The Young Professional's Guide to Networking

7/9/2019 - By Stacie Everhart

"It’s not about what you know, but who you know."

We have all heard this saying before, and while technical skills in any job are extremely important, networking is a large part of making businesses go ‘round. As an undergrad involved in Beta Alpha Psi, I was able to meet many professionals and made some lasting connections. When I started to look for a job, one of those connections referred me to Saltmarsh and got me in front of the audit shareholder. Since the interviewer already knew about my involvements with different organizations and little about my background, the interview was leaned more towards getting to know me than asking me the typical interview questions, which ultimately led to me landing my first accounting job as an audit associate.

Here are some tips and tricks that will sharpen your skills and turn you into the networking professional you were born to be:

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Like anything, networking is a skill that needs to be polished and refined. Start by seeking out local events tailored to your profession or community groups with like-minded professionals. These groups could include alumni and government associations, industry-related organizations, and young professionals’ groups.

BE A PREPARED PROFESSIONAL

One of the key benefits of networking is the opportunity to build and promote your personal brand. Stocking up on business cards and preparing your elevator pitch is always a great idea but visualizing your purpose will prepare you for any networking event. Are you looking for a job? Are you looking for a referral source or a client? Are you there to say "Hello," to the professionals you already have in your network? Having a plan in mind will keep you on track to accomplish your goal. It also helps to have a few stock questions in your pocket that you can use to move the conversation forward. Remember to always remain professional through your words, actions, and appearance.

SOCIAL BUTTERFLY

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Networking events can be awkward and uncomfortable sometimes, even for the most seasoned of networkers. Make sure to mingle with professionals you know and do not know. Once the conversation starts to slow down you could ask, "Do you have anyone here you think I should meet?" Circling the room or event more than once is always advised!

BE GENUINE

Networking is about building authentic relationships. To ensure the greatest value, get to know those you meet and understand what their purpose is. Creating value for the individuals you encounter is vital in building and growing a strong network. Developing your professional contacts into genuine relationships by maintaining a quid-pro-quo balance should eliminate the pressure of "selling". Asking, "Is there anything I can help with," often opens conversations and lead to furthering your connections.

THE ART OF THE FOLLOW-UP

One of the best ways to make a lasting impression with someone is ongoing communication and follow-up. It is always a good idea to send a follow-up within 48 hours of meeting a new professional contact. Connect with them online! Social platforms like LinkedIn can help you manage your professional network while showcasing your professional brand, influence, and expertise. Additionally, follow up with key contacts at least once a quarter to stay in the loop with what is going on in your network. This will allow you to recognize the value-adding activities you can provide. Using different outreach methods like handwritten notes, email, phone calls, or inviting them for coffee, can add depths to the genuine connections in your vastly growing network and building lasting relationships.

Your network will start to grow organically if you start developing this skill now, and will be ready and available for you when you need them. Connect with me to start building your network!

About the Author | Stacie Everhart
Stacie is a staff auditor in the Audit & Assurance Services Department of Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund. Her areas of expertise include providing audit and assurance services for a variety of clients. Before joining Saltmarsh, Stacie worked in accounting for local firms in the Tampa, Florida area.


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