Make New Friends, but Keep the Old is a blog post by Pamela A. Scott
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If you were, are, or knew a Girl Scout, you’ve heard this tune. It is a classic in Girl Scouts. And it fits with today’s blog.
When I work with younger engineers, we invariably talk about business development and networking. And we should. Business development and networking are critical to a company’s success. And to your career path.
Senior engineers know this. They know they have to develop conversational skills, scope out prospects at networking events, and build relationships that bring in business.
Younger engineers know they have to develop those skills, but they have a vague notion of how or why to do that.
Before I give you ideas to work with, check out this true example of how networking today can lead to business now and years down the road.
Networking pays off long-term
I spent years as an associate member of the ACEC (American Council of Engineering Companies). I served on committees, presented workshops at conferences and PDH days, and got to meet lots of people.
At a monthly ACEC luncheon, Noah Smith, an exec with an AEC company, sat down next to me. “Pam, I know who you are,” Noah said. “We’ve talked here and there, but I don’t know what you do. Would you enlighten me?”
“Sure, Noah. Let me tell you how I helped a client this morning.” I took a few minutes to do that. (Emphasis on a “few minutes,” not an elevator pitch.)
Noah handed me two business cards and said, “Call me in the morning. I’ve got someone for you to work with.”
I followed up the next day. That luncheon led to me coaching a director for three years. And that led to me working with that director when he went off to start his own business as a CEO years later. So far, that simple conversation with Noah has led to other contacts and thousands of dollars in work with awesome people.
Networking is more important than you think. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
What I hear from younger engineers
This is what I’m told: “I don’t really have a role at our project meetings. Our senior engineer is going to talk with their senior architect and other senior people involved in the job. There’s no way for me to add something to the discussion.”
- Be a sponge. Watch, listen, and learn. Watch how the senior professionals are interacting. Notice their body language. Listen to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. Are they treating each other with respect or is there some friction, even hostility in the room? Be a sponge and soak up as much info as you can get simply by being in the room. It’s called on-the-job training. It involves skills in listening, note-taking, and reading body language.
- Who are the other younger staff in the room? Do you know them? Should you? Networking is about building relationships. Is there a benefit to you getting to know your peers? You bet. Like you, those younger staff members will one day be senior projects managers or principals. Ten years from now you will no longer be the young kid in the room. You’ll have a role to play in projects meetings. People will want to talk with you because you have the experience and knowledge needed for the meeting.
- “Who do you know who needs to know me?” I asked an ACEC exec that question. She introduced me to the woman who became my very first coaching client and life-long friend.
- Who do you know that you can introduce others to? As humans we naturally reciprocate when somebody does or says something nice to us. Build your network of contacts so that you can respond when somebody asks, “Who do you know who could help me with this?”
- People don’t forget you if you’re interesting. When you go to a networking event, look for ways to meet people, especially if the event has interesting activities off-site. Get to know your peers and potential clients as people.
I recently heard from a CEO I met on a deep-sea fishing trip sponsored by the Georgia chapter of ACEC 20 years ago. I remember watching his little kids having fun on the boat. Anytime he and I have talked since then, I ask about his kids. Twenty years later.
Then there’s my buddy David. We became friends through ACEC. He invited me to be the opening speaker on communications for the chapter’s Future Leaders program. I did that for seven years and met wonderful people. And David also introduced me to his boss, who brought me in for workshops with her executive team.
I hope you get my point in this blog. “Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.”
About the Author
Pamela A. Scott is an executive coach and founder of MentorLoft, a coaching firm that works with CEOs and execs to prepare their Next Gen leaders to run their company. Pamela specializes in coaching engineers and CEOs of professional service firms. For more information, visit www.mentorloft.com.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share on your networking strategies and the things you do to make new friends.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP