Networking for Engineers
Becoming an engineer is, of course, rooted in solid technical training. However, it is also critical for engineers to possess soft skills, sometimes referred to as “people skills.” One of the most important soft skills you should focus on — and one that is rarely discussed in engineering school — is professional networking.
Types of Networking Opportunities to Look For
When you think of networking, you might think first and foremost of events organized by professional organizations and alumni associations where people come specifically to meet others. Perhaps you also think of these organizations’ LinkedIn and Facebook groups where you can interact with other engineers in your discipline or industry online.
While these options are viable networking opportunities that you should absolutely leverage, it is important to understand that your professional networking opportunities are far broader than this. In fact, you have the opportunity to network every day with other professionals within your organization, both engineers and non-engineers. You also regularly have the opportunity to connect with your company’s suppliers. It is advisable to consider networking with recruiters, especially when you are looking for new career opportunities.
The Benefits of Networking for Engineers
There are a number of distinct benefits to professional networking.
- You make connections, which is important to every aspect of your career, from acquiring new knowledge to getting referrals for new positions.
- You gain access to the expertise of other engineers. This can be very helpful when you are looking for answers to questions, as well as solutions to issues regarding projects you are working on.
- You gain access to opportunities. When people know you have experience in a certain area, they are more likely to think of you for a new, interesting project. At the same time, the larger your network, the more you will hear about career opportunities, not only within your current organization, but also with other companies, including your company’s suppliers.
- You have the opportunity to share your own expertise with others. This can help you build your reputation and inform others as to the type of topics you are knowledgeable about.
- You can learn about technological advancements and developments. For example, if one skill is being applied in a specific industry, you may learn information that will allow you to find an analog that will be important in your own industry. Note that suppliers can be a good source of know-how when it comes to evolving technologies and applications for specific technologies.
There are very few engineers who work in sole practice. If you are not comfortable with meeting new people and exchanging ideas, then you are likely doing your growth as an engineer a disservice — and by extension, putting your career at a disadvantage.
Everyone needs to interact, meet new people, and maintain professional relationships. Doing so will enable you to learn and further your knowledge. All things considered, by gaining a comfort level in professional networking, you can become a better and more successful engineer.