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Effective Networking Strategies

Michael Scholl
By Michael Scholl Editor, SME Membership Communications, SME Member Since 2021

Networking has always been crucial for career Advancement. It isn’t just about what you know, it’s also who you know. The more people you have in your network and the stronger your relationships are with them, the more opportunities seem to naturally come your way.

In manufacturing, expanding the network of available resources provides a core focus for our business and supports valuable relationships that can be mutually beneficial.

A recent Manufacturing Monday Coffee Chat organized by SME Membership brought together professionals at different stages of their careers. The virtual event focused on effective networking strategies that lead to tangible business results, including attracting talented employees.

Panelists included Moderator Michael Bell, founder and CEO of Synbyo; Joshua Shepherd, engineering and r&d manager for IT Precision, and chair-elect SME Houston Chapter 29; Christie Hasbrouck, a graduate research assistant/PhD candidate at Penn State University; Sarah Curnow, co-founder and CEO of Credo Software; and Lisa Fisher, founder of Lisa Fisher Associates. Here are a few highlights of their conversation:

SME: What are the latest networking trends?

Shepherd: I’ve found that many people appreciate in-person interactions. In this post-COVID era, I’ve gained genuine connections and benefits from sitting down and talking face-to-face with local groups, customers and vendors during industry events.

Bell: Tours have been the key drawing point for membership. If company restrictions open, the conversation and networking that occur within this environment tend to be organic and free-flowing.

SME: What are your greatest post-COVID challenges?

Hasbrouck: Job interviews are almost entirely virtual now. ... COVID opened a whole world of online networking, but it makes it harder to connect with an individual when you’re not there in person to make assessments of culture and personalities.

Curnow: One of the things I think is really important is overcoming that zone of resistance when you’re meeting with people. In South Carolina, there are great organizations doing work in the community. The German American Chamber, for example, is alive and well in the area and they do a good job facilitating plant tours and helping companies and individuals connect.

Fisher: It’s not just manufacturing companies that are attending (tours), it’s a lot of people from the community and there has been an amazing amount of feedback from the companies and individuals who are finding value in seeing plants and different work environments face to face. It’s very important to utilize local organizations to help get people in the door and see what a career in manufacturing is all about.

SME: Can you share some personal experiences highlighting the benefits of networking?

Hasbrouck: When I was the president of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society as an undergraduate, I attended many conventions where I met engineers from many different fields. Now, anytime I need input for projects I can reference new engineer contacts. ... It’s been a really high success rate in the responses I get when reaching out to my newly developed network of engineering professionals.

Bell: My approach when it comes to networking is that it’s easier to do a favor for a friend than it is for a stranger. The more people you know, the more relationships you build, the more opportunities will begin to open for you organically.

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