Networking 101 — A Bit of Work for Young Professionals but Worth It
by Kathleen Hoffelder, NJCPA Content Editor –
October 3, 2018
When landing that first job, young professionals have a myriad of concerns — whether they can do the job, if they are liked by clients and coworkers and how to make it to the next level. In the quest to make it to work on time, handle the workload and start studying for the CPA Exam, they do not always consider networking as a needed part of their routine. But those who do take the time to network at this early stage in their career will see a big payback.
Karen Koch Reilly, CPA, a manager at WithumSmith+Brown, recommends jumping right into networking — no matter what career stage a person is in. She explains, “Networking is a long-term investment, so I believe that the sooner you get started, the better. As you grow in your career, networking becomes more and more critical.”
And as one gets older, those connections can really help. “Bankers, payroll associates and other CPAs you meet now may not have any pull in their organization today, but they (like you!) are the future leaders and executives in their field. Creating those relationships is fairly low risk early on in your career, but it plants the seeds for your future while also expanding your social circle,” she says.
Jake Friedland, staff accountant at Wilkin & Guttenplan, P.C., says that young professionals need to remember that networking is more of a two-way street than just making a name for oneself. To him, networking works best when it’s viewed as “building a friendship and possibly even a partnership instead of wondering what an individual in the profession could do for you.”
Viewing networking as less of a chore is a gradual perspective, but having the right mindset early on will help, he says. “As you grow in your professional career, it becomes much easier and you truly start to build friendships with many of your networking connections. Eventually, these events will be fun outings with peers rather than calendar events that fill you with dread and anxiety.”
Shirley Claude, director of market development at Surgent CPA Review, agrees. “Networking should be reciprocal, so young professionals need to seek out ways that they can help the other person reach their goals or be successful.”
However, some early career professionals may not fully understand why they need to network at all. As Claude points out, “successful accountants must have people skills to earn clients, keep clients and work with various personalities throughout their career. If they can showcase how approachable yet professional they are, this is one more way that they can earn referrals or be recommended for job opportunities.”
But as Evan Gurman, tax accountant at Wilkin & Guttenplan, P.C., notes, networking comes a lot more naturally for some than others. “Networking can be the equivalent of being in your freshman seminar class and having to talk to people who you do not even know. Some people hate it while others thrive on it.” He reminds young professionals that learning how to speak to other professionals and build connections will benefit one’s future in many ways.
Networking also involves a lot more work than just attending a social event. “You need to follow up (religiously) after that first meeting for coffee, breakfast or lunch,” explains Anthony Mongeluzo, CEO and president of PCS. This allows one to “dive deeper” into the meeting so the person can better understand the accounting help that can be provided, for example. And opportunities can abound anywhere. “Even if the potential client doesn’t need your services or can’t afford them, they might refer you to someone who can,” he notes.
Sharon Bleibtreu, director of human resources at Sax LLP, explains that networking can have considerable benefits in the future even if those are not particularly obvious today. “Not much will be expected of young professionals just starting out, but we have seen time and time again that those who establish and nurture industry relationships with other young professionals early on in their careers reap the fruits of their labor down the road when those contacts fill decision-making roles.”
Jake S. Friedland
Jake Friedland is a staff accountant at Wilkin & Guttenplan, P.C., a CPA candidate, and a member of the NJCPA's Student Programs & Scholarships Committee.
Karen Koch Reilly
Karen Koch Reilly, CPA, is a manager at WithumSmith+Brown.