Networking tends to be a word that scares a lot of people, but it is really super simple, and can be as easy as making a friend on a new team. Whenever you are at an event, try to get in the habit of meeting new people. Go up to someone and try saying something like, “Hi my name is Kristin and I am from team 4468 Fernbank LINKS. Your robot great! Would you mind telling me some more about it?” Yes it really is as simple as that! Stay in contact with the people that you meet. Add them on facebook (or LinkedIn if you are feeling fancy) so that you have a way to contact them. When you see them at future events, go up and say hi again!
So what is the significance of meeting new people you ask? Well, let’s say you are struggling to figure out how to design a custom gearbox, but you know your friend Andrew has lots of experience with them. Ask him to look over your CAD and help you out! Let’s say you are struggling to get your code to work but you know your buddy Lee is a code God. Give him a call and ask him if you can talk through it with him to try and figure out what is wrong. Let’s say you have been editing your chairman’s essays for a week straight and need an outside opinion on them. Shoot an email to your friend Megan and ask her if she would mind reading through them and giving you some feedback.
It can even go a step further than that! Let’s say you met someone who works for Coke at one of the events your team is competing at and they gave you their business card. You are now looking for summer jobs and find the perfect one at Coke. Pull out the business card and give them an email! Remind them of the circumstances under which you met and tell them about the position you are looking at. They may be able to give you a leg up and help you get the position.
Slight sidenote on this: Someone once told me that when someone gives you their business card, add them on LinkedIn as soon as you can. That way even if you lose their business card, you still have their email and can contact them. It also gives them a chance to see more about you, and they can reach out to you if they know of an opportunity that they think you would be good for! I have legitimately gotten job offers from people I met through FRC that I added on LinkedIn who reached out to me because they remembered meeting me and thinking I would be perfect for a job their company had an opening for.
Personally, my favorite use networking is to make new friends. Over the years some of my absolute best friends are people that I have meet through FRC. I love getting to hang out with them at events, and they are the first people I go to when I need help. World Championships are my favorite places to reunite with all of my friends from around the world who I really only get to see once a year. We all dedicate so much of our life to FRC, so why not surround yourself with like-minded people who understand you?