Here are our top seven real-life tips for networking in the water environment industry.
Go to the “official” industry events
We can’t tell you how important this is. We know, it’s your day off, it’s a Thursday evening, it’s work stuff. But the official industry events are the most well-attended events out there - and it’s the best place to start networking.
Reconnect and deepen relationships you already have with the people in your professional network. Or, you might “bump” into the connections you wanted to meet most. It’s easy to identify ahead of time who you may meet or may want to introduce yourself to.
There are so many opportunities within the water industry for innovation and collaboration, and official events are the best place to get the most out of networking.
You can’t measure success without goals to weigh results against. Do you want to make connections? Are you looking to get into consulting - or to get out of it? Have questions about SCADA? Networking can help you out, but only if you know what you’re looking for.
Start by looking at what you want to do and accomplish. Make a list if it helps you. Remember that many opportunities crop up organically, but only if you’re open and ready to accept them. Goal setting is a great way to start.
Setting goals is part of this. But the other side is knowing your stuff.
Come ready with business cards, your technical know-how, and questions you want to ask to every networking or official industry event.
You know that feeling when you’re talking to someone about your work and their eyes gloss over? It’s instantly obvious to anybody in technical and professional industries when someone isn’t quite tracking. Come prepared with the knowledge you need to meet your set goals, and questions you have on the things that you don’t.
Asking open-ended questions can get someone else talking, and take the heat off of you. Try some of the following:
What do you do when you’re not working or at events like these?
How did you come to be in this line of work?
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in utilities management?
What’s the biggest challenge you think the water, wastewater, and stormwater industry has today?
What do you love most about what you do?
Take your time
This is partially about being a good conversationalist. It’s also about patience.
There’s no reason to try to rush networking. In fact, useful networking isn’t meeting as many people as you can, or shotgun asking for opportunities. It’s making good connections, and letting those opportunities come to you through connections.
Long story short? Don’t make networking about you. Make it about everybody else.
Ask good questions. Everybody loves to talk about what they do - and the water, wastewater, and environment industry is no different (see our conversation-starting suggestions above!)
We get so few opportunities to enjoy conversation with engaged, excited industry professionals, and you can make that happen. Who else is interested in net zero energy? Anybody?
Your new acquaintances will thank you. You’ll make some good contacts, be memorable, and potentially get the ball rolling on meeting the goals you set beforehand.
We’ve all done it: completely forgotten the name of a person you just met, seconds after they’ve introduced themselves. Often, we let forgetting someone’s name slide. But it’s an incredibly important tool to setting up and maintaining networking relationships.
This isn’t always relevant - at WEAO, we use name tags to make sure nobody gets put in this awkward situation.
But what do you do if you’ve already met someone, but they’re not wearing a name tag, and can’t remember their name?
First, re-introduce yourself if possible. They may have forgotten your name too! And it’s a great conversation starter.
Don’t be so afraid of being rude that you don’t ask. Apologize and request that they repeat their name. It happens to everyone, so nobody should fault you for it - unless you really, really should know them (#3!)
Reach out after
One of the biggest networking mistakes many people make is not to reach out after. You’ve amassed an impressive collection of business cards. It’s time to use them!
Send an email with a quick re-introduction of your conversation, thank them for their time, and follow up with a question. It’s a good way to continue the relationship, and they’ll remember you next time you meet up.
LinkedIn is a great place to reach out. It’s socially acceptable, so you don’t feel like you’re intruding in anybody’s inbox. Plus, many WEAO groups have closed LinkedIn groups, so ty to find out about those and get yourself an invite.
Also, WEAO offers mentorship connections, but you can always make them yourself. Following up is the best place to start!
Use social media
Use it to reach out after meeting people at an event (see above), but also to start conversations before, after, and during networking events.
It’s easy to start conversations on social media. Reach out to someone via Twitter or Facebook, and make sure to continue the acquaintance. Send personal messages or follow-ups, ask questions, or offer something.
If you’re not into reaching out, there are still tons of social media resources out there for Ontario water, wastewater and environment professionals.
Reddit offers amazing networks for you to participate in and meet fellow professionals across the globe (and in Ontario). Check out: