Networking matters when it comes to engineering. Whether you’re a mechanical engineer, work in industrial manufacturing, or are an electrical engineer, networking is key to developing your career. A study published in February 2016 revealed that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking. A lot of opportunities are both sought after and found during a casual conversation at an after-work event.
At VanderHouwen, we love networking. Our VanderHouwen Engineering Networking Group (VENG) meets on the second Wednesday of every month. We also have a larger quarterly event that consists of various professional groups including: VENG; FENG, the Financial Executive Networking Group; and BEERS, the Beers Executive Networking Group. Sound intriguing? Our next quarterly mixer is on April 17th. Register for that event here.
So, we’d like to break it down for you. Here’s why building your network is essential to building your career.
The benefits of networking
One of the greatest benefits of networking (besides landing a killer job) is that it provides you with an opportunity to meet like-minded people. Think you’re too introverted to be networking? You’re not the only one! Job seekers are often in the same boat. They are up against similar challenges and are often nervous about the same things.
Connecting with colleagues allows you to hone in on your communication skills and practice talking about your background before a big interview. You can make friends at networking events, or you can bring friends to networking events. In fact, having a partner at a networking event is a great way to gather leads. Bring a friend to tag team the event, and then trade connections and follow up with people afterwards.
Not only do networking groups allow you to interact with like-minded peers, but they’ll provide you with the opportunity to meet a broader group of people. For example, if you’re an engineer at our VENG quarterly mixer, you’ll be introduced to many executives across industries. Maybe you’ll meet a CFO or controller from FENG who needs a manufacturing hire. You may even find your dream job at a company that you had never previously considered, simply because you were at the right event at the right time.
How can you prepare? The before, during, and after of networking
Dress well. You don’t need to be in a suit, but you need to look sharp. Bring your contact information to share. Consider printing a business card with your personal information if you’re not currently employed. Make sure that you can swiftly pass along your information so that people will be able to get in touch with you.
Take the time to learn about the group. Who will be in attendance? What industries will be present? Do you have different versions of your resume? Great, make sure to cater to the audience that’ll be in attendance. Finally, be sure to prepare mentally. Get plenty of rest, eat a full meal ahead of time, and make sure you’re relaxed.
Now it’s time to work the room and make as many connections as possible while still having memorable conversations. Remember this general rule of thumb: out of every ten connections made, two will turn out to be valuable to you in the future. But remember! This doesn’t mean you should try to boost your chances by talking to twenty people in half an hour.
It’s time to form some relationships! Get to know the recruiters. Recruiters (like myself) love meeting candidates. Recruiters have strong relationships with hiring managers. Let us know your passions, hobbies, and what you’re looking for in your next role. The more we know about you the better, so that we can help you find your perfect position.
Remember that sometimes it takes a while to gain traction with your connections. You can’t just go to one event and expect that you’re going to automatically get something out of it. It takes time and patience. Most importantly: don’t get discouraged. Keep going to events. Remember to get to know the people better that you’re meeting and truly be interested in your conversations. Make a genuine connection so that you’ll be remembered.
The very next day, while it’s still fresh your mind, reach out to your new leads through LinkedIn or email. Make sure that your craft a message that is personalized to each contact. Bring up something that you talked about during your conversation and showcase your personality! If you think a connection is particularly valuable, offer to meet one-on-one for coffee.
The most important thing to remember after attending an event is that timing is key. Continue to grow your network over time by routinely going to events and strengthening your relationships. Even if you are currently employed, one day you may decide that it’s time to make a change and you won’t have to start at ground zero if you’ve already been building connections with people in your industry.
Join us at VENG!
Our quarterly mixer is just around the corner in Portland, Oregon. Join us Monday evening, April 17th, at the Moda Center. Now that you’re prepared, we can’t wait to see you there!