Spread Your Tentacles: How to Network Like a Pro

Ever wonder how those über-connected, first-name-basis-with-everybody, got-the-governor-on-speed-dial kind of people got that way? One introduction at a time. Here’s how to do it yourself.

The following content originally appeared onThisWayToCPA.com. It is reprinted with permission of the American Institute of CPAs. Accountemps is an alliance partner of the AICPA. Learn more about our partnership and member discount program.

Make it a priority. Even on a crowded campus – or in a city for that matter – it still takes a little effort to get to know people. But it’s worth the trouble; after all, isn’t every one of your friends a former total stranger? Besides, the stats say about 80 percent of all jobs are never listed or advertised. They get filled because somebody knows somebody. One of those somebodies could be you.

Make a list. Just starting to piece together your web of acquaintances? It’s probably already more expansive than you realize. Here’s a list of potential contacts for brainstorming. As you jot down names and fill in the blanks, remember also that these folks will know other folks, who can refer you to other folks, any of whom may be involved in the profession.

  • Family: Dad, mom, stepdad, stepmom, sister, brother, stepsister, stepbrother, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparents, nieces and nephews, relatives of your significant other
  • Friends, significant other, significant other’s friends
  • Roommates/classmates in high school/college
  • Coaches, teachers, professors
  • Fellow athletes
  • Fraternity/sorority members
  • People you work for/people your friends work for/people you used to work for, if they still like you
  • Neighbors/community members
  • Church/synagogue/temple members
  • Political party affiliations
  • People you volunteer with
  • Members of social organizations you’re involved in
  • Members of professional associations
  • Your accountant/lawyer/banker/insurance agent/stockbroker
  • Your dentist/optometrist
  • Your hairstylist/mechanic (not the same person, we hope)
  • People who work in personnel, placement, search agencies

Keep track. Trying to get a recommendation from “this one guy I met” is rarely effective. When you get to know someone who may want to help you out in your career – or who you might want to help; it goes both ways – get that person’s contact info in your phone (remember to include the email address), on your computer, or (and only as a last resort) scribbled on the nearest napkin. (It’s better than nothing. And as soon as you can, store it with all the others.)

Be on the lookout. Sure, you hobnob with peers and potential contacts at job fairs, conferences and tradeshows, but you could also very well bump into your future boss or coworker at a concert. Or the coffee shop. Or the snowcone stand. The better you are at striking up a conversation, the more opportunities you’ll get to make these connections. And once you do make that connection, it’ll help to have your “elevator speech” ready. That’s the 20-word synopsis of what you’re all about, professionally.

What's your best advice on how to network? Please share it in the comments section below.