If you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it a million times: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And while it’s imperative to have the right education and experience for a job, you can’t discount the power of networking.
Networking is what helps you get ahead on a level playing field. But meeting the people in the know isn’t as easy as it sounds when you spend 40 or more hours a week keeping your facility running.
That’s why we’re offering you these tips on how to network quickly, easily and effectively.
1. Join an association
Perhaps the best way to meet people in your industry is to join an association. Not only will you get connected to other people who do your job, you’ll also get a chance to meet potential employers.
Most professional associations hold meetings and events designed to help its members network. A number of associations also provide their members with career services and job posting boards. Here are a few of the major Canadian associations, or associations with Canadian chapters, you might want to look at:
-Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC); www.pemac.org
-Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters of Canada; www.palantir.ca/the-alliance/
-ISA Canada (the Canadian arm of the Instrument Society of America); www.isaca.com
-Machinery & Equipment Manufacturers Association of Canada (MEMAC); www.memac.org
-Power Transmission Distributors Association (PTDA); www.ptda.org
-Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) www.smrp.org
-Materials & Manufacturing Ontario (MMO); www.mmo.on.ca/index.htm
2. Go on an information interview
You probably have a good idea of what kind of job you want. You could try going on something called an information interview. In an information interview, you talk to someone who actually does the kind of job you want, and find out what it entails. This could be someone in your own company, or someone at another facility.
The information interview can help you in a number of ways. First, you can find out if that job requires are any special skills or education. You can begin working on improving your skills before that job is even available.
Another way this can help you is with positive word-of-mouth. If the person you’ve spoken to decides to leave that job, there’s always a chance he or she will remember you and your interest in that position, and mention your name to the hiring committee. Finally, after talking to that person, you might even decide the job is not actually what you want. You’ve just saved yourself a lot of time and struggle trying to get a job you wouldn’t even like.
3. Take a course, go to a seminar
Besides the obvious educational reasons for taking a course or going to a seminar, it’s also a great way to network. Not only can you talk to the instructor, you have the opportunity to meet other people in your field at a professional event.
You can find any number of courses through the associations listed above. You might also want to call your local college or university, and have them send you information on continuing education courses in your area of interest.
4. See a headhunter
Registering with a headhunter is probably one of the best ways you can network without actually having to meet people. Headhunters make it their mission to know a number of people in the field, and can help you by passing along your resume to the right people.
You should be forewarned, however, that seeing a headhunter can be a bit risky. Ask around before choosing a headhunter to work with, and talk to friends and colleagues who might have worked with that headhunter before. Some agencies might circulate your resume to any number of potential employers without any regard to your privacy. Your resume could end up in the hands of the one person with whom you don’t want to network — your current employer.
5. Read your technical publications
Okay, we don’t want to toot our own horn, but reading a publication devoted to your profession can be a great networking tool. Publications like PEM run information about upcoming professional events, along with the appropriate contact information. You can be sure that other people in the field are reading about those events, and attending them is a great way to network.
Finally, most publications have contributors who are well-connected in the industry. PEM contributors often publish their e-mail addresses and telephone numbers so that readers can contact them with questions. They can be a great resource in your field, and just might be able to help you get connected.
Alison Dunn is the assistant editor of PEM and the editor of www.industrialsourcebook.com