Business people talking.

If you've spent time in the professional world you've most likely heard the old adage, "It is not what you know, but who you know." While that saying is true, in the Masters of Engineering degree with a concentration in Information Engineering Management we teach that what is actually important is who knows you and the value you can offer. The most important part of building your personal or professional network is marketing yourself and the value you can bring to the organization.

So, how do you grow your professional network? Sure, you can walk around all day and talk to people shaking hands and asking what they do. But with a limited amount of time, a targeted approach makes more sense. Here are three ways to network smarter:

Define Your Ideal Network

One of the first steps of a marketing campaign is to ask where the target audience or customers are located. To sell a product or grow a business - you need to be in front of the right people. You need to find the people who need your product, and in front of people who actually want to buy your product.

Just like a company advertising themselves or their product, when you are working on marketing your professional skills, you need to know your audience. Who can help you move forward in your career, who could benefit from your skills, and who are the influencers in your industry? This is where you will find your ideal partnerships and will start to define your personal brand.

One of the best ways to find your target audience and build a professional network is to belong to and be active in professional organizations. Professional organizations typically come in two varieties. The first are large, national and international organizations which have local, regional, and international activity. The second are local organizations which are often focused on local businesses and tied to (directly or indirectly) Chambers of Commerce.

Find the Right Balance

While it's easy to feel the need to jump in and get as connected as possible, the smartest way to network is to balance the number and type of organizations you are involved in.

My suggestion is to become a member of one large professional organization doing what you do today and one large organization that is focused on where you see yourself in the future. Of course, being active with a local organization where your leaders and coworkers are showing up is important and one of the easiest ways to build connections in your local business community.

Be Active

Since we've established that networking is about who knows you and the value you can bring - in addition to joining these organizations, you want to also be both active and involved.

This might mean picking one organization to focus on being primarily involved with, such as becoming an organization officer, and two others to attend. No matter the size or location, the key to all organizations is involvement. Many a career has grown and developed solely because of activity in organizations.

When we coach students in IEM on how to get noticed by their superiors, we suggest they find out what organizations their company managers support and get involved. At work, they may be levels below their superiors, but in the organization, they become peers and will likely work closely together to meet the organization's goals. Not surprisingly, many IEM students have found their way moving from an engineer to manager simply because they built connections and were noticed - for something that wasn't even done in the office.

Popular Organizations for Engineers and Technical Professions

Some of the large national or international organizations that past and present IEM'ers are involved in are:

The common local organizations in the Birmingham area are:

Meet the right professionals. Make your next move.

Networking is necessary in today's professional world - but we understand that it can also be a daunting task. Our goal in IEM is to show you the steps that will help you get ahead and make them easy and attainable. If that means you need to make connections with others, we're here to help you make strides towards meeting the professionals in your industry. We want to see you succeed at whatever your personal and professional goals are and we'd love to talk with you about how to make that happen. Fill out the form on this page to schedule a time to talk or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Let us help you find your path to a technical or engineering management career.

About IEM

The Master of Engineering with a concentration in Information Engineering Management (IEM) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a specialized concentration designed primarily for engineers and people in technical positions. The concentration presents business systems and soft skills in a curriculum that is based on actual engineering industry needs and is offered completely online.