As a skilled tradesperson, building meaningful professional relationships is crucial to your success. Networking can help you open doors to new opportunities, learn from industry experts and peers, and build a reputation that can help you land new clients and contracts. But how can you go about networking effectively, particularly in a field that can sometimes be viewed as old-fashioned or difficult to break into? In this blog post, we’ll explore the art of networking in skilled trades and offer some tips to help you build the kind of relationships that can take your career to the next level.
Why Networking Matters
Before we dive into tips and strategies, let’s take a moment to consider why networking is so important for skilled tradespeople. According to a 2019 survey by the job site Indeed, 59% of job seekers in the skilled trades found their jobs through referrals or personal connections. In other words, a majority of people working in the trades got their foot in the door through networking.
But networking isn’t just about getting your first job. Throughout your career, you’ll need a network of peers, mentors, and other professionals who can help you stay up-to-date on industry trends and best practices, introduce you to new clients or customers, and provide advice or support when you’re facing a challenge.
One of the main benefits of networking is the ability to learn from others who have more experience or expertise than you do. For example, if you’re a new HVAC technician, you might be able to get advice from established professionals on how to troubleshoot a tricky problem or how to navigate a challenging customer service situation. By building a network of skilled trades professionals, you can tap into a wealth of knowledge that can help you grow and develop as a tradesperson.
Networking can also help you build your reputation and establish yourself as a highly skilled and reliable professional. When people in your network recommend you to others or speak highly of your work, it can help you stand out from competitors and win more business. In addition, having a strong network can help you stay connected with former colleagues, supervisors, and mentors who may be able to offer job referrals or new opportunities down the line.
Tips for Effective Networking
Now that we’ve talked about why networking is so important, let’s dive into some strategies for building meaningful professional relationships in the skilled trades.
1. Attend industry events and conferences
One of the best ways to meet and connect with other skilled tradespeople is by attending industry events and conferences. These events are often focused on a specific trade or profession, such as HVAC or plumbing, and bring together professionals from all over the country (or even the world). Attending these events can help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies in your field, as well as provide opportunities to meet and network with other professionals.
To find events and conferences in your area, start by checking with industry associations or organizations that are specific to your trade. For example, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) hosts an annual conference for HVAC professionals, and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) hosts a national convention for plumbing and HVAC contractors. Many trade shows and conferences also have vendor exhibitions where you can meet with suppliers and manufacturers to learn more about products and services that could benefit your business.
2. Join industry associations or organizations
In addition to attending events and conferences, consider joining industry associations or organizations that are specific to your trade. These groups can provide valuable resources and support for skilled tradespeople, including access to training and educational programs, networking opportunities, and advocacy on behalf of the industry.
Some examples of industry associations and organizations in the skilled trades include:
– National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA)
– National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
– Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA)
Membership in these groups can vary, but often includes benefits like access to online forums or discussion groups, discounts on industry publications and resources, and invitations to local meetups and networking events.
3. Use social media to connect with other professionals
Social media can be a powerful tool for connecting with other skilled tradespeople and building your professional network. Platforms like LinkedIn are specifically designed for professional networking, providing opportunities to connect with other professionals in your field, share updates about your work, and find new job opportunities.
To make the most of social media for networking, consider the following tips:
– Build a complete and professional-looking profile on the platform(s) of your choice
– Connect with other professionals in your field (either through searching for specific people or by joining relevant groups)
– Share updates about your work, such as projects you’re working on or completed jobs that you’re proud of
– Engage with other users by commenting on their posts, sharing their updates, and offering helpful advice or insights
Of course, it’s important to be mindful of what you share on social media as well – avoid posting anything that could be perceived as unprofessional or inappropriate, and be cautious about engaging in political or controversial topics that could alienate potential contacts.
4. Reach out to former colleagues or supervisors
If you’ve worked in the skilled trades for a while, chances are you have some former colleagues or supervisors who could provide valuable connections or referrals. Take the time to reach out to these contacts periodically, either by phone, email, or even in person if you’re in the same area.
When reaching out, be respectful of their time and avoid coming across as too pushy or self-promotional. Instead, focus on building a genuine relationship and expressing interest in their work or projects. Let them know what you’ve been up to (without going into too much detail), and ask if there’s anything you can do to help or support them in their work.
5. Offer to mentor or help other professionals
Finally, don’t forget that networking is a two-way street. While it’s certainly important to connect with other skilled tradespeople who can help you grow professionally, it’s also valuable to offer your support and expertise to others who are just starting out.
Consider volunteering to serve as a mentor or advisor to other professionals in your field, particularly those who may be looking to break into the industry or develop new skills. By offering your time and expertise, you can build strong connections and establish yourself as a trusted and respected member of your professional community.
Networking is an essential part of building a successful career in the skilled trades. By attending industry events, joining associations or organizations, using social media effectively, reaching out to former colleagues or supervisors, and offering your help and support to others, you can build a network of professional contacts that can help you grow and thrive in your work. Remember to be patient and persistent in your networking efforts, and to focus on building genuine relationships rather than simply chasing leads or job offers. Over time, your efforts will pay off in the form of valuable connections, new opportunities, and a reputation as a skilled and respected member of your field.