Dear Colleagues,

Networking is now a critical part of your career. And it shouldn’t be when you are urgently looking for a job before the “work” roof caves in. Networking is also not just about career development. It is about building successful companies and making your engineering career even more successful. It is about keeping in touch on a continuous basis, seeking new contacts and being generous with your information and know-how to a rapidly growing circle of friends and colleagues. Admittedly, it does require a bit more effort than sitting slumped in front of your computer contemplating the latest design quirk or the fact that the contractor has messed up on the installation of the Profibus industrial network. So just a few minutes of your time below on making your engineering career a bit more secure (and more beautiful) and indeed, your company more successful.

Many studies have confirmed what we pure engineering professionals dread to hear. Well, those of us looking for jobs. The number one source of  jobs are not advertised or secured by online ads, recruiters but simply obtained by word-of-mouth and employee referrals. Company executives tap into the company rumour mills to find low risk known people to fill their jobs. Even with today’s collapsed job market; the hidden network fills more new jobs than the internet or other posted openings.

So, sadly (much to my chagrin): It’s not what you know, but who you know (and who knows your fit to a job or contract opportunity) that matters.

Some ideas for boosting your engineering career and firm:

1. Stretch yourself out today beyond your comfort zone to people you don’t know. I know this is horribly hard for an engineer or technician to do.

2. Choose your connections for reputations and results. Help other people with suggestions for their business and career challenges. And ensure they know who you are and why you can help them. Even if there is no fit now; they will remember that quirky engineer that called them to make a suggestion on fixing the frequent power outages at their site or the complex control problem.

3. Use third-party referrals to get you into the front office past the nay sayers and bureaucrats. Use connections shamelessly to get introduced to others. Avoid unsolicited calls (unless you are brave), as a warm fuzzy personal recommendation always does the trick.

4. Don’t abandon your network when you have secured a new contract for your company or a new job. Keep exchanging notes and views on what is happening in your work community.

5. Keep yourself highly visible with a location on a web site/ blog / Wiki site or one of the social networks. Demonstrate on your web site your strengths, achievements and skills.

6. Be the guru. Ensure that you play a role in professional associations/chapters. Make your whitepapers (a few pages written in simple English) freely available to your industry with your details clearly indicated. Keep track with online networking groups and contribute vigorously. Write letters to editors and comment to authors.

7. Be generous with your knowledge and help. Always contribute more than you receive. Help your contacts with their careers and work challenges. Send them valuable technical articles and remember their special days. You will undoubtedly get enormous payback from this generosity.

Bearing in mind the ease of communication today with email,web sites and mobile phones, being a top networker will more than guarantee you long term success and security in your engineering career. Remember it is “not what you know but….”.

Thanks to Debra Feldman of the IEEE for the inspiration to write this article.
 
And remember as Jane Howard so aptly put it:

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.

Yours in engineering learning

Steve