As we prepare for IPC APEX EXPO 2023, I want to reflect on the unique opportunities of this event. Every year, it creates a space for industry leaders from around the world to solve real-world problems together. Networking in this innovative setting can launch many individuals toward the next steps in their careers. For me as a college student, networking has completely changed the trajectory of my career.
A 2016 LinkedIn survey of approximately 3,000 job seekers revealed that as many as 85% landed their most recent job via networking, making it a crucial component of any job search1. For those thinking about growing their career, here are three things that networking has done for me.
1. Networking opened doors to career opportunities.
Before attending the show last year, I had assumed that electrical engineering would lead me to a job developing programs or analyzing circuits for companies. I had no idea what printed circuit board (PCB) design was or what the process for manufacturing PCBs entailed. But by networking with exhibitors and mentors at the show, I found myself immersed in everything the industry has to offer, from PCB design to how to apply layers of solder mask onto a PCB.
I learned that this industry is vast and continues to grow. Through mentorship, I also discovered that there are no limits to the paths you can take. Networking with exhibitors taught me that this industry consists of passionate people who are determined to create meaningful change in the world. Seeing such passion kindled my own interest in and dedication to this field. Not only did networking help my career path feel more meaningful, I gained a better sense of potential careers as I learned about the many opportunities available in this field.
2. Networking introduced me to a world of new ideas.
Those who enter this industry are yearning to change the world, but the drive to create change is not enough; we need everyone to bring together their specialized skill sets if we want to start a revolution. Creating solutions means uniting the expertise of all the sectors in this industry, from solder mask to design. Networking is the key to making the manufacturing process as efficient and successful as possible.
At IPC APEX EXPO, industry experts share their newly discovered specialized knowledge through professional development courses, committee meetings, and even networking socials. Industry professionals can build relationships and educate themselves on subjects that may be unfamiliar to them. Attending and participating in these activities gave me the information I need to stay on top of today’s hot industry topics. Networking with experts in the technical realm has opened doors to possible joint ventures. Remember that by growing your network, you not only become a more valuable employee, you enrich the wider industry because you equip yourself with skills and knowledge that can be shared with others.
3. Networking gave me more confidence in my abilities.
Before I entered college, I was incredibly shy and reserved. As I advanced through the years, this anxiety began to fade, but I still felt insecure when talking about technical subjects with my professors and peers. I felt like my opinion on technical topics did not and could not matter. But when I attended my first networking event at IPC APEX EXPO, I learned just how valuable my voice was to the industry. I met with the I-Connect007 team, for example, and learned that established industry professionals need to hear the voices of the next generation. The I-Connect007 team invited me to write this column so that the industry could hear about the struggles and pursuits impacting today’s young professionals. This platform has really built my confidence. It has taught me that I can present my ideas to my peers and show them just how important this industry is to our future.
Although networking can be the overall key to success for many professionals, some individuals believe that networking is too much work or that it’s just self-serving. These are common misconceptions that can hold professionals back from advancing their careers. Sometimes, it can feel like you are putting so much work into networking and not getting results. When this happens, consider whether you might be putting too little effort into the network that you already have. A network can’t grow unless both parties remain in contact and equally engaged.
For those who believe networking is a self-serving activity, try thinking about how networking might allow an individual to give back to their industry community. Networking involves the interchange of ideas, with both parties playing an equal role; each person is looking to gain information from the other. Through successful networking, both parties benefit by gaining new knowledge and expertise from each other.
Networking is helping me launch my career, share ideas, grow professionally, and strengthen business relationships. Just this past month, I was offered my dream job thanks to the doors opened to me through networking. It has taught me that there is no reason to settle for a career that is not benefitting my professional growth, and I know it can do the same for you. If you’re looking for inspiration to advance your career, maybe it’s time for you to think about attending IPC APEX EXPO 2023.
- “New Survey Reveals 85% of All Jobs are Filled Via Networking,” by Lou Adler, LinkedIn.com, Feb. 29, 2016.
This column originally appeared in the December 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine.