The dos and don'ts of networking
Meeting people through events is one of the most constructive forms of networking if done effectively.
There are now more events specifically aimed at finance professionals than ever before, so you need to pick and choose carefully as there is quite simply not enough time to attend them all.
As an example, recruiter Hays holds over 40 free events every year, which bring together local employers and employees. Some of these events cover a specific industry trend, while others tend to be more focused towards particular niche groups.
But no matter which company is organising an event, the first consideration for trainees is to take the time to find out if it will offer you what you are looking for.
Karen Young, director at Hays Accountancy & Finance, says: ‘Whether you are networking at local or industry events, with 20 people or 200, being prepared will help you get the most out of the event. Think about what your aims are – for example, finding a mentor, an internship or a graduate job.’
Before going along to an event, make sure you have a decent supply of business cards with you to hand out when suitable. Also, remember to use a firm handshake coupled with good eye contact.
Whenever possible, always try to get to events early. It is easier to enter an almost empty room rather than when it is full of conversation. By doing this, you also almost turn into a greeter and get to meet the first group of people one-to-one.
While networking at an event, be sure to remain professional but approachable, as you will be in the company of your peers or potential managers.
You don’t necessarily have to be an extrovert to be effective at networking, but it is important to pay attention to others, pick who you talk to and use every opportunity to learn and absorb information.
Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how, as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows potential contacts that you are interested in them.
On the move
Staying in the company of one person for the whole event isn’t an ideal scenario.
Ensure you work the room so that you can network effectively to make the most of any potential opportunities or leads.
Young adds: ‘Researching recent industry news will help you to make initial conversation easier. Don’t just stick to small talk – remember to ask professional questions and find out about their career.
‘My biggest tip is to look for someone who is stood on their own and start by talking to them, look open and friendly as you approach, and ask if it is OK to join them. You may actually then find that others ask to join you!’
Making contact at an event is only the beginning, however. Maintaining that contact is essential, otherwise your efforts will come to nothing.
After you have made initial contact at an event, following up to develop a strong network of contacts requires time and effort.
Even making a quick phone call or sending a simple email shows people that you have not only remembered them, but that you are also interested in keeping in touch.
Sending personalised requests on social media such as LinkedIn also enables you to follow up after an event.
Common networking mistakes
- Interrupting a conversation – if two people are talking facing each other, it tends to show that it is a closed conversation
- Drinking too much – you don’t want to be remembered for all the wrong reasons
- Wasting the opportunity – if a conversation isn’t working for you, excuse yourself and move on
Did you know...?
Displaying effective networking skills could help you towards achieving performance objective 2, Stakeholder Relationship Management
This article was first published in Student Accountant