Networking

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Joining networks within your chosen industry helps you make useful contacts, develop your skills and do some good along the way. It can also help you identify career opportunities which may only be advertised ‘word of mouth’ or help you find a mentor to guide you in your career.

What is networking?

Networking is not just making social media connections. It comes in many different forms and can be organic, natural or formal. Essentially, networking is about getting to know people and building knowledge and contacts in the context of your career.

There is some truth in the adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. Also, if you in a relatively specialised industry, such as aerospace or aviation, there are many new and exciting developments which will be shared through networks but not make it into national news. So, to keep up to date with the latest innovations, meeting like-minded professionals in your field will contribute to your knowledge and personal development.

While social media opens up a wealth of networking opportunities, first meeting face-to-face is one of the best ways to establish contacts with new people and build trust. You probably rarely accept ‘friend’ requests on your social media accounts from people don’t know. And of course, aviation is, at its heart, all about bringing people together.

Here are some of our tips on how you can start building your network of personal contacts which may help you throughout your career in aviation and aerospace.

Networking

Specialist conferences and seminars

There are many conferences, lectures and events organised by professional bodies like the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS). Speakers and delegates at these events will include chief engineers, industry leaders, pilot captains and aviation experts.

The RAeS, through its specialist knowledge groups and network of Branches (local, volunteer-led groups) runs over 300 events throughout the year, from conferences at its London headquarters to local Branch events around the world. Most events offer limited free places for student/apprentice members. Events such as these offer tea/coffee breaks, networking lunch periods, after-conference receptions etc. where you can talk to other delegates and speakers. Often you will find you can talk to senior industry representatives who would otherwise be very hard to meet, but are often very keen to offer careers advice.

Trade fairs and air shows

Trade fairs are where companies within a particular sector promote their products and services to potential customers in the format of a large exhibition. While more focused on business development than careers or jobs, they are often attract companies of all sizes within a particular sector, including hard-to-meet SMEs (small-medium sized companies) and/or bring together companies from around the world under one roof. Some air shows are also trade events, putting the world of aerospace at your door. While it means taking time to talk to exhibitors who may not have all their company’s careers information to hand, you will see that aerospace is like one global club, and you should start to make useful contacts and business connections for the future.

Relevant trade shows include include the World Travel Market; Advanced Engineering Show; Farnborough, Paris, Dubai and Singapore Air Shows, EBACE, Geneva and MRO Europe, to name a few. And even if you can’t attend in person, you will be able to download exhibitor listings for these events, listing hundreds of potential employers for possible speculative applications.

Futures Day 2016, Farnborough

Making the most of events

Remember, if you are attending an event which is not directly careers/jobs themed, it may not be a good idea to ask everyone you meet for a job or internship! Networking takes time and is a two-way process.

Offer to help …
When you meet someone, ask what they do. Do they need help? You could suggest offering free admin help during the holidays. Even if they don’t take up your offer, you will be remembered for offering support, and may be the person they recommend to a colleague in the future.

Ask a great question during Q&A sessions
Most conferences and lectures will include an interactive audience session. It can be a daunting prospect but asking a really good question helps you stand out, and after the Q&A other delegates will likely come and talk to you.

Mentoring opportunities
People may not be able to offer you a job, but they may be very happy to offer you advice and support. Asking for mentoring help can result in a more productive response than simply asking for work. And ‘reverse’ mentoring is an increasingly popular concept, where less experienced people who may have, for example, better IT skills, understanding of young people or diversity and inclusion issues, can often provide useful advice to experienced professionals – another way you can offer support.

‘Breaking the ice’
Before you attend an event, especially if it’s your first, plan in advance an interesting conversation opener. This doesn’t have to be an insightful analysis of the aerospace sector. You could talk about the weather that day (if you are in the UK it’s likely to be too cold/rainy/dry etc.), a neutral base from which to break the ice with strangers!

Take a friend
Networking is much easier when you are with someone you know. If possible, bring a companion, especially if you have a friend or colleague who is confident in these types of situations.

Practice makes perfect
Your first event may be daunting, and perhaps you leave without having spoken to anyone. Don’t panic! This is very common, even the most confident people can find networking situations intimidating. Keep attending, it may take a few tries but eventually you will become a familiar face.

Someone like you
Networking is not just about making friends, although that will happen along the way. Be prepared to speak to people of all ages and all roles, not just in your own specialist area. You may be surprised who/what they know and how they can help you.

Careers in Aerospace LIVE 2017 at RAeS

Get involved

It’s not just about attending events. Many professional bodies are looking for people to help organise their events, join committees, or volunteer on schools outreach programmes. By joining a local Branch, or Young Persons’ network or helping out at events, you will meet all kinds of people, including local employers. It will also help you develop your soft skills, such as planning, communication and teamwork, enhancing your CV and acting as another form of work experience which can provide interesting examples for a job interview and demonstrate you are an active participant in your industry and willing to ‘give something back’.

 

Air Cadets at SBAP Stand, FIA 2016

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