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Introverts and Networking Advice

  • 1.  Introverts and Networking Advice

    Posted 11-30-2018 01:14 PM
    I am an introvert, and when I started my career I felt incredibly uncomfortable, awkward, and ill-at-ease anytime I had to "network," especially at in-person events. As my career progressed - and especially after earning my PE - I realized that I absolutely had to get better and develop some level of competency to get where I wanted to go in my career.

    These days I actually look forward to attending a limited number of events (at least as much as an introvert can), and I wanted to share a blog I put together yesterday on a few things I learned along the way that made this less scary for me, especially the first time I attended an event (click HERE for the blog).

    Do you have any advice or lessons you've learned about networking, especially for engineers just starting to develop their networks or those who want to move into management (where this skill is required and almost never taught)?

    To help start the discussion, I'm also tagging a couple of knowledgeable engineers in this subject for comment: 

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    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Founder
    Engineers Rising LLC
    www.engineersrising.com
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  • 2.  RE: Introverts and Networking Advice

    Posted 12-01-2018 10:48 AM
    Stephanie, I totally relate to your challenges. I've been a department chair for the past two years and that has meant way more networking. I found the book below to be incredibly helpful in finding a style of networking that works for me, and I find it much easier now. The basic concept is to go deeper in conversation with a few people rather than having superficial conversations with a lot of people (i.e., quality, not quantity).


    Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected
    Amazon remove preview
    Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected
    Would you rather get a root canal than schmooze with a bunch of strangers? Does the phrase "working a room" make you want to retreat to yours? Is small talk a big problem? Devora Zack used to be just like you-in fact, she still is. But she's also a successful consultant wh...
    View this on Amazon >


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    Barbara Minsker Ph.D., M.ASCE
    Professor and Chair
    Southern Methodist University
    Dallas TX
    (214)768-4950
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  • 3.  RE: Introverts and Networking Advice

    Posted 12-02-2018 09:34 AM
    Although not an introvert, per se, I also feel uncomfortable at large networking gatherings. Like Barbara has suggested, I have found it to be a very successful leadership tool to get to know colleagues more deeply on a one on one basis. When possible I like to arrange short non-work related social outings (a couple of hours at a museum when business traveling, a ball game, even coffee or lunch, etc.), to get to know people better. The more colleagues I know less superficially, the more comfortable I am at a large event if a few of them are present.

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    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    President/Owner
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL
    (561)225-1214
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  • 4.  RE: Introverts and Networking Advice

    Posted 12-03-2018 10:55 AM
    Hi Stephanie,

    I always say to have easy goals to reach, especially as an introvert trying to network. This was helpful when I was still a student, making my way through ASCE crowds in Philadelphia and engineers at events, needing to talk to new professionals and younger engineers. Making small goals at networking events can be helpful especially to introverts, which many civil engineers often are. I myself was anxious and terrified to talk to new people, but it was a necessity at the time.

    One goal that is helpful, is to aim for five business cards. Tell yourself that you can't go home until you have met five new people, gotten 5 business cards as proof, and have written at least one or two memorable points that were discussed on the back of the card to follow up on. Another goal: come up with five talking points or conversation starters local to your area of interest or of the city you live in. Also, ask people if they are on LinkedIn. Also, a good goal is to get others you know, civil engineers in similar positions wanting to network, and go in as a team - but making sure you both have goals to talk to new people and that you are not there to talk only to each other. Having a buddy at these events can be helpful, to push each other to network, as long as you don't stand together in a corner the entire time. Bring someone who inspires you and who motivates you.

    Even as an introvert, it's helpful to remind yourself that you can force yourself to be an extrovert for one hour. You can even set a timer. Knowing that you can go home and be by yourself the rest of the night, can be a helpful reminder if you can just force yourself to talk to people for 30 min to an hour- especially if the benefit of five new business cards outweighs no new business cards.


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    Charles Mumford, A.M.ASCE
    AECOM
    Civil Engineering I
    Philadelphia, PA

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  • 5.  RE: Introverts and Networking Advice

    Posted 12-04-2018 10:55 AM
    Stephanie,

    I want to disclose that I do not consider myself an introvert and therefore my perspective may be different then others. However, after reading this thread (and from personal experience) I see that many individuals have a negative perception regarding "networking<g data-gr-id="1988" id="1988" class="gr_ gr_1988 gr-alert gr_gramm Punctuation only-del replaceWithoutSep">",</g> as if it was an undesirable task or an activity that is not well seen by other peers.

    In my opinion, if you are humble enough to recognize that anyone and everyone can provide you with life, career, and business lessons, conversations usually develop very naturally. I say this because when you are curious and interested in someone's story, you will have questions and will listen carefully as you try to distill their message and apply it to your own life.

    I would refer readers of this post to a classic book in human relationships --> How to win friend and influence people by Dale Carnegie


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    Carlos Zuluaga - Ph.D., CMIT, EIT
    Cary NC
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  • 6.  RE: Introverts and Networking Advice

    Posted 12-05-2018 11:24 AM
    To be a successful engineer you have to network, not just with colleagues but with the public, politicians or clients. It can be daunting if you are not usually a social butterfly but it is a survival skill to be able to communicate with anyone. Networking is about knowing who to talk to, about how to learn to be on equal footing with others, and how to have normal conversations with everyone from low-level people to important movers and shakers. Networking is about learning the skills of others and showing others your skills.

    For people getting started in the profession, make it a point to talk to at least six new people at each event you go to. At a new job, get to know everyone within the first month. If <g class="gr_ gr_267 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim Grammar only-ins doubleReplace replaceWithoutSep" id="267" data-gr-id="267">interaction</g> is a pain, you are going to have to build up your speaking confidence. Join Toastmasters. It will help to build your ability to speak to others without fear.

    ------------------------------
    Yance Marti P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer IV
    City of Milwaukee
    Milwaukee WI
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  • 7.  RE: Introverts and Networking Advice

    Posted 12-06-2018 09:53 PM
    Stephanie - great topic.  We interviewed Susan RoAne who is a world-class teacher, speaker and author on the topic of relationship development and networking.  She authored the book How to Work a Room.  You might find her tips helpful:

    TECC 80: How To Work a Room And In Your Engineering Project Team - The Engineering Career Coach Podcast
    Engineering Management Institute remove preview
    TECC 80: How To Work a Room And In Your Engineering Project Team - The Engineering Career Coach Podcast
    In this session of The Engineering Career Coach Podcast, Chris Knutson interviews Susan RoAne who is a world-class teacher, speaker and author on the topic of relationship development and networking.
    View this on Engineering Management Institute >




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    Anthony Fasano P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineering Management Institute
    Ridgewood NJ
    (201) 857-2384
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  • 8.  RE: Introverts and Networking Advice

    Posted 12-08-2018 09:57 AM
    A few tips I've found to become "good" at networking:

    1. Show up: Even if you don't talk to a single person the first couple times. This might seem like a waste of time, but exposure to events will help you become more comfortable over time. Take it slow. Go to an event, even if you just stand in a corner. Next time you go, introduce yourself to one person. The second time you go, introduce yourself to that same person and start strengthening that relationship, even if it means a 5 minute conversation. Then find a new person to introduce yourself to.

    2. Have low expectations: If you go to networking events in an effort to become the most popular/sought after engineer in 2 weeks, then you will fail. When talking to people, have low expectation. Don't focus on how a person can help your career, instead focus on learning more about their background and how you might relate to them.

    3. Relax: Realize that the people you are talking to are just like you. They have the same daily challenges to overcome, regardless of how charismatic or intimidating they may seem. Don't be intimidated. Talk to them like you would a friend or relative. The trick to being charismatic and having a good conversation is coming off as easy going and natural, and the best way to fake that is by talking to people like you've known them for years.

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    Zaid Admani EIT, Aff.M.ASCE
    Sugar Land TX
    (832)818-6213
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