Expanding Your Professional Network. (Careers)
Messmer, Max, Strategic Finance
Most accountants recognize that networking is a valuable way to build professional knowledge, gain assistance during a job search, and generate new business. Yet many don't know how to get the most out of this process. Instead of expanding and maintaining their contacts on an ongoing basis, they pursue this activity only when needed. In the end, they greatly minimize the overall effectiveness of this important career strategy.
To be successful, networking must be a year-round priority. Your goal is to create long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial. This can't be achieved if you call your contacts only when you need their assistance or if you try to make new connections quickly when urgent situations arise. Professionals should make a sincere investment in nurturing their networks every week.
In addition to maintaining existing contacts, it's critical to devote time to meeting new associates. Develop a strategy for expanding your network, and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. For instance, you may decide to get to know people outside your local business community. You may consider attending national conferences for accounting and finance professionals or register for relevant management seminars.
Get out there
Professional associations, such as the Institute of Management Accountants, provide excellent opportunities to expand your circle of contacts. Most hold frequent meetings that include time to mingle and meet new people. Consider playing an active role in these groups by assuming a leadership position, joining a committee, or contributing newsletter articles. You'll showcase your expertise while forming new relationships.
Keep business cards on hand for whenever you have a networking opportunity. If you're searching for a job, create some that list your name, address, phone number, and specific area of expertise.
Refine your approach
Before attending a formal gathering, practice how you'll introduce yourself to others. To strike up a conversation with potential contacts, find out how they met the individual who introduced you or how they became involved in the group whose function you're attending. Avoid talking about business at inappropriate times, such as at a wedding or sports event where the other person may be focused on family and personal interests.
Think carefully before asking for someone's help. You'll have a better chance for success if your request isn't too complex or time consuming. Before meeting with someone, make sure you have a solid understanding of your primary goal and how the contact can support it. For example, if you're looking for a new controller position, how exactly might your connection provide assistance? Do you want an introduction to a key financial executive who's filling this role? Or do you just need advice on how to get your foot in the door with a particular company?
Show professional courtesy when working with those in your network. …