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  • What Does It Mean To Network?

     It’s undeniable that networking is an essential part of your career development and lifestyle. Networking allows you meet new people and practice your communication skills. In addition to improving your interpersonal skills, it can help you to learn more about the field of engineering, gain knowledge about hidden opportunities and let others know what you value and your career goals. Integrating networking into your lifestyle can help others along the way though give-and-take engagement and building a reliable network.
    To get started, we have assembled some networking best practices to get you familiar with the basics of networking, along with three different networking scenarios you may encounter…
    Networking Etiquette
    Firm handshake
    Extend your arm to provide a strong firm handshake. Keep a cloth handy to wipe your hands, if you tend to have sweaty hands. Keep your right hand available for greeting new people.
    Direct eye contact
    Always acknowledge people by looking directly into their eyes when you first meet them and when you are in direct conversation with them.
    Smile & body language
    Smile and maintain good posture. Refrain from crossing your arms and interrupting others talking.
    Name tags
    If you’re wearing a name tag that is a sticker or clip-on, place it on your right. When you meet people, their eyes will be drawn up your right arm to your face after shaking hands with you.
    Repeat back names when you meet people to verify pronunciation and to help you remember new names. 

    Below are three networking scenarios, and specific tips and best practices for each.
    1 Impromptu Networking
    This scenario is where you don’t have plans to network with anyone in particular, but you are placed in to a situation surrounded by people you have the opportunity to meet. Examples of this are a conference reception, a job fair, or anywhere you can meet new people.
    Conduct Research
    Learn more about the background of the events you are attending and who it will potentially attract. Prep ice breaker questions.
    Know yourself and where you are headed
    Be prepared to share a summary about yourself and background in 30-60 seconds (elevator pitch) that can be tailored based on the audience. Why are you here and what is important to you? Don’t be afraid to talk about your passion.
    Network Often
    Whenever you have the opportunity to network, no matter the situation, make an effort to meet new people. Be willing to step forward and share about yourself and listen and learn from others.
    Engaging everyone around you
    Give each person the opportunity to identify themselves as individuals. Listen for ways you can relate to their experiences and generate a connection. Ask questions if conversation stalls. What is that they want to contribute or know about? What is next in their lives? What strengths do they draw upon? Understand both what is novel about them and how it is related to you.
    Build a micro-community of knowledge and references
    Did you learn something new from the interaction? Or do you have some information or connection that might be of interest to the person you are talking to? Swap contact information. Set a goal to walk away from an event with a certain number of business cards/contact information as well as a certain number you would like to distribute.

    2 Targeted Networking
    This scenario is where you are intentionally trying to connect with a certain person or group of people, such as a mentor or someone who has expertise in a topic that you are interested in. An example of this type of in-person networking could take place in various settings, from a conference to a meeting within your own company.
    Planning for a meeting
    Ask for an introduction via your advisor, a colleague, etc. Research the person and his/her work, and use that knowledge to connect. Look for overlaps in research and interests. Be specific and professional with your requests. Be respectful and efficient with the person’s time. Know when to call versus email.
    Finding the right fit in a mentor
    Identify a few different mentors that can offer different perspectives about your career. They could be at your company, online, or a personal associate. Make an effort to maintain mentor relationships, even if it means sending an update by email. Checkout the ASME Mentoring Program.
    Join a club or society
    Align yourself with others in your field through membership organizations that will expose you to opportunities to network with people you would otherwise not have access to.
    Become an active volunteer
    Giving back to society or advocating for your profession can provide you the opportunity to engage on different projects and initiatives and meet leaders in your area.
    Attend social events
    At conferences, meetings or work, make an effort to attend dedicated social or networking events, lunches or dinners, and impromptu gatherings to increase your opportunities to network in an informal setting.

    3 Expand Your Network Virtually
    This scenario is about building and maintaining networking relationships online. Examples include following-up from a previous networking activity, researching online profiles of people to connect with professionally, and reaching out through email or other means to someone you have not previously met.
    Connect online after meeting in-person
    After meeting someone in person, connect with them online, and send a follow-up email saying it was nice to meet them, reminding them when and where it was. Mention any specific follow-up questions you have or how you hope to remain in touch in the future.
    Maintain a consistent professional brand
    Think about your profile and the content that is being distributed and being posted online under your name. There really is no separation from the personal and professional persona online.
    Evaluate your existing networks
    Take a look at the people you currently are connected with, make a plan to connect with a few key individuals at your company, friends of friends, and those that you meet in-person.
    Join online groups and connect with like-minded individuals
    Bring your passion to your activity online. Follow/share/like high-quality content and ideas of other individuals that you admire. Add value by joining the conversation and asking questions.
    Networking is always about people!
    Be ordinary. Keep it short. Selfishness is the opposite of true networking.