Engineering Networking: Tips for Effective Networking

When networking, engineers should make use of their engineering professional associations, use online networking and their alumni association.

Professional Associations

As a protected or licensed profession, engineers should make use of the professional association in their state. Depending on how active your professional association is, you can access:

  1. Conferences: you will be in a hotel or conference center filled with other engineers, and many of them will have information about job openings in their companies. Some conferences will also include a networking events and job fairs in their schedule.

  2. Online job postings or virtual job fairs: some professional associations have a members only job board where they place ads from employers and allow members to place ads offering their services. If a corporation is looking for a trained professional, either mid or senior level, they will turn to the professional job board first to get the relevant candidates.

  3. Professional development: if an employer has ever told you that your skills are out of date, or you need a refresher, you should turn to your professional association for reasonably priced professional development. You can brush up on technical skills, like project management, as well as classes in soft skills, like supervision or client management. Use your breaks and group work to network with or engineers in the class.

  4. Salary surveys: If you are asked on a job posting to quote salary or salary range, do you know the acceptable range for a position of that type? If you don't, you will need to consult a salary survey. You can find online salary surveys, but they may be out of date, or use only a small sample size, like under twenty survey respondents to come up with their ranges. Your professional association may be conducting an annual or bi-annual salary survey which will have the most up to date information for your state and for a wide variety of positions, from co-op positions as a student, to senior level mangers.

If you are an entrepreneur or consultant, make use of your main professional association, as well as the services of your local organization for consulting engineers.

Online Networking

You can make use of the online forums on your professional association's website, and you can also make use of online professional networking, as offered by LinkedIn or Ryze. Online networking for business purposes is an established method to find work and many of these services offer job boards and tools that you can use to see who in your online contacts is currently working at a company that has an opening so you can do research before applying or when preparing for an interview.

LinkedIn offers free training to help you make the most of their site and services, which you should use if you have never networked online before.

Alumni Association

If you have lost track of your fellow graduates, and many of them may be currently employed, you don't have access to their network. Your friends and fellow alumni will often make a point of hiring graduates from their school since it is a way of helping the school that gave them an education, and it raises the esteem for their degree if many graduates from the same school are successfully employed in their workplace. If you can make it, attend alumni get-togethers and meet as many people you can at relaxed social events. They don't have to be engineers: many of them will have siblings or spouses who are engineers, a method called "weak tie" networking that can be even more effective than close tie, your friends and family, networking.

One final point, if you are not a giver in your network, meaning if you have never helped anyone professionally in the past, or have no intention of returning favors once you land a job, few people will be willing to help you. Networking works best as an exchange, give and get in return.