While the idea of networking might make you cringe, it’s a must-have skill for anybody who’s serious about their accounting and finance career. While it may seem awkward, your professional and personal contacts might hold the key to discovering new job opportunities.
Whether embarking on your career, building on it once you’ve gained some experience, or even setting off in an entirely new direction, don’t be shy. Some tips are no-brainers, such as establishing an online networking presence on sites like LinkedIn. Here are some less-obvious but equally useful professional networking tips:
- Be proactive. Any list of professional networking tips should start with friends, family members, neighbours and former classmates or colleagues. Let them know what you do and share what your professional goals are. They (or someone they know) may be in a position to help advance your career.
- Remember networking is two-way. Make it a point to get to know others in your profession, and listen to what they have to say. Focus on building a relationship, not “networking” solely for the purpose of getting a job. The relationships you build could help you later in your career or when you’re job hunting.
- Make it fun. This deviates a bit from the usual professional networking tips, but, quite often, the best type of networking can be done in a setting that doesn’t revolve around work. Instead, look for opportunities to connect with others with shared interests.
- Network at work. Large companies often have employee networking groups and clubs. Participating in activities organised by these groups can help you build your network. They can also be professionally rewarding.
- Gain a professional edge. Make the most of events and professional development courses hosted by CIMA. You’ll gain a lot from attending their workshops, seminars and conferences, and you’ll have an opportunity to not only improve your professional development, but also meet other accounting and finance professionals.
By keeping an open mind and following the tips above, you will be able to grow your professional network and advance your career. If you are still feeling timid about the idea of networking and concerned that you may get it wrong, here’s short list of common networking mistakes:
- Skipping the networking reception preceding a business function. Arrive early to mingle with other guests or the speaker before the program begins. Scan the sign-in sheet to see who's arrived, then seek the people you want to meet.
- Limiting your circle of contacts. Expand your network to include professionals at varying experience levels, not just your peers. Look outside your industry for potential contacts. You never know who might have the right connections.
- Having a hidden agenda. It’s common for people use their networks when job searching, but the best approach is to be up-front if you're looking for assistance, and be prepared with a 15-second sales pitch. Others will appreciate your candour and be better able to help you.
- Don’t become an annoyance. While it's important to communicate regularly with people in your network, avoid being overly aggressive and becoming a disruption.
- Lacking appreciation. Always let people know you value their help. A simple thank-you note or e-mail is appropriate.
Whatever you do, don’t give up! Learning how to network is an excellent skill to develop and even if those you meet aren't able to help you, maintaining your network and your positive attitude ultimately will lead to new opportunities.
Want more ideas on how to reach your career goals? Read the article ‘How to secure your dream job’.