“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” Will Rogers
The best way to know everyone in the game is to attend a party of the players. The best way to acquaint yourself with fellow engineers is to attend their activities. There are numerous engineering associations and societies you can engage with; either as a student or an engineer (graduate, licensed or unlicensed).
Merits for students
Participating in such professional associations will give you an opportunity to interact with certified engineers practicing the profession. They get to answer all your curiosity about the career you want to pursue, and if you have none, they can give you a heads up of what’s going on.
By the time you graduate school or sometime close to it, and you begin searching for jobs and places you want to intern at, the members of the engineering societies you have been interacting with will help you in either absorbing you in their companies or at least recommend you to others. This is because of the commitment you have shown to grow as an engineer. Your participation in their activities translates to how you can balance your academic challenges with extra-curricular activities.
Just by mere acquaintance of the professionals in your field can be fruitful for you if not in the present, then in the future. You might want to get your bachelor’s degree and proceed for a Master’s; maybe one of those members in your professional organizations might be the person in charge of reviewing applications in the department you are applying. Maybe she is in charge of scholarships or best, she is highly respected in the field and when she writes you a recommendation letter for the job, scholarship or graduate admission applications, your chances of success dramatically goes up. Christine Comaford-Lynch said, “Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.”
Merits for graduates
You also get to grow in networking and knowledge. Attendance at weekly lecture series, meetings, guest lectures will enrich your database beyond what you will learn from classrooms. And if you have figured out where you want to go in your engineering career, you will most likely find someone practicing that and you might want to approach her or him so that she or he can mentor and counsel you, for free.
Often times, when you grow professionally as an engineer, you might come across opportunities in form of contracts you can’t accomplish alone. You need to supplement your knowledge with others’ in order to deliver the project. The acquaintances you met by networking at those events would have probably matched the right person you are searching for. The network you created also gives you an opportunity to talk to many professionals who will help you in finding the right person for the job. It saves you a lot of time if you have a trusted network which you can always refer back to for suggestions.
While I was on vacation/job hunting in Dubai, I got the opportunity to attend a networking event of Young Entrepreneurs in Property UAE at the Hilton Hotel, for free. I was able to make acquaintance with the professionals practicing in the Middle East. It was there I met a British lawyer working for an engineering firm, who suggested to me a powerful networking event that holds on every month in Dubai and other member countries. The events are normally attended by highly influential company owners who have the authority to employ you on the spot. As a trusted friend of mine always says, “it’s about the dots, the ww (world wide) dot in your life that matters.” And I couldn’t agree more with him. He always advocates that we should know people from all over the world and from all spheres of life.
Societies, associations and affiliations
Here, I have identified some professional associations I suggest you visit their website right away and register. However, the first association or society you should associate with is the local association around you. If you do not know any, ask your colleagues or lecturers. Engage in both student and professional associations. The second association you should engage with is the national association of the country. Most countries have a national body of engineers. In Nigeria, you can visit www.nse.org.ng which is the website of Nigerian Society of Engineers. There are different membership levels in all of these bodies from students, to graduates to professionals and fellows. And you should choose the membership level according to your profile.
For those of you who will like to have titles and affiliations after your names, the societies are the fastest bet for you to get one. For example if you are a member of NSE, you can append MNSE after your name to mean (member of the NSE). So here is the list.
- Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) nse.org
- Young Nigerian Engineers Forum yofen.org.ng
- Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) ieee.com (Even those not in the electrical and electronic discipline can register as members)
- American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) asce.org
- Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) ice.org
- Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE) http://www.nice-nigeria.org
Have you participated in any professional association’s activities and you found it very useful? You can tell us about it in the comments box below by naming the association, the activity and the experience you took out of it. Do you belong to any student or professional association? Go ahead and list it in the comment box so that someone might attend your next event.