In my conversations with young engineers, one question prevails over the rest: “I’ve filled out hundreds of online applications, and I have only gotten a few responses. How do I land my first engineering job?” It’s too common. Young engineers often do not know how to obtain contacts in the engineering industry. So how do you network for an engineering job?
Networking can be intimidating—and to some, debilitating. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. It is challenging to put yourself out there and be vulnerable in an uncomfortable space. Networking is hoping for the best and generally expecting the worst. Networking, however, is necessary to land and create an excellent career. According to Hubspot:
- 85% of jobs are landed by networking.
- One out of four jobseekers don’t network at all.
- 41% of networkers want to do so more frequently, but don’t have enough time.
- 68% of entry-level professionals find face-to-face networking more valuable than online.
- Only 11% of LinkedIn users have more than 100 people in their network.
The numbers say it all. Eighty five percent of jobs are filled through networking! This has also been true in my career. Every job I have landed has been through my contacts and networking.
It pays to be uncomfortable. You learn from the experiences that frighten you, and over time, networking gets easier. You gain a routine that helps you feel comfortable. It allows you to shine during networking events and limits second-guessing.
Networking, at its core, is relationship building. You send yourself off to make friends just as your parents did years ago. You are creating a mutually beneficial connection. Sounds a lot like selling, right? Many of the skills you need to build and maintain a network are the same ones you use to sell a product or service. So, it’s also an excellent opportunity to work on your sales skills. Here are some tips that have helped me to overcome my networking fears.
Networking events and conferences can be intimidating. Try to start small. Start by networking on LinkedIn. Try to connect with someone new by sending him or her a note. Introduce yourself and tell the person why you’re sending a message…and why you’re worth a response.
Example: Hi, I’m Thomas. I’m a mechanical engineer, and I’m curious how you landed your position at your current company? How you selected a career path?
Make personal business cards, whether you are employed or not. Why? How are you going to easily exchange contact information without them? They are so much fun to make, and cost as little as $10. Include your name, email, phone number, website or social media, and a phrase for people to remember who you are. Better yet, add a professional photo, or they may forget your beautiful face. A picture makes a significant difference when someone is sorting through numerous business cards.
Your local chamber of commerce is a great place to meet local business leaders. Organizations like these are designed to promote business networking. Industry conventions and engineering organizations, clubs and societies are also a great place to meet and greet potential contacts. Every attendee is a potential hiring manager—or at least someone who knows one in your field .
When networking, don’t let the conversation center on you. This is not always easy when you are excited about the discussion. Ask questions to get to know the other person. Starting a dialogue that fosters a relationship is much better than merely presenting yourself. Asking questions makes you more memorable because people love to talk about themselves.
Make it a goal to be open, friendly, and honest to everyone you meet, not only those in your field. Kindness is an attractive quality, and it’s something people will remember about you.
Try to discover the value in each person you meet. Ask questions and listen—really listen. Don’t make the mistake of pulling out your phone. Remember, you are providing value to each other. Push yourself to make some lasting connections. Make the event worth your while.
When you meet someone who is a great mutual connection, go beyond exchanging business cards and determine who is going to reach out and how. Make sure to agree to another interaction. It can be a phone call, email, LinkedIn contact, meeting, or whatever you choose. Make sure to agree to the next step before parting ways to avoid missing an opportunity.