January 20, 2019

The Accountant’s Definitive Guide to Networking

Happy Friday, GCers. With summer events in full swing and summer interns about to pop up in your office, I thought it’d be a good time to talk about networking. As always, share your war stories and successes in the comments below.

If You Are on Campus
Efficient networking while you are still in college can be a crucial factor in helping your resume rise through the stacks of anonymity and become a leading contender for a coveted summer spot. Making a positive impression on someone from the accounting firm – especially the campus recruiter – is very important. Remember, depending on the size of your school and its accounting department, a campus recruiter could be sorting through dozens, even hundreds of resumes. You need to make yourself memorable. By memorable, I don’t mean memorable in the “dancing on the bar at the partner/intern meet-and-greet” sorta way.

Go to several events. This is a numbers game for you. The more times you show your face, the greater the chance that someone remembers it. A good campus recruiter is keeping a tally of who comes to every event.

Be active at the events. Showing up on time, participating in the activities (however cheesy they may seem), and remembering anecdotes from previous events will go along way. Make it a priority to speak to both the campus recruiters and the professionals, but don’t shove your agenda down everyone’s throat. Which leads to my next point…

Don’t shove your agenda down their throat. We get it – you want an internship at a Big4. That’s why spending your Thursday night at a dry event while the rest of your friends take part in Flip Night at the local pub. If someone asks you why you’re interested in their firm, go right ahead and run down your laundry list of reasons. Otherwise, use the time at social events to get to know the people from the firm. Are they alums? When did they graduate? Did they have so-and-so for Intro to Corporate Accounting? Are they coming back for The Big Game? How’s life and work in Dallas? Learn about them and do your best to get their contact information (we’ll touch on that later).

If You Are in Public
There are plenty of opportunities to network while you’re grinding away in public. Making the most of every opportunity will pay off when its time for you to jump ship.

Internal Networking Networking within your firm should begin as soon as you start as a first year plebeian. Attend events; join an interest group in your office; get involved with campus recruiting. Proving that you’re not just a drone will make a positive impression of people. Getting to know a partner in a different practice who is also an alum of your university might open doors down the road. You don’t know when or if these kinds of events will pay off, but they’ll certainly position you better than if you all you do now is go to work and whine about it here in the GC comments.

External Networking Again, get out of the office and interact with life forms other than your three person engagement team. CPE classes, industry events, client functions, etc. You will learn very quickly that the industry you work in – even if you’re in a big city – is an intimate group. The degrees of separation (and lack thereof) might surprise you. Most people leave public accounting at some point in their careers, after all.

If You Have Left Public
With the onset of social media (looking at you, LinkedIn), most firms have increased their alumni networks in the past few years. Take advantage of these. Go back, see some friendly faces, and try your best not to rub it in their faces that you leave the office at 6p in March.

Regardless of Where You Are
Don’t be blunt about your networking efforts. No one loves to choke on a desperate business card that is shoved down their throat. Wait until the end of the conversation to exchange information. If you have a great conversation with someone but you separate before getting their information, don’t fret. Keep an eye on them at the event and grab their attention for 30 seconds before the group dismisses. Be brief: “Hey Jon, it was great chatting earlier at the event and I’d love to stay in touch about the XYZ thing we talked about. Mind if we exchange information?”

No business card? No problem. When was the last time you saw an actual Rolodex that wasn’t on Mad Men? If someone doesn’t have a business card with them, get their email address and add it to your smartphone’s contact list. Better yet, as the person if they are on LinkedIn and if they are ask if they mind if you connect with them. After the conversation but before you grab yourself another free glass of white wine (red wine will stain your teeth, dummy), send yourself an email with the person’s name, company, and a reminder to connect with them tomorrow. When you reach out to them on LinkedIn, take ten seconds to customize the message by referencing where you met and that you look forward to staying in touch. Keep it simple like an email.

Turn networking into a game. A bit on the shy side? Finding it too easy to stand in the corner with your tax buddies? Eff that. An event where you hang with your bro’s and talk about work is an event wasted. Set goals for the evening and don’t leave until you’ve accomplished them. For example – set out to get the contact information of two new people before you let loose on the open bar. See someone you know speaking with someone you don’t? Politely introduce yourself and get to know the new person. It’s sort of like turning your contacts into professional wingmen and wingwomen.

Networking is like fine wine (or single malt scotch). Much like a dusty barrel of your favorite Islay or pinot noir, networking takes time to develop and mature. The worst thing you can do is to wait until its too late. A great network is in place before you need it; but that’s just it – it’s there. Yes it takes time and yes it takes energy, but nothing is easy anymore. If you want to leave the hell of public accounting behind at some point, start working on it while you are still in the trenches. But it’s worth it.

Link in, damn it. Quick, what’s your best friend’s cell phone number? When is your cousin’s birthday? When your colleague bolted last December and left you high and dry for busy season, where did they go?
The point is, we live in a world where technology and social media is allowing us to “know” more people without having to remember more of the details. Every social network is different, but LinkedIn makes networking nearly dummy proof.

As the summer purge of talent gets underway, connect with your colleagues on LinkedIn as they jump ship. Sure, they might not update their profile for a few months for fear of HR coming down on them (it never happens people – you’re really not that important), but when they do you will know where they are and – more importantly – you won’t forget about them. See where they go; hell, it might be your dream company.

Bored at work today? Jump on LinkedIn and go through the portion of “People You May Know.” I guarantee you’ll see old classmates, old colleagues, maybe even your clients. Connecting with more people that you actually know will increase your circle on LinkedIn dramatically.

That’s it for me – it feels like a Summer Friday around the office already. Share your thoughts below if you’re not already off to an outdoor Happy Hour.

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