5 Tips for Networking Newbies
Networking: a 10-letter word that many accountants don’t necessarily learn the value of until later in their career. The catch here? Networking starts early on in one’s career, similar to planting a seed, watering that seed and watching it flourish into a beautiful plant. Making the decision to start networking can feel a little overwhelming — the hardest part is first planting the seed. The rest is easy!
How you prepare for your meetings and conversations can be equally as important as your delivery. Confucius hit the nail on the head when he said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” With that being said, let’s start planting that seed. Here are some tips:
- Practice makes perfect. Grab a colleague to practice your networking skills. Take note of your voice inflections, the volume and the pace. Do you tend to speak in a monotone voice? Does your voice fade when a sentence is ending? Do you find yourself using excessive filler words? It’s also very important to make sure your non-verbal communication agrees with the verbal elements and vice-versa. Try standing in front of a mirror and practicing your eye contact, gestures and posture; you might catch yourself unknowingly using excessive hand gestures or even slouching.
- Do your research. Know your audience, as well as the time and location of the event. If an attendee list is made available in advance of the event, review it and identify people you want to seek out (keeping in mind quality over quantity). If you are an introvert, try arriving early for a chance to engage in more one-on-one conversations with a few attendees before things get hectic. Another tip for my fellow introverts — use the buddy system and attend the event with a colleague. In addition to knowing the audience, time and place of the event, you should make sure you know what to wear — you don’t want to be that person who arrives late and underdressed.
- First impressions set the stage, and you only have a few moments to capture someone’s attention — so make sure it’s a good one! Who you are, what services you can offer and what you’re seeking are typically the three bases you’ll want to cover in less than 30 seconds. Depending on the setting or situation, this “pitch” can be modified, however it’s always very important to communicate these items upfront.
- Don’t forget your business cards. Keep a safety stash in your car or add a few extra to your wallet to ensure you don’t show up to the event empty-handed. Exchanging business cards at networking events can often be extensive. In order to keep things straight after a business card exchange, put a trigger word on the back of the card so later you will have something to remind you of your conversation with them. If by chance you neglect to bring business cards, have no fear! We are fortunate to live in a world where social media websites, such as LinkedIn, are very common.
- Follow up. Last but not least, make sure you follow up after the event. Reach out to your new contacts via email or connect on LinkedIn within a couple of days. When you reach out, be sure to personalize your message and include something specific that was mentioned during your interaction — this is where the trigger word on the back of the business card can really be helpful! Continue to stay in touch with your contact whether it is over email exchanges, a coffee or at future events. Make sure you water that seed, and watch it flourish.
This article appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.