Networking in engineering – 8 tips to grow your network

Networking in engineering is critical today with the increasing global competition. At the same time, it has become easier than ever through the internet.

I’m going to go over 8 tips on bettering your networking in engineering.

This will help you with the following things:

  • Finding jobs
  • Building a customer base
  • Connecting with other engineers who can help you with countless things
  • Learning more

In short, with networking, you increase the probability of getting what you want.

Not to say networking is required, but you decrease your chances greatly without it.

#1 Aim for quality over quantity

I know countless people who have thousands of connections on LinkedIn. But not one of them would vouch for you.

It’s like having 10,000 friends on Facebook. How many of these so-called “friends” would hop onto a plane and come to see you in an emergency?

I’m guessing not many.

This is what I mean by quality over quantity.

You’re just fooling your lizard brain by thinking more is better. Plus, you don’t have the bandwidth to even try to connect with 10,000 people.

Not enough hours in the day.

So, don’t focus on numbers. Instead, focus on the quality of each of your connections. Whether on LinkedIn or elsewhere.

#2 Every quality connection is valuable

networking in engineering

Knowing a great doctor is just as valuable as knowing a great plumber.

Don’t ever think you’re better than any person. It doesn’t matter if you hold 10 degrees from Harvard!

The frustration you have from a burst pipe under your home may exceed a broken arm. So that plumber may one day become more valuable to you than a doctor.

It’s important to realize, you can learn something from anyone. Plus, that classmate who was getting all C grades, may one day become your boss.

That’s why when you build a valuable connection, don’t allow it to wither away.

It’s like a growing plant, where you need to water it. Without your attention, it’ll die.

So, every so often, connect with your connections. Shoot them a message.

For example, if a co-worker leaves your company, stay in touch.

Ask them about a new project they’re working on. Who knows, maybe they found greener pastures.

Important Note: I find connecting with people in person to be more powerful. Of course, when possible. 

Because emails are easily ignorable versus a physical face in front of you. Especially when someone has countless people messaging them.

#3 The immediate impact of connections

To tie onto our last tip, every connection can possibly become valuable.

So, don’t think about how a connection will instantly benefit you.

Some connections will have a direct impact on you. While other connections will take many years to materialize into anything worthwhile.

This is networking in engineering 101 for you.

Imagine helping a fellow engineer, who then later becomes a venture capitalist.

Once you start a company, they reconnect with you. Because they know you, they’re comfortable investing in your company.

The point is, you don’t know how a connection today will benefit you tomorrow.

So, build connections today, and don’t instantly dismiss anyone.

If you treat everyone like a commodity, you’ll never create any meaningful relationships. Plus, people will soon treat you like a commodity too.

A great example is your university professors. If you build a connection with them, you’ll become a staple in their mind.

Then out of the blue one day, your professor is in a position to recommend an engineer for a position.

From your old relationship, your professor recommends you. They know you have a great work ethic, to be a good fit.

In short, think of relationships like planting a seed. After you plant it, you need to wait for it to bear fruit.

#4 Type of connections

Just like we discussed every connection is valuable, don’t focus on certain types of people.

I know, in networking they say your skills are worthless if the right people don’t see them.

So yes, as an engineer you may by default want to focus on technical people. But keep the door open for all types of connections.

Again, you don’t know how someone can help you in the future.

Look no further than Elon Musk. He has connections from Hollywood, to hip hop stars, all the way to Joe Rogan.

In this day and age, with everyone connected to the internet, every type of connection can help in some way. As long as it’s a quality connection.

For Elon, he can market his products to millions of people for free through his many outlets.

For example, Joe Rogan’s podcast is a more efficient marketing machine than maybe a $100 million corporate marketing campaign.

#5 Add value to others

Two engineers work on the construction site. They are checking t

Don’t always look to benefit from others. Rather, give before you ask.

I find it very off-putting when someone I don’t know just asks me for a big favor. Not only do I not have time, but I’d rather help people who’ve bent over backward for me.

My point is, connections need to be mutual. On that note, I always suggest you help others first in some way, before asking something for yourself.

Do favors for people and help someone out.

This is an intrinsic human desire to want to lead a better life. Thus, any help someone receives will better their life.

So tap into this human code.

If you close yourself off, you’ll never build any meaningful connections. No different than a regular friendship, where you close yourself off.

Also remember, if your generosity isn’t returned, that’s okay. You win some, and you lose some.

#6 Remain professional and maintain an impeccable reputation 

Don’t burn down a relationship over something petty. Even worse, don’t blast an entire group where you negatively lump a bunch of people together.

Most disagreements are sourced from bad communication. And yes, there are shitty people too.

Overall, instead of holding a grudge, go speak with the other person.

Find out the source of the disagreement.

If you quickly burn the relationship down, you may never be able to go back. The relationship may become irreparable.

What’s more, this person may go tell others you’re an asshole. Not something you want, given how closely tied the world is today with the internet.

All of that said, there are exceptions. If someone for example royally screws you over.

I’ve had instances where a client tried to justify why it’s okay not to pay over $100,000. I didn’t go publicly bad-mouthing the client though.

Some would argue it’s my duty to call them out to protect others. But, given my limited mental bandwidth, I need to choose my battles wisely.

In the back of my mind though, I kept a record to never work with this company again.

As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

#7 Use a microphone to be heard

Not a real microphone. You don’t need to scream out your name.

Rather, leverage an online platform, or go to events to get noticed.

Because you can have the cure to cancer in your hands. But if no one knows about it, no one will know or care.

There are many avenues you can use to get your name out there. Some examples include:

  • Use social media. Not just LinkedIn, but other platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Create a blog.
  • Join a professional engineering group.
  • Attend meetings, trade shows, and workshops. Even if they’re not up your alley, you can still benefit in some way.
  • Join a committee or board. You can connect with many people in a leadership role.

#8 Create an effective personnel pitch

I know, we’re trying to build real substance-filled relationships with networking.

But with how busy life has become, you need to be able to quickly break the ice and connect with someone.

The foundation of all relationships is having things in common. So, create a covert “pitch.”

I don’t like to use the word “pitch,” as it sounds gimmicky. Also, it’s positioning relationships as business transactions.

Truth is though, every relationship starts off as some form of pitch. Otherwise, how would the other party even know what things you have in common?

That said, learn to communicate who you are in a natural way. And keep it short. Several sentences max.

You don’t want to bore someone out of their mind.

So, communicate your strong points, without being too off-putting as if you’re bragging.

Imagine all the pitches Elon Musk receives. I’m sure though, if you say the following to him, you’ll instantly build a long-lasting relationship:

“I’ve built a safe and proven nuclear-powered rocket.”

That alone will pique his interest. You’ll both have something in common, that connects you at the deepest level.

At the same time, your technology will directly benefit him and SpaceX.

Just as important is to mold your pitch for different people. You can’t pitch the same thing to every person.

Over time, you’ll learn how to naturally position yourself with every new person you meet.

Conclusion

Networking in engineering is very important. Think of yourself as a structure.

The more help you have, the more quickly and better structure you can construct.

If you’re a one-person show, you may only build a hut. Nothing wrong with that, if you’re okay with the hut being blown down 5 years from now.

But if you want a structure that’ll stand the test of time and be revered, you need help. Think of the Great Pyramids in Egypt.

The most successful people today stand on the shoulders of countless people. No one does anything alone.

What are your best ways of networking in engineering? Do you find networking in engineering to be important? 

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