networking, they say your skills are pointless if the right folks don’t notice them. As a result, many engineers concentrate on mingling with just technical people. But that’s a misstep.
You never know how someone may help you in the future. Take Elon Musk as an example. He’s forged connections with Hollywood actors, Joe Rogan, and even hip-hop artists.
This empowers him to market his products to millions with ease. Appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast might be more effective than a $100 million corporate advertising blitz.
In today’s world, where everyone’s connected to the internet, any kind of connection can be advantageous—as long as it’s a quality one, of course.
#5 Be a valuable resource for others
This is one of the most crucial tips. The other suggestions might make it seem like I’m telling you to use people, but that’s far from the truth.
Before asking for anything, make sure you provide value to others. Connections should be a two-way street.
I find it super off-putting when a stranger asks me for a huge favor. Not only am I pressed for time, but I’d rather prioritize helping those who’ve gone the extra mile for me or I at least know.
Unsurprisingly, if you shut yourself off from others, you’ll never forge meaningful connections. Just like in regular friendships, you bond by discovering common ground.
Keep in mind, not everyone will return your kindness and friendship. That’s totally okay. You win some, and you lose some.
#6 Stay professional and maintain a stellar reputation
Avoid burning bridges over trivial matters.
Most disagreements stem from poor communication. Sure, there are lousy people out there, but more often than not, we just talk past each other.
Instead of holding a grudge, have a chat with the other person. Identify the root of the disagreement. If you torch the relationship, it might become unsalvageable.
To make matters worse, the other person could bad-mouth you to others. That’s not something you want in today’s interconnected world.
Now, if someone truly does you wrong, feel free to bare your fangs.
I’ve experienced situations where a client tried to justify not paying me over $100,000. I didn’t publicly slander the client, but I took action.
Some might say it’s my duty to call them out to protect others. However, with limited mental bandwidth, I pick my battles wisely. I never worked with that company again, though.
As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
#7 Build your personal brand
Stand out from the crowd!
Harness the power of the internet to promote yourself. You could have the cure for cancer, but if no one knows about it, no one will care.
Utilize these avenues to make a name for yourself:
- Share content on social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube
- Start a blog
- Join professional engineering groups
- Attend meetings, trade shows, and workshops
- Serve on committees or boards to connect with people in leadership roles
#8 Create an effective personnel pitch
I know we’re aiming to build genuine, meaningful relationships through networking. But with the hustle and bustle of modern life, you need to be able to swiftly break the ice and connect with others.
To accomplish this efficiently, develop a low-key “pitch.”
Now, I’m not fond of the term “pitch,” as it feels gimmicky. Plus, it frames relationships as business transactions.
The truth is, every relationship kicks off with some form of a pitch. It’s how you discover common ground. So, present your strengths in a warm, friendly way.
Just picture all the pitches Elon Musk receives. He likely ignores most of them due to time constraints. But if you mention the following, you’ll instantly grab his attention and forge a connection:
“I’ve developed a safe and proven nuclear-powered rocket.”
Your technology directly benefits him and SpaceX, and it’s a mutual interest. Shared passions are the foundation of friendships.
Equally important, tailor your pitch for different people. You might have multiple interests, while others might have just one. So, hone in on their passion.
Networking in engineering wrap up
Visualize networking as constructing a building. The more people you network with, the faster and better you can erect the structure.
As a one-person operation, you might only manage to build a hut. But to raise a skyscraper, you need a team—even if you’re a 10x engineer.
What are your go-to networking strategies in engineering? Do you find networking in engineering to be essential?
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, our history and future, sports, and fitness.