The importance of networking is no secret to any accounting and finance professional – particularly those who have already made their way up the ladder. But brushing up on networking skills is never a bad idea, even for experienced finance managers and chief financial officers.
Here are seven tips to help expand your network and make the most out of your connections.
1. Ask for help.
According to a Robert Half survey, senior managers feel not asking for help is the biggest networking mistake. Whether it’s looking to a fellow CFO for advice during an acquisition or checking in with a staff accountant about a report, don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals at all levels.
2. Show your appreciation.
It’s a simple courtesy learned during childhood, yet for some professionals the lesson fades over the years: When someone provides assistance, say “thank you.”
Also do what you can to return the favor at the next opportunity. CFOs who use their social media platforms to call attention to their contacts’ successes, for example, or find another way to help them build a solid network based on mutual trust and respect.
3. Offer to help without being asked.
Chances are, a senior-level finance professional took the time to help you while you worked to rise through the ranks. Keep an eye out for up-and-comers, and don’t wait for them to ask for assistance. Do what you can to give them a leg up, and you’ll find yourself with a solid network you can rely on when it’s your turn.
4. Keep in touch.
Years might pass before you need help from a contact, or vice versa. As executives get busier, they often feel they don't have as much time for keeping in touch as they used to.
However, the longer you go without speaking to a contact, the weaker the connection. Share relevant job openings, pass along industry-related articles or just take a minute for a quick “how are you?” if it’s been a while.
5. Balance online and in-person outreach.
Online is where CFOs in a Robert Half Management Resources survey said they like to network most, but one in four still preferred in-person events. Whichever you favor, a healthy mix of both is important.
“Face-to-face meetings can build rapport in a way that electronic communication cannot,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. “Most people still want some personal familiarity before doing business with someone or making a referral.”
6. Volunteer your time.
Whether it’s taking on a leadership post with a local professional association chapter, moderating a panel at a national conference or mentoring an ambitious tax accountant, accounting and finance executives are in high demand for their expertise. Senior-level employees who give back to their field and community by sharing their time and expertise heighten their visibility and make valuable contacts.
7. Keep learning.
For all CFOs, no matter how experienced, there’s always something new to learn. Pursue continuing education courses, attend workshops and participate in webinars. You’ll sharpen your skills and find yourself learning from your peers.
What networking advice have you found most valuable for financial executives? Share your thoughts in the comments below.