Expert Manufacturing Advice tailored for step-by-step implementation in the workplace. Small Manufacturers, Machine Shops and CAD Engineers improve and thrive with our hands-on help. Start Networking for Manufacturers How to get the most out of Networking: Start Now! Essential Leadership and Management for Engineers
'Hands-on Help for SMEs' and Smart Technical People'
Networking is something you can and should start doing NOW! The next time you are out try some of the recommendations above and get into the habit. You can practice it as soon as you next go into work or go to another social function. Practice brings discipline. Everybody has conversations with people they know and most people now use email. Networking is simply an extension of this. Start with people around you and then build your confidence and skill to approach those you know less well.
Building and maintaining your network when you don’t need to call on it, is far better than frantically contacting people when you are in need, for example if redundancy looms. If you consider networking to be about building long term professional relationships and essentially a career-long activity, you will be in a far stronger position to call on your already established network if bad luck befalls you in your career. On the positive side, opportunities typically come out of a network when perhaps you least expect them and don’t necessarily need them. It’s nice to have choices.
In the workplace a naturally convenient way of building your network is by contacting people after meetings. A quick email to summarise key points, as well as thank people, will make you memorable and emphasises you are approachable. It also shows a willingness to keep in touch. Following up in this way gives the opportunity to ask additional questions that may have occurred to you after the meeting. Get into the habit of doing this. Many of us now spend a lot of time in meetings. Why not turn this to your advantage and get something useful out of all them – build your network off the back of them.
If meetings are a natural method of extending your network, it follows the more meetings you have the more you have an opportunity to expand your network. But as described earlier, networks are most effective when they include different people, with different approaches, outlooks and points of view. As such, try and get out and about as much as you can to further your network. See suppliers, visits conferences, seminars, exhibitions, industry events etc. Socially, try new things and new events to meet new people. Get into the habit of booking events into your calendar and actually getting out and meeting people. Set yourself targets about the number of times you get out, the number of new contacts you establish and the number of existing contacts you actually make an effort to reconnect with.
As well the core business reasons for external meetings and events, add your own networking and career development reasons for going. Find out what’s going on in your industry and the wider world. How does it impact you company, your job and potentially your future opportunities? See the ‘Business and Industry’ section for more ideas. Don’t just turn up cold for events; instead do some quick research in advance to find out what you can about the event organisation or people. A web search or reviewing old emails will do. Know what questions you can ask which will facilitate networking and contribute to your career development. Is there something specific they may know about that you are interested in? Use these opportunities and events to dramatically increase your network.
As you become more experienced and your network grows, you will find some of your contacts are assisting you and doing you favours. Whether large or small good deeds, they are all helpful. Considering this, get into the habit of helping others, preferably first. This will strengthen your relationship and your network. Try and return favours whenever you can. When somebody helps you try and think what you can do for them. This need only be a small gesture like forwarding relevant information or links. With your strongest closest professional relationships, attempt to identify what makes them so effective? Can you bring some of this to others in your network? Mutual benefit is a crucial part of strong healthy networking and long lasting professional relationships.
Get organised and set up a system that quickly enables you to get in contact with those in your network. IT based contact systems, such as Microsoft Outlook or Google Gmail Contacts are convenient and enable you to list important info about each of your contacts. You can also search for names, companies etc. In addition, email sign-off details can quickly be copied across into your contact list. Running parallel to this should be your system of keeping and viewing business cards. Your business card wallet, rolodex, or any other physical system, should ensure details are visible and all cards are kept in the same place. Make it as convenient as possible to contact people by getting yourself organised and ensuring all contact details are visible or close at hand.
Make sure you have up-to-date info on your business cards and ensure you always carry some with you – put a few in your wallet. All your work emails should end with your name and contact details. Make it easy for others to contact you, particularly as emails get forwarded to people outside your immediate network.
Finally, occasionally you will come across those who don’t want to engage. They may be naturally shy. Or sadly they may just be naturally negative. We all know them – the cynics and sceptics. The best advice about dealing with these people is simply to be polite and move on. Negativity will sap your own energy – better to spend time with people who enthuse you and ultimately want to get on. Life’s too short. Remember your aims are to expand your network and ultimately get on in your career. Avoid those who are likely to hold you back or make you feel less inclined to want to make progress.
Next... Social Networking
Have you come across highly effective engineering managers and inspirational leaders? Are you one?!
Describe the qualities you think set the best apart from the rest. What practical tips and styles get the best results?
Share your story...and receive a FREE copy of our report 'Helping Your Manufacturing Business Thrive'...PS: Feel free to name-drop your firm! There's nothing wrong with a bit of free publicity!