With the right skills and experience, engineers can go far in their career. Yet, engineers in any industry—from budding professionals to seasoned veterans —need meaningful connections to enrich their knowledge, find new opportunities, and foster career or personal growth. By putting your best foot forward in front of the right people, you open doors to new job opportunities and career growth.
But networking doesn’t come easy—at first. Many of us can suffer from awkwardness, social anxiety, and discomfort when meeting new people or asking for career help. While it can be stressful to establish these connections, anyone can earn and maintain meaningful relationships by following a few simple steps.
Do your homework
So you’ve got your ticket to the next networking event, now what?
Instead of diving in blind, you should prepare beforehand by identifying and researching organizations or speakers who are attending. Browse their websites and LinkedIn pages to learn more about the organization’s mission, team members, portfolio, and past accomplishments. Using this information can help you impress leaders and acquaint yourself with the right people more easily.
It also helps to develop a list of questions that will help you ease into conversations. Rather than asking yes-or-no questions, try using more in-depth inquiries that will help you get to know people better. Some may include:
- What do you enjoy about your work as a _________?
- What do you think is a challenge in the semiconductor industry at the moment?
- What makes someone successful or unsuccessful in the role?
Engage with a handful of people
Don’t make it a mission to talk to everybody in the room. It’s much more worthwhile to devote your time to a few meaningful conversations than quick chats with several people. This way, you’ll come away with valuable advice and a few new industry connections.
With that said, be sure to converse with a handful of people, and don’t limit yourself to the same circle. Consider engaging with trade journalists, advisors, or other social connectors in your industry who can connect you with their network of associates and friends.
When attending career events, be sure to talk with fellow job seekers as well as recruiters. Other professionals can offer insight into the application process and their candidate experience with various employers.
Prepare to make an excellent first impression
First impressions can make or break a professional relationship, so it’s crucial to be approachable and professional in networking settings.
Be aware of your body language. Uncrossing your arms, standing tall, making eye contact, and smiling will make you appear more confident and welcoming to others. When you’re ready to meet and greet people, make sure to extend a hand for a handshake and speak clearly. If all of this makes you nervous, it can be helpful to practice your greeting in front of a mirror until you’re comfortable.
At any networking opportunity, be ready with an elevator pitch describing who you are and what you do. This would a great opportunity to whip out those questions and share your own answers when people ask about your work in the industry. At the end of your conversations, always thank people for their time and advice and ask if they’d be willing to connect on LinkedIn or trade contact information.
Reconnect with four or five people
A networking event isn’t the only way to engage with other industry professionals who can help you advance your career.
Try reconnecting with four or five people you already know. Consider contacting an alumnus from your college or a (former) colleague and ask them to catch up over the phone or meet you for coffee. You may also use this opportunity to ask their advice on an ongoing design or engineering project. This shows your commitment and passion to your craft, attracts potential collaborators, and even fosters new ideas and innovation.
Navigating a connected world of talent and leaders can be challenging, but using these tips can help you begin building a powerful network. To get more talent advice and resources, subscribe to our blog.