Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know?” The saying is true. Ask any senior executive, politician or community leader which single skill or habit helped them excel in their career. An overwhelming majority will respond with one word: Networking.
Developing relationships with a network of other people provides you with professional and personal opportunities—and connects you to people who need what you have to offer. The process of networking for students is centered around making connections during your college years in order to jump start your career and find opportunities for development through professionals linked to your network.
What is Networking?
Networking is all about making personal connections; creating long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with individuals in a web of interconnected people. Your network might include friends, professors or students in your classes, co-workers or professional mentors. You can network anywhere, anytime—in your personal or professional life, on the ski slopes or golf course, at school or cocktail parties. Your network will provide references for you, and points of reference for you as you grow, learn and develop your career.
Networking might be initially daunting, but you will find compatible personalities in your networking whether you are shy or outgoing. Consider a few good reasons for networking:
- Personal relationships enable you/your organization to stand out, rise above the noise and remain at the forefront of others’ minds
- Relationships are a catalyst for success
- People do business with (or hire) those they like and trust
- If you offer others your experience, knowledge and connections, you can help them succeed
- Networking is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization
- Networking will undoubtedly provide you with opportunities to learn, share and grow
- Networking could quite possibly open the door to your next career move
- Networking goes hand in hand with recruiting. When it’s time to find a job, your network can help you find opportunities you’re well-suited to
- Networking with accounting societies provides many opportunities for recruiting, including the opportunity to intern during your college years.
- Every year companies send their top recruiters to colleges to start identifying future employees to court for positions within their company. If you have built strong connections, odds will be good that a member of your network (who is connected to the recruiter’s network) will speak up for you when recruiters ask for recommendations.
Networking: A True Story
A senior-level accountant lost his position during a corporate restructuring and did not want to relocate. He received company-paid outplacement counseling and spent the next few months following the standard process of researching opportunities, making calls, scheduling interviews, tracking listings on online job boards, and sending resumes to employers. This process led to a few new leads every week, but none that were such a perfect match that his interviews brought job offers.
On his way home one Friday afternoon (after another unsuccessful interview) the accountant pulled into his local gas station. The station owner struck up a conversation with the accountant and asked, “How are things going?” Instead of giving a thoughtless reply like, “I’m fine”, the accountant answered honestly. He explained that he had lost his job a few months before and was not having any luck finding a new position close enough to home. The station owner asked what he did, and when the owner learned that this customer was an accountant said, “My sister was telling me last weekend that her company is having a hard time finding a new accountant, and she’s just a few miles from here.”
The accountant had a job interview a few days later. An offer followed within a week. He accepted.
Where Can I Go to Network?
Many professional associations offer networking events, which connect you with a circle of contacts in a particular field or area of interest.
- You can get information on local networking events from various industry organizations. The accounting organizations below provide networking forums:
- Look into student accounting societies such as Beta Alpha Psi
- Talk to your professors; they can help you make connections with people in varying circles of influence
- Try a student membership for the Colorado Society of CPA’s: cocpa.org. They can connect you with a mentor that can help you chart your career path and recommend networking opportunities
Tips for Networking Events
When you attend networking events, you are opening the door to making many acquaintances that could grow to become part of your network. It can be a little intimidating to attend social events focused on making personal connections, but you can set yourself up for success by considering the ideas below:
- The purpose of a networking event is solely to meet potential business contacts and to have them meet you. Go in with an open mindset and be willing to share yourself in a professional, authentic way.
- Hold your drink in your left hand, because the right hand is the one you will be using to shake hands. A cold and clammy hand does not make a good impression!
- Put your name tag on your right shoulder. This way, while you are shaking hands, your contact can focus on your name.
- Do not be afraid to mingle, introduce yourself to strangers and shake hands. That is how people strike up new connections!
- Searching for conversation ideas?
- Offer to introduce people, and share a few details about each person during the introduction: “Edgar, this is Mary. Mary is an auditor at Company X and a chess champion. Mary, this is Edgar. Edgar is a CFO at Company Y and a great golfer.”
- Share your opinions about a great book you have just read or movie you have seen.
- Ask people to tell you about themselves. Many people like to have an open invitation to choose what they will tell you about their life and experience. They may give you an answer to a question you did not think of asking!
- Remember to have fun! Networking isn’t just about finding a job, promoting your company or keeping your name “out there.” At the core, it’s really about making personal connections.
- Don’t forget to stay connected! In a world of text messaging and e-mails it’s easier than ever for people to stay in touch. Distance breaks networks down, so be sure to reach out to your contacts frequently to let them know you are there.
Networking is an important skill in every stage of your career. You can benefit from connections made through your network, and you can help others by making connections for them. Next time you’re looking for new opportunity, put your (or our!) network to work!
Do you want help learning the art of networking? We offer candidate coaching!
Call us! We’re here to help!