The FIFO Workers Guide to Networking and Personal Branding
Being a professional FIFO worker means you are often ‘off the grid’. This regular isolation from your peers makes it difficult to attend networking events and nurture your personal brand.
In my first few weeks of starting work at Engenium my Managing Director and I would walk through the streets of Perth attending various functions and meetings.
What struck me immediately were the amount of people from his network who we would see simply walking through Perth’s CBD. We would stop and have 2-3 minute chats with 3-4 different people, shake hands and importantly make arrangements to catch up.
The experience of walking the streets in those first few weeks taught me that building and nurturing relationships is key, not only from a business perspective but also for your own personal branding.
A relationship with the right person can become very lucrative in the future if you just take the time to look after it.
Being a FIFO worker does make this harder.
Even though you are often ‘off the grid’ you still have the use of a mobile phone, as well as regular time off to attend functions.
Following are some tips for FIFO workers looking to be more effective at networking and personal branding when time is limited.
Why Should FIFO Workers Network?
A recent survey by LinkedIn revealed 85% of today’s jobs are found through networking. This is significant and pretty compelling evidence demonstrating that networking is vital as an individual for career development.
I speak from first-hand experience when I say it really does work. It’s how I found my current role at Engenium.
Prior to this I had networked poorly.
The WA mining boom had negated the need to network as jobs and projects utilised almost all of the available professional engineering resources into high paid long-term jobs.
Come the end of the boom redundancies and contract terminations saw many people out of work for lengthy periods. Many not knowing where to turn to next.
How many of you contacted friends and former colleagues looking for work? And, like me, how many of you had those awkward conversations with former friends and colleagues you hadn’t spoken with for many years?
The message you were portraying to them is ‘You are only important to me when I need a job’. Not an authentic starting point when making contact.
The relevant point here is obvious but the not so relevant point is for those in FIFO roles.
How long are you going to do a FIFO role? Until retirement?
At some point in the future most of you will likely return to the city from whence you came. This is where past efforts in networking and personal brand development will be vital.
A solid network of friends, colleagues, former colleagues and peers will help you to find that all important next role.
A high profile personal brand will assist in portraying you as someone that companies want to have on board.
We all know the saying ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ and this cannot be more true when it comes to looking for that next lucrative job role.
Five Ways to Nurture Your Network
There are many reasons to network.
Networking will help you keep in touch with what is happening in your industry and also within the internal walls of the business you work for.
Your company’s head office is likely located in one of the major cities and head offices are where promotions are predominantly appointed. Being on site puts you ‘out of sight, out of mind’, so there’s a chance you could get overlooked for that next promotion if you are not at the forefront of the decision makers mind.
The list of reasons goes on and includes:
- Word-of-mouth recommendations from those who know you. This is critical when it comes to looking for work. Like I said above, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that gets your foot in the door.
- Assistance with finding reliable suppliers who can help you achieve your goals.
- Helping you to understand market opportunities, identify new projects in the industry and learn about new technologies.
- Improving your communication skills.
- Making new friends which is important for your mental wellbeing.
- Raising your profile for personal branding purposes.
A Google search will provide thousands of articles with hundreds of good reasons why you should network. For most of us finding our next career opportunity will always be the main driver.
But back to our FIFO worker.
Working off the grid, doing 12 hour days, is likely to negatively impact your network and your ability to build a network.
How do you build your network and maintain relationships whilst balancing family time and domestic duties?
Well, it’s easy when you know how. Like most things it takes practice.
Below are five tried and tested ways to help you build your professional network as a FIFO worker.
1. Regularly Visit Your Company’s Head Office
During your off-roster set aside a couple of hours to pop into your head office and have some short informal chats with key staff members. Be friendly, maybe even discuss some work issues if it’s appropriate. You can easily combine this with a few after work drinks with your head office colleagues or other friends.
I have worked with many FIFO workers who have never met their head office colleagues. Except at the annual Christmas party. So get down there and meet some of the head office movers and shakers.
If you don’t know anyone from head office, just head into your HR department and catch up with your original recruiter. Maybe ask them to introduce you to a few people around the office so you can spark up a conversation and build a rapport. Put a face to a name. This will help make those Christmas parties a little less awkward for you.
2. Attend Industry Events and Functions
Arrange to attend one or two industry or alumni functions each time you are on your off-roster.
If you are in mining and can’t find a mining event, you’re doing it wrong. A quick Google search should bring back lots of results in your local city.
There should be a mining club, or an industry body which hosts regular events.
When attending these events make sure you hand out some business cards and engage in genuine conversations with people. Find out what they do, who they work for and how you can help them. This is a great conversation starter if you are stuck for what to say.
You should find once a dialogue is opened (and the drinks are flowing) maintaining a conversation is easy.
Just remember, alcohol can make us lose our inhibitions. Make sure you remain professional at all times. You don’t want people remembering you for the wrong reason!
3. Keep In Touch With Friends and Colleagues
Catch up with old friends, even if it’s just a phone call. This can be done while you are at work, providing you have a signal and aren’t completely isolated from the world.
It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, just a quick 5 minute chat to maintain that connection. Remember, out of sight out of mind, so keep that relationship going.
4. Utilise the Internet and Social Media (LinkedIn)
As a FIFO worker, your real tool is the good old ‘world wide web’.
Subscribe to online industry news and scan the news for people who you know. When you see someone, send them an email commenting about the article.
Join some chat groups. Many companies have internal chat groups that allow you to remain connected. Or join a group on LinkedIn.
Send a link to an interesting article to someone you think might benefit from it. If you think it might add value don’t be shy in forwarding it on to them. In turn, they may do the same for you.
All of this can be done with the use of a LinkedIn profile.
If you haven’t already, make sure you spend some time getting your profile up to date and with a clear professional photo uploaded.
Using LinkedIn properly takes some getting used to. For more help and advice check out How to Network on LinkedIn as a starting point.
One of the main goals of networking is to find out how you can help others.
Rolling into functions and handing out business cards like a robot (without taking time to find out about the people you are talking to) is unauthentic and impersonal.
The key to successful networking is authenticity. This is how you build long lasting relationships where both parties get value.
Getting to know people means you understand them and what they do. Once you understand them you can work out the best way to help them and in turn they will help you.
The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive. They go beyond thinking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ and ask ‘How can I help?’
Good Networking = Strong Personal Branding
You’ve may have heard the phrase, ‘You put garbage in and you’ll get garbage out’. This can be applied to networking.
The point of networking is to build your personal brand. If it’s not done professionally the outcome of your poor networking will be poor personal branding. In other words garbage.
Your personal brand is what people see when they look at you. Are you a person they can trust? Are you wise? Are you knowledgeable? Are you an expert? Do they even know who you are?
Aligning a high profile personal brand with networking can give your career a massive boost.
Developing a strong personal brand can lead to better career opportunities, industry recognition and a strong foundation for your career development.
It will also convey your personal values, goals and passions, skills and niche differentiators, and pretty much tells the world how awesome you are!
So grab any opportunity by the horns, get out there and face the world. You’ll be reaping the rewards in no time. You’ve got this!
Contributor: Paul Young
Project Manager, Engenium Pty Ltd
Brownfields Sustaining Capital and Enhancement Services
Engenium provide full-service project delivery capabilities for Brownfields Sustaining and Enhancement projects. If you are looking to increase production, reduce operating costs or extend production please contact us for more information and a free consultation. We have a team of highly qualified engineers in Perth, Karratha and Newcastle waiting to assist you.