So you entered your first job and started your engineering career, now what? Part of a necessary next step in establishing your career is building the foundation for your future. Have you heard the phrase “it’s not what you know but who you know” before? There is a lot of truth to this age old adage. In your career it is the people you meet, form bonds with, and establish lifelong relationships with who will help you meet your goals. People are the keystone in your foundation for the future, and they can only be found by networking.
In real estate they say “location, location, location.” For your career I always recommend “networking, networking, networking.” Networking is more than going to a professional organization event and meeting a new contact. Let me explain what I mean by breaking it out a few simple steps:
- Look at your long term career path and figure out the type of industry professionals that will be the most beneficial to you, and that you will be able to provide value for. Say for example you wish to move-up with a consulting firm by helping to win work or one day have a client at a large water utility, you might look for organizations that focus on public utilities.
- Start attending many different types of industry events, from networking events, professional organization events, conferences, seminars, lunches, etc. Start figuring out which networking events are for you and fit into your schedule. Some prefer traveling to a few conferences a year while others see it more realistic to attend an industry lunch and/or volunteer in a steering committee. Be sure to continually ask yourself if your “targeted” contacts are attending these events.
- Engage with as many people as you can at these events, talk to them, and make a goal to introduce yourself to a few “strangers” each time you attend. Also, don’t forget to get a business card from everyone that you meet! This will make it easier to remember them later.
- When you get back to work, figure out how you can organize the contact information for the contacts that you meet. Many companies have a special database while others choose to use outlook or excel.
- Most importantly, get back in touch with the contacts that you meet. Figure out a way to continue to engage in “networking, networking, networking” over the long haul. A strategy to stay in touch is essential, and might be as simple as an occasional call or holiday card, or could involve inviting a contact out to lunch. You can adjust your strategy for networking with this individual long-term depending on how this individual person fits into your career path for life.
Now, continue your “Networking, Networking, Networking” by repeating steps 1-5 over and over and over again with your favorite contacts. Your career path will now begin to move forward even faster than you might expect!