Have you thought about the relationships you’ve developed as an engineer? Influential relationships are a tremendous help to your career. You’re cultivating them as you go along.
If you’re a strong people person, you probably already have many influential relationships. If you’re not a strong people person, you’re probably lacking in influential relationships. Which is putting you at a disadvantage.
So to change that, you might need to strategize a little. And that’s what we’re talking about today.
Why Influential Relationships are Important to Your Engineering Career
There are many ways that people can have influence. In my experience I’ve noticed that influential people are good connectors with extraordinary insight and the ability to sway.
They often have good leadership characteristics. And they’re sought out for their ability to have an effect on behavior or decisions.
You can see then that building relationships with influential people has benefits. They can help pave the way for your success in many ways, such as by making connections, garnering resources, or creating opportunities.
Building relationships with several influential people helps you because more people are familiar with your work and abilities. You may have access to more power and authority. To more people who see potential in you.
There are more people to help you take the right steps and reach your goals.
When fewer people of influence know about you, you have less of an advantage when it comes to getting ahead and realizing your career vision. You get less recognition. You get less enrichment from ideas and connections. And you get fewer opportunities.
Influential relationships give you an edge in your engineering career.
By the end of my career at the lab I had cultivated some influential relationships. But most of them happened by default. I wasn’t strategic about it. I really didn’t understand that I needed to make this a part of my career strategy.
In hindsight, I wish I had made more influential connections. I would have had a stronger network, more opportunities, more recognition and support. This is what I want for you. It’s my motivation for giving you this advice. And a tool for applying it.
I’m going to walk you through a strategic framework you can use in cultivating influential relationships. It’s a structured way to think about it. And to make it easier to follow through with making connections.
A Strategy for Cultivating Influential Relationships in Your Engineering Career
To create your strategy for cultivating influential relationships, simply answer the following 7 questions in this framework. They guide your thought process so that you end up with a list of influential people to connect with and an approach for doing so.
- Who are the influential people you want to cultivate a relationship with?
Do some brainstorming and make a list. Revisit this list a couple times a year and modify it as you go. Think about:
- People inside and outside your team, organization, field of expertise, network, personality type, and culture.
- People interested or motivated to connect with you.
- People you admire.
- People following a similar path or philosophy to yours.
- People who can somehow help you or open doors for you.
- What makes them influential to you or your organization?
List the characteristics of each person and how they impact you. Describe why each person is someone you want to meet and cultivate a relationship with.
- What do you seek to gain from the relationship?
Describe the value to you of getting to know each person. Think about what you want to learn. Also determine how you can give value in return.
- How do you envision the resulting relationship?
In other words, what’s the nature of each relationship going to be? For example, will be a short term or long term relationship? Will it be more friendship or business oriented? It may be a technical collaboration. It may involve mutual support, mentorship, or sponsorship.
- How do you want to approach each person for your first meeting?
This will depend on the role of each person with respect to yours. You might simply introduce yourself at an event.
You might offer an invitation for coffee and an informal discussion. Or if an informational interview or other formal one-on-one is more appropriate, then you’ll want to get that on their calendar.
- What are some ideas for your meeting agenda?
Think through how each meeting might play out. Each agenda will be tailored for the person you’re meeting. Here’s a suggestion for a general overview:
- Connect and find common ground.
- Describe your interest in meeting this person and ask about their role and purpose.
- Describe your role and purpose within the organization.
- Propose how you can work together or support each other.
- Discuss the benefits of continuing the relationship.
- How will you maintain the relationship?
Just as with all people in your network, maintaining connections with influential people is important. Consider what works best with each person on your list.
You can continue to meet with them formally or informally. You can connect on social media. Or stay in touch through phone calls and emails.
It’s a simple framework. Straightforward and easy to use. And in the end you have a useful and effective approach for cultivating your influential relationships.
If you’re struggling with this, I’m here to help. You can book a strategy session with me and we can brainstorm the best way to implement this framework in your particular career situation.
I’d love to see you put this strategy to work for you. Cultivate influential relationships so you can have the advantage in recognition, opportunities and pursuing your career goals.
Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast we’ll talk about overwhelm. What to do when your workload overwhelms you. Be sure to tune in for Episode 55.