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Networking for future success

Oct 12, 2018
By Marion Kane

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” was one of the earliest pieces of career advice I received as a studious and shy teenager. At the time, this advice was most unwelcome. However, if ever there was a time to heed this advice, it’s now. 

Given the digital evolution, we don’t know what the accounting profession will look like in five, ten or twenty years. Current roles may become automated, while brand new roles may be created.  For that reason alone, it’s vital that we build up our professional networks. 

Our next move may be informed, or at the very least, influenced by what our peers, mentors and more experienced individuals are doing. If we decide to forge our own path, our network becomes all the more valuable. In the absence of a manager, our network will be who we use to bounce ideas off or provide a fresh perspective on issues as they arise. 

The beauty of networking is that you can learn something from everyone you meet. It might be an anecdote or a flyaway comment which gives you food for thought, or even something you notice that you’d like to avoid. The traits of the people we surround ourselves with rub off on us. In this day and age, this applies to both the people we spend time with digitally as well as physically. 

We can build a network of people who inspire us, who motivate us and who challenge us to build the careers we desire. 

Choose your network

It’s vitally important to realise that meeting such people is not luck or by chance.  It is a choice. While we don’t have absolute control over with whom we spend our working days, we certainly choose who we allow into our professional circle. Be aware of who is moving within your circles and how they can help or hinder your development.

Open your mind

We are fortunate to be members of an institute that supports and encourages networking, but it’s imperative to realise that every person you meet has the potential to be a valuable connection – networking need not be as contrived as the term may suggest.

Invest in other people

Truly valuable connections run deeper than the mere exchange of business cards. Really take the time to get to know a person. That’s how you build rapport, trust and a worthwhile relationship.

Be authentic

Authenticity increases confidence when getting to know new people, so invest time ascertaining how you’d like to present yourself, your own style of getting to know other people and your preferred follow-up approach with a new connection. It might be the exchange of business cards or phone numbers or a connection on social media, possibly followed up with a personal message. 

Practice

This may seem awkward in the beginning, but it’s guaranteed to get easier with practice. Know your motivation for building up your professional network. Never forget that if you’ve been invited, then your place is deserved. Despite appearances, other people in attendance may very well feel equally as apprehensive, so keep your good side out, dress up and show up. 

The important thing is that we keep growing and we keep learning. The best way of learning is listening, so make it your mission to listen to as many people as you can. 

Marion Kane is the founder of She Means Business.