How to use networking to help you get back into a flexible role

AB magazine

Meet our panel

  • Shakil Butt: an ex-accountant, multi-award-winning HR executive and writer
  • Helen Morgan: a financial director from the technology and financial services sector
  • Zoe Whitman: founder of award-winning bookkeeping start-up, But the Books

If you’re looking for flexible work in the accountancy industry, there are jobs out there that can fit your needs. You just have to find them. But how?

The fact is that many employers, especially smaller companies, prefer not to advertise their jobs. It’s expensive and time-consuming – and who really wants to sort through hundreds of CVs?

This is why many jobs are filled by people who contact the employer directly. It’s good for you as a candidate too as you’ll cut out the competition before the position is even available. Add a personal recommendation to the mix, and you’ll further increase your chance of receiving a job offer.

This is really important, especially when you’re looking for part-time or flexible work. These roles are in shorter supply than full-time, and employers are more likely to consider a flexible arrangement with you if they avoid advertising costs and you come recommended.

So we talked to our panel of accountancy professionals to find out their insights into finding the flexible role that’s right for you. Essentially, it’s all about networking…

Get networking – it’s easier than you think

Don’t be put off. It might sound complicated, but networking is really just a simple and effective tool for making the most of potential opportunities. In fact, you probably already work your network every day without knowing it. Basically, it means getting in touch with people, like when you ask someone if they know a good plumber.

Start to spread the word

Get into the habit of talking to people about the flexible role you’re looking for and what you can offer. Be clear about what you want and ask them to let you know if they hear of anything.

As Shakil Butt, an ex-accountant, HR executive and writer, puts it, “Be honest and say you’re on a career break. Be specific. For example, say you’re looking for a flexible role, you want to get back into work in six months from now and you’re looking for opportunities.”

Grow your network

Start with your friends and familiar contacts, to get comfortable with how to get the conversation started. Then create a potential contact list of:

  • Colleagues from previous jobs (find them again, on LinkedIn or Facebook)
  • People you meet every day (at a book club, the gym, through your children’s school) – you’ll be surprised who they might know
  • Friends of friends, when you know second-hand of people in the right job sector
  • In time, you can find new contacts, for example by joining and contributing to professional groups on LinkedIn.

Zoe Whitman, founder of award-winning start-up, But the Books, recommends adding recruitment consultants to your network. “They can introduce you to people at organisations you’re interested in working for and give you an insight into their attitude to flexible working. You’ll soon find out if it’s worth approaching that company.”

Join networking forums or local groups

Helen Morgan, a financial director from the technology and financial services sector, recommends you just give it a try. “The thing about networking is that everyone’s aiming to support each other, you’re all there for a common purpose. Go in with a positive attitude and a smile on your face, talk about what you’re interested in, and you’ll find there’s normally someone who says, ‘I know!’”

Finally – go for it!

Shakil recommends thinking about what you have to offer. “As accountants, we’re one of the pillars of organisations, so we don’t always have to be visible and forthcoming about our strengths. But now it’s time to think about you and what makes you special – what you can bring to the table. Do this and you should get on the radar of the right people.”

Tips to make networking events work for you

  • Look out for people you click with – they’re more likely to make an effort for you.
  • Try going by yourself – it’s easier when you haven’t got someone else to think about.
  • Make space for people you really need to connect with, for example, those who are close to an employer you want to work for.
  • Keep your key contacts in touch with your progress. Have a note in your diary to keep in touch and remind them of your existence (but don’t overdo it).
  • Networking is a two-way street – always thank people and try to return the favour.
  • Persevere! It takes time, but sooner or later you’ll be surprised by a call or email to let you know of an opportunity.

Networking groups and tools our panel find useful

  • ACCA – find out about your regional ACCA network group
  • Eventwise – see what’s happening all over the world
  • Tiwtter – use #accachat to find out what’s happening in your area
  • LinkedIn – join your regional ACCA group and build your own network
  • CISI Young Professionals Network – again, this is split into regional groups
  • Local business and breakfast clubs


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