Thermoforming Report

February Thermoforming Report: Networking

by Keith Brown, President & Owner, Siena Group.

February 2024.

This month’s main article topic is near and dear to my heart… and candidly should be to yours as well. Networking. It isn’t just something that happens. It is a learned skill that must be invested in. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting your career out of college or a seasoned professional. Networking matters! Check out the content below to learn more.

As usual, we have several great articles relevant to our industry and quite a few amazing All Stars to highlight! Check them out down below in the links on the right. We also have more extraordinary talent in the Featured Talent tab.

Networking: 101, 201, and Graduate Levels

Though the “official” national networking day is still a few months away (for the nerds that want to learn more about how it came to be, check out this history), the topic of connecting with professionals and other colleagues is constantly in motion and given Siena Group’s Networking Power Fun Friday post, what better time to get into this topic! 

Networking 101

Believe it or not, even in this highly (some would say overly) connected world, some people still do not network much at all!

The reasons run the gamut from being too busy to not knowing where to start or even thinking there is little value in it. In my job coaching efforts, I am constantly reminding people that business connections are important for many reasons – staying connected to friends and colleagues you’ve worked with, staying plugged into a particular industry and technological advancements, and helping support you or your colleagues in their job search.   

So, networking is necessary, but what are the basics? 

Well, it depends on the venue. If you are behind a screen – as you are right now and as we all are more than we’d like to admit – then networking means leveraging LinkedIn. Though there are other tools and forums out there that provide niched communities (SPE Thermoforming anyone?!?), LinkedIn is very much the king of the hill. With its humble beginnings going back to 2003 (yes, that is before Facebook), when it comes to networking, LinkedIn has become the powerhouse.   

For those who need the 101 Course, networking on LI is pretty simple:

  • Get your LI profile up to date – profile pic & all!
  • Start seeking out and connecting with old colleagues and friends.
  • Follow companies or people that you respect and are interested in. 
  • Seek out communities (via groups and hashtags) and join them. Connect with your alma mater/alumni.
  • Comment and like posts that interest you.

It is that easy. You’d be surprised how little effort it takes to increase your network via LI!

Networking 201

Beyond the freshman-level networking course, there are ways to increase your networking power and prowess. You can simply do more of the same and expand beyond your innermost circle of friends and colleagues. 

However, to take it to the next level, you need to be more strategic. 

Recently, Forbes published a great article about this very thing: 4 Networking Tips to Build More Strategic Connections. The article details helpful methods (so many that I’m thinking a Part Two article is warranted??), but Tip 4, Be a Dot Connector, Not Just a Networker sticks out to me: “Be someone who connects individuals in their network who they think would be beneficial to set up. The act of dot connecting inherently makes others want to repay the favor, and they will use their connections to help you in kind.”   

This kind of networking supports more than just a cursory effort to connect with colleagues. It truly does set you up for a career transition. 

The percentage of jobs that are filled via networking ranges from 70-85%. No matter how you slice it, networking is the number one way – by a long way – to land your next opportunity.  I believe that if you want to find a new role, you absolutely must make networking a priority! 

Graduate Level

Online networking is easy – your level of engagement is a few typed words and clicks. Even though the 201 level isn’t tough, it does require a bit more effort and thought. But, how you do level up?

How about a networking event? Or a trade show? Working a room and networking in person is certainly on par with a graduate-level course!

So, how do you do this effectively?!? 

Be prepared. And then, after you do that, prepare some more. Then, after that, practice. And then practice again. Role play – with yourself if you can’t find a partner. Yes, it feels weird, but it works. No, you are not acting. You are preparing! Most people are not professional networkers – that falls squarely in the Sales function. But, definitely take a page out of their training book to learn how to effectively navigate a trade show or event. 

A good article detailing these kinds of tips is How to Network Effectively: 15 Tips You Can Start Using Today. Also, LinkedIn published an article just a couple of days ago for those less inclined to even want to network entitled Introvert’s Guide to Networking and Making Connections. 

A key highlight in the LI article is this: “Networking is a skill set, not an identity trait. Skills allow for growth, while traits are fixed.”  I couldn’t agree more! Networking is a learned skill! Yes, some people have a knack for it, but most of us need to invest time to get good at it. 

I liken this to interviewing. Most people are not professional interviewers – on either side of the desk. To be good at it, you need to prepare and practice. Spend time with a coach. Role play with others. Sound familiar? Same approach, different skill. Want to learn to play an instrument? Guess what – practice and play with others! It takes time and deliberate effort to be good at anything!   

Wrapping Up

Networking is not an option; it is a necessity!

Make the time to network. Connect with like-minded professionals. Invest in your career in a different way. 

Determine what level in the “Networking Course” you are, and make deliberate steps to level up. You never know when you may need it or when you can help and support a friend, colleague, or family member who is seeking a new opportunity! 

As your Thermoforming Talent Partner, we represent clients AND candidates! We’re here to help in any and every way possible! We provide hiring strategies, priority candidate searches, job searches, client & candidate introductions, interview tips, résumé facelifts, resignation strategies, and much much more. LET’S STRENGTHEN YOUR SEARCH!

No matter how you slice it, networking is THE number one way – by a long way – to land your next opportunity. Keith Brown, Owner/President, Siena Group

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    Many plastics businesses experienced flat or declining performance in 2023, but the outlook for 2024 is cautiously optimistic. This article addresses economic headwinds and impact, performance and market dynamics, and industry and commodity trends. via Plastics Today.
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    A ‘must read’ for those who are concerned about AI replacing manufacturing jobs. This article describes how one thermoformer solved their capital investment needs with innovation and collaboration. Results: capital investment significantly less, efficiency increased, late deliveries at near zero, and employee engagement elevated! via TheRobotReport.
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Senior Operations Leader: This strong 3-for-1 Operations Leader brings SME plastics manufacturing technical strengths, systems, and supply chain expertise, and multi-site leadership accountability. He’s willing to relocate: targeting the eastern seaboard and looking to be on or near the Atlantic.

Senior Director of Sales: This Senior Sales Leader brings significant expertise in plastics and capital equipment sales, with an emphasis on sustainability. He is readily able to make impacts in any area of thermoforming but is specifically seeking to shift upstream into recycling, working to leverage newer technologies to advance sustainability, all within the thermoforming world.

National Account Manager: This talented Sales Leader brings nearly 15 years of experience in custom thermoforming, splitting time in both heavy and thin gauge products. With contacts in equipment & product manufacturing and tooling, he can rapidly grow a business!

Director of Sales: This strong Sales Leader comes with nearly 20 years in thermoforming food packaging, bringing a very strong book of business with him! He’s skilled in leading, mentoring, and coaching a team, with strengths in driving top-line sales in key accounts.

Even More Thermoforming Talent! We work with so many talented people in many different functions – all in thermoforming. Whether it’s an Operations Leader, Plant Manager, Supply Chain Leader, HR Leader, specialized Engineer, Quality Leader, Sales Leader, or pretty much any thermoforming role, we are here to help. If you have a need, please do not hesitate to just reach out! 

Click for more All-Stars.

At Siena Group, we are your Thermoforming Talent Partner. With more than 30 years of experience in manufacturing, hiring & recruiting talent, we bring a greater understanding of the companies we partner with and the candidates we pursue.
Let’s Strengthen Your Search!

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