Joining organizations in college to increase networking

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I am doing MS in Electrical Engineering. Would joining student organizations help build my career? People do advice me to join few organization but I have zero or less experience (i am more of an introvert) being in them. What kind of organizations would you expect me to join? Do they need to pertain to only academia or can they also be "cultural" ?
 

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  • #2
tnich
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I am doing MS in Electrical Engineering. Would joining student organizations help build my career? People do advice me to join few organization but I have zero or less experience (i am more of an introvert) being in them. What kind of organizations would you expect me to join? Do they need to pertain to only academia or can they also be "cultural" ?
I would strongly recommend Toastmasters. If you don't have a Toastmasters group on campus, you can probably find one off-campus. To an introvert, the great benefit of Toastmasters is that it gets you comfortable with standing up in front of a group of people to give information and express ideas. This is a crucial skill and one that universities rarely teach to engineers. When you graduate and get an engineering job, your progress in your career will depend as much on being able to communicate effectively as it does on having something to communicate. Toastmasters will help you quickly learn that skill.
 
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  • #3
CWatters
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Many countries have a governing body for professional/chartered engineers (names like IEE or IEEE). These frequently have outreach or similar groups at universities. Worth joining if you intend to become chartered.

I would also consider joining some sort of outdoor activity hobby/sports group. I was lucky enough to attend a university with a sailing and walking club. Great to be able to get totally away from studies for awhile.
 
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  • #4
Choppy
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This is the kind of thing that really needs to be driven by your own interests and curiosity rather than someone online saying 'you build up the best pre-professional network by joining X.' In my experience when people do things for the latter reason, they tend not to be able get much out of the activity, whatever it is.

Instead, just look at what your campus has to offer and join for the sake of exploration, meeting new people, and developing new skills. The group(s) you join don't need to be academic in nature at all. And sometimes it can really help to do at least one thing that is outside of your "engineering box."

It also pays to keep in mind that not every group you join is going to result in great network contacts or new side interests. Sometimes you try something out and all you learn is that the activity in question is not for you and the people in that club aren't a great fit for you as friends. If this happens, don't give up. It just means you haven't found the right activity yet..
 
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  • #5
CrysPhys
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Many countries have a governing body for professional/chartered engineers (names like IEE or IEEE). These frequently have outreach or similar groups at universities. Worth joining if you intend to become chartered.

I would also consider joining some sort of outdoor activity hobby/sports group. I was lucky enough to attend a university with a sailing and walking club. Great to be able to get totally away from studies for awhile.
I highly second this two-prong approach.

OP, you don't mention where you are; but, at least in the US, the major professional societies (such as IEEE for electrical engineers and APS for physicists) offer student memberships at low rates. Major universities often have student chapters. If yours doesn't, you can try to start one. Don't be a passive member; get involved with organizing events, and you'll get to personally meet and interact with senior members of your profession.

And, yes, get involved with organizations outside of your engineering field (sports, hobbies, dance, writing, art, journalism, volunteer work ....). Not only do such activities have intrinsic value per se, but you will get to know people in other fields, which will be useful should you later decide to change to a career outside of EE.
 
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  • #6
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I was never involved in any groups or clubs. I just didn't see it as a good use of my time. I had other things I would rather be doing. Honestly, I couldn't tell you one name of any person I went to school with... and I graduated less than a year ago.

It never hindered me professionally. I have never been in a situation where it would have helped either. But I do see how it could be beneficial in certain cases.

The point is, don't do it just because people say you should. Do it if you want to.
 
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  • #7
CrysPhys
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Honestly, I couldn't tell you one name of any person I went to school with... and I graduated less than a year ago.
Four years passed. Not one friendship forged. Not even one casual acquaintanceship made. A major opportunity lost.

It never hindered me professionally. I have never been in a situation where it would have helped either. But I do see how it could be beneficial in certain cases.
That's because you've been out of school less than a year. According to some of your other posts, you found a position in a high-tech company in an isolated town. If you're one of the lucky few, perhaps you'll have career for life there. But, if you're not, who are you going to reach out to for help when the company announces a substantial layoff? Random strangers on the InterNet?
 
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I would rather be doing. Honestly, I couldn't tell you one name of any person I went to school with... and I graduated less than a year ago.
You goofed.
 
  • #9
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Four years passed. Not one friendship forged. Not even one casual acquaintanceship made. A major opportunity lost.


That's because you've been out of school less than a year. According to some of your other posts, you found a position in a high-tech company in an isolated town. If you're one of the lucky few, perhaps you'll have career for life there. But, if you're not, who are you going to reach out to for help when the company announces a substantial layoff? Random strangers on the InterNet?
Haha, more than four...
Maybe an opportunity lost, maybe not. I have made plenty of contacts and friends in my professional career so far.

I am very lucky. If that were to happen I would reach out to contacts made during my career. Or I would take the skills and experience and find a new job on my own.
 
  • #10
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You goofed.
I don't feel that way.

I still have grad school to do that if I feel like I am missing out on something.
 
  • #11
CrysPhys
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Haha, more than four...
Maybe an opportunity lost, maybe not. I have made plenty of contacts and friends in my professional career so far.

I am very lucky. If that were to happen I would reach out to contacts made during my career. Or I would take the skills and experience and find a new job on my own.
I'd just like to point out that your scenario is not that of a typical college student. The typical college student does not a have an industry internship; the typical college student does not have a support network at work; the typical college student does not have a full-time job waiting for him when he graduates. I think your attitude towards networking will change once you go through a substantial layoff at your company and your existing network of mentors, angels, and lucky leprechauns get the boot ... even more so if the layoff is part of an industry-wide meltdown. So can you succeed without forming a network at college? Yes, under the right circumstances. Is it wise not to form a network at college, because you're feeling lucky? [Think of Dirty Harry pointing a 44 Magnum at you.]
 
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Forming a network? How exactly? Most professors are completely isolated from industry, those who aren't only provide connections to their PhD students. Clubs? Not really a network, rarely industry sponsors anything, the friends you make a probably going to be worse off than you.

What matters is your performance during the first years of being hired.
 
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  • #13
StatGuy2000
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Forming a network? How exactly? Most professors are completely isolated from industry, those who aren't only provide connections to their PhD students. Clubs? Not really a network, rarely industry sponsors anything, the friends you make a probably going to be worse off than you.

What matters is your performance during the first years of being hired.
@Qurks , of course your performance during the first years of being hired at a job matter. That is a given. But in addition to this, it is important to maintain relations with those within your profession to develop a network, as a way of finding out about new opportunities and selling/marketing yourself.

You ask how to form a network? Many ways -- Meetups, LinkedIn, industry-sponsored events (you're wrong that industry rarely sponsors anything -- haven't you heard of IEEE???), through professors with ties to industry (you're wrong they only provide connections to PhD students -- I finished my Masters and got a job through connections at my university).

Non-work based clubs is another good way to meet people -- one of the people who used to post here got her job after networking with someone she met while working as a bartender during the height of the financial crisis between 2008-2010. Also, here at Physics Forums is another way to network.

[As an aside, you sound awfully familiar to someone else who used to post here at PF.]
 
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  • #14
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@Qurks , of course your performance during the first years of being hired at a job matter. That is a given. But in addition to this, it is important to maintain relations with those within your profession to develop a network, as a way of finding out about new opportunities and selling/marketing yourself.

You ask how to form a network? Many ways -- Meetups, LinkedIn, industry-sponsored events (you're wrong that industry rarely sponsors anything -- haven't you heard of IEEE???), through professors with ties to industry (you'r wrong they only provide connections to PhD students -- I finished my Masters and got a job through connections at my university).

Non-work based clubs is another good way to meet people -- one of the people who used to post here got her job after networking with someone she met while working as a bartender during the height of the financial crisis between 2008-2010. Also, here at Physics Forums is another way to network.

[As an aside, you sound awfully familiar to someone else who used to post here at PF.]
If OP wants to spend his time sending messages on Linkedln and going to clubs by all means he can but he will be wasting his time.

Maybe my professors(in engineering) were particularly isolated(I highly doubt it), but out of the 7 I have talked with none have any direct connection to industry, 3 have worked on military projects but that's as close as they have come. The only ones with any direct connection are the IC/Materials guys and only their PhD students ever get sponsored.

So OP can believe me, as someone who actually has a degree in engineering or he can believe you, who has no connection to engineering and apparently no experience in engineering jobs.
 
  • #15
StatGuy2000
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If OP wants to spend his time sending messages on Linkedln and going to clubs by all means he can but he will be wasting his time.

Maybe my professors(in engineering) were particularly isolated(I highly doubt it), but out of the 7 I have talked with none have any direct connection to industry, 3 have worked on military projects but that's as close as they have come. The only ones with any direct connection are the IC/Materials guys and only their PhD students ever get sponsored.

So OP can believe me, as someone who actually has a degree in engineering or he can believe you, who has no connection to engineering and apparently no experience in engineering jobs.
My first job out of grad school was working (as a consultant statistician) for an engineering firm which was an offshoot of a research lab (specializing in robotics and automation) in the mechanical engineering department at my alma mater (the founder of the company is a professor in the mechanical engineering department).

http://www.esit.com

The engineers who worked for that company included people with their bachelors, their masters, as well as PhD graduates or Phd students (also those with related backgrounds such as EE or CS). So when I talk about engineering jobs (in the context of career advice), I speak with some knowledge and experience.

@Qurks , as a friendly suggestion, I suggest that you do not assume or presume things without first knowing the facts of the situation.
 
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  • #16
Choppy
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Since it seems to have been brought into question, in my experience there is a lot of value in simply making friends and even casual-friendly acquaintances among one's undergraduate classmates.

First off, there's the social element. Social isolation can come with a whole range of challenges. People need different amounts of socialization in my experience, but in general, having at least a couple friends that you can talk to when things aren't going your way, joke around with, and share your victorious moments with can go a long way to helping you deal with all the stresses that come with post-secondary education.

Then there's a simple broadened horizons argument. Some of the most interesting conversations that I had when I was a student were with people who were in completely different majors. If your views are never challenged, there's a real risk of going through life in a state of unrecognized ignorance. Friends can help expose you to new ideas, or even just help you catch things in your own field that you might miss.

And having a network of friends in your major or professional discipline can go a lot further than job connections. When you start off, most of your peers are likely to be in a similar boat to yourself, and so sure, they probably won't have a lot of job connections. But they might be in a position to help you figure out what a fair starting salary is, or how to tackle particular projects, or what conferences to go to, or what companies are good ones (and not so good ones) to work for.

It's also important to remember that your working career will last a long time. Some of those friends might land in some rather impressive places over course of a career.
 
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