Connections and networking are two things of the LEAST natural things for engineers. However, it’s an overlooked aspect of moving up the career ladder.
Consider for a second, a made up company that needs an Engineering Director to manage engineers who create custom ovens for drying paint on car parts. Part of that role is going to involve being in the room when meeting with automotive executives that will be purchasing. Consider the company has two candidates, one who knows everything about designing and building ovens, but knows no automotive executives. And another candidate who’s never worked specifically with ovens, but knows a handful of automotive executives who could buy the ovens.
Which hire will they make?
I’m putting money on option B, the guy who knows the executives. A network and connections take a long time to build. A few days or weeks in the shop will resolve most knowledge shortcomings in the understanding of ovens, and hiring option A as a consultant could be possible to assist in this.
Consider that if the option B produces sales immediately from his connections, the hire paid off right off the bat. That’s an ROI that any businessperson would be happy with.
If this thought hasn’t occurred to you already, it’s time to start thinking about it. Take some initiative and find some ways to start increasing who you know. The earlier the better.