It is no secret that networking in person is always better. We benefit from clear emotions, body language, and the mirror effect. Also, there are more opportunities for spontaneous conversations that result in leads we might not get online.
That said, social media networking certainly has its place. Just look at the engineering communities built on sites like LinkedIn. We can be part of conversations with people in different fields across the world, resulting in collaborations and new job prospects.
As restrictions ease and events resume, expos and meet-ups present excellent networking opportunities. In the latter half of 2021, we have attended (or will be attending) DSEI Expo, DEMC VIP Breakfast Meet, WEAF Expo, and the Drone X Expo. It has been amazing seeing industry experts again, and we look forward to attending more.
So, why is networking so important to engineers? Well, it is no secret that engineering sectors are about who you know as much as what you know. Speak to people in management positions above you and see how many of them leveraged networking to advance their careers.
Networking provides guidance, growth, and opportunities. You never stop learning through your professional career, and this is especially true in engineering. Speaking with veterans of the industry can give you insights into little-known areas or routes into new fields.
Even if you are currently not looking for new opportunities, building a contact list improves your chances in the future. Then, when it does come time for a new role, you can utilise resources you gathered in the past. Making contact with established professionals allows them to keep an eye on your career, which may prove advantageous in the future.
Networking can take a lot of work, but it is worth it. It is very much an active process, and the more effort you put in, the better the results. Start by identifying your core contacts and people of influence in the industry. Keep in touch with university friends, too, as you never know when they might be useful.
Of course, the easiest way to do this is on social media. LinkedIn is the site of choice for professionals, and having an up-to-date and effective profile is as beneficial as a hard-hitting CV. Take the time to update your profile because you never know who is looking.
Where possible, you should aim to attend industry events, such as expos. These are invaluable networking opportunities, as they provide chances to meet with people from all levels. Visiting a certain company’s booth not only gives you a chance to learn about its projects but also to meet its influential employees.
While nothing is stopping you from going to every one you can, focus on ones that are relevant and beneficial to your chosen field. It prevents you from spreading yourself too thin and makes it easier to identify and meet influential people. As your network and career grow, you can then begin to diversify.
Networking is arguably as important as excelling in your role. It can open doors to fields you might never have considered, and there are no downsides to having an extensive professional contact list. So, take some time to assess your current position and network, and decide on a plan to expand it further.