IEA Asks the Team About Networking
International Networking Week reminds us to renew our professional goals to build a support system for our careers.
“Networking expands your breadth of knowledge into other disciplines and helps create relationships outside the internal ones with direct colleagues,” said John Shepherd, PE (IEA Fort Worth, Project Manager). “Outside the workplace, it can help round you out and make you more outgoing and more comfortable in new environments with unfamiliar people.”
IEA staff encouraged investing in your network because you never know when a door can open from those you know in your professional support system.
“Networking has kept channels open with experts in adjacent industries, allowing me to contact experts in fields I am unfamiliar with to pick their brains on issues arising with current projects at the time,” said Craig Tipton, PE (IEA Austin, Project Manager).
Tipton credits networking for many of his career opportunities. This was a consistent message heard from the IEA team.
“I held many internship positions throughout college, and each one I was referred to by a close friend or professor I deeply respected,” said Lucy Saunders (IEA Dallas, Marketing). “Without that experience I wouldn’t have been as prepared to enter the work force after college.”
When networking, it’s important to take time to develop your connections. Like the act of getting a job, maintaining a relationship with a working professional takes time and effort.
“Networking can be construed as a means to achieve a self-serving goal, like getting a job for example. That doesn’t make it bad, but when approached with that mindset, it likely won’t give you the results you’re looking for. People naturally want to connect with others, not be used as a source to help someone they don’t know,” said Saunders.
Saunders, and more than 900 million users worldwide, are leveraging virtual networking on platforms like LinkedIn. Some tips for virtually networking include:
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date.
- Position yourself as an expert in your field or subject of choice.
- Engage in the platforms messaging and posting features.
Continuously posting quality content on LinkedIn and other networking platforms can build your virtual networking base. This provides you with opportunities to see what jobs they promote and technical topics they share.
While networking can make positive impacts to your life and career, many find this to be a difficult skill to learn.
“The biggest mistakes tend to be centered around finding the best balance between when to speak and when to listen,” said Tipton. “It’s an art form I still struggle with, truth be told.”
Always attempting to control the conversation can lead professionals to lose interest soon after being acquainted with you. If you are networking at an in-person event, understand the purpose of the event and what you hope to gain from networking there.
Some networking techniques at in-person events to consider include:
- Have some loose talking points in mind.
- Ask open-ended questions to avoid yes/no answers.
- Balance the conversation between you and the person you are talking with.
These tips can give your conversations direction and equip you with talking points as you interact with new people.
“I’m always volunteering for tasks even if that means working for a new team,” said Cesar Segura, EIT (IEA Houston, Graduate Engineer). “Currently I would say here at IEA is my network.”
Segura advocates for future professionals in schools and universities to do internships, which he calls “the best way” he’s networked so far in his engineering journey.
Shepherd mentioned contacting former colleagues and acquaintances for lunch as a solution for successful support system maintenance. When at lunch, you have an activity available to help with the lulls in conversation.
“My network consists of more than my professional colleagues,” said Lucy. “Since I haven’t been in my career for long, networking has left a profound impact on my personal life and who I am today.”
Business Networking International (BNI) began the annual commemoration of International Networking Week in 2007 to connect like-minded professionals within similar interests and industries.
Join IEA and BNI this February 4-10 to find intentional ways to network with your community and find opportunities to expand your network outside your normal circle.