Skills You Weren’t Taught in School – Networking For Career Success
There are the technical skills you were taught in school: engineering, geology, environmental services. The science and methods (The why). As you start working in the industry though you need to gain more skills and experiences related to real life business activities.
As your career progresses you will earn professional registrations and most likely be promoted to the Project levels. Your responsibilities begin to increase and it’s up to you to meet the deadlines and prepare deliverables. You learn to write reports, interact with clients and manage project teams.
At first you will find it tough going, but with time and experience, it becomes like second nature. Because you know the why, and have learned the how.
One of the most difficult activities engineering and environmental professionals are tasked with is Business development; networking. You understand the technical aspects to your job; the science and engineering (the why), but the how (how to build relationships, how to establish clients, and how network with associates) is beyond your education. This is a skill you most definitely were not taught in school and need to develop as a professional to advance your career. But where do you start?
Here are some tips on how to network:
- It’s important to remember that no one ever died from networking (we checked).
- Start out by attending an association luncheon. If you choose an event with a speaker or topic that you’re interested in you’ll have something to talk about during the networking session.
- Bring cards and be prepared with your elevator speech. This is who you are, who you work for, and how your firm relates to the days topic, in 30 seconds. If your marketing department doesn’t have that message crafted, try Google.
- Have a plan. If the event attendees aren’t listed online, show up to the event early and scan the name tags. Make a mental note of who you’d like to talk to.
- If you recognize a name of someone you don’t know but would like to meet (a decision maker at a potential client firm, perhaps), hang out at the registration table and see who picks up that name tag.
- As other attendees show up, it’s ok to make a beeline for a friendly face. Ask your friend to introduce you around. Caveat: don’t hang out with your friend for the entire networking session. Give her time to mingle on her own; make sure you mingle on your own as well.
- The easiest way to find someone to talk to is locate a person standing by himself, wishing he were anywhere but there. Put your nerves aside, walk up, and say hi.
- (Speaking of nerves, it’s perfectly normal to be nervous. Many seasoned business development professionals get butterflies before every networking event).
- The best ice-breaker is to ask your new acquaintance about himself. People loveto talk about themselves.
- Ask open-ended questions. A yes-or-no question is a conversation killer. Lead him with questions that lead to more questions, but don’t interrogate him!
- It’s ok, even preferable, to talk about topic other than business. Relationships are developed over time by getting to know someone as a person, instead of potential work.
- Know when to move on. Don’t monopolize one person’s time, or let one person monopolize yours. Once you make an acquaintance, learn about him and exchange information, move on.
- Make it your goal to meet at least three new people during the networking time. This will keep you moving around and maximize the use of your time.
- When it’s time to be seated for lunch DO NOT sit with someone you’ve already talked to. This is the time to find one of the people you want to meet and find a seat at, or near, her table. Introduce yourself and chat for just a moment, with a promise to follow-up at a later time.
- Once everyone is seated, pass a stack of your cards around the table. Everyone else should do the same. Then introduce yourself to the people on either side of you. Keep the conversation light. Now is not the time to set meetings or discuss projects.
- Please, please, use common sense when making conversation! Politics, religion, sex, or anything controversial is off-limits.
- Industry gossip, no matter how juicy, is also off-limits. You don’t know who knows who, and the very nature of gossip is negative. Don’t get drawn into it.
- After the presentation is over, close the loop with your table mates and the other people you talked to. Everyone has to get back to work, so now is not the time to strike up an in-depth conversation.
- The most important part of any networking event is the follow-up. Send an email to every person you met. Remind them of your conversation, provide any information you promised to share, and ask for a follow-up meeting.
The more often you attend events, the wider your circle of contacts becomes. Keep in touch with your network. Develop relationships, share information, and move forward in your career.
When you’ve built your network and are ready for new opportunities, contact us. We work with a large group of industry leaders who are interested in hiring quality engineers.
Michael DeSafey is a leading executive recruiter for professionals in the construction, engineering and environmental industries. He is currently the President of Webuild Staffing www.webuildstaffing.com . To learn more about Michael or to follow his blog please visit www.michaeldesafey.com