Ask a Recruiter: How to Achieve a Networking Breakthrough

Networking Breakthrough

Here is a Q&A for our “Ask a Recruiter” writer, Kathy Downs, a vice president at Robert Half Finance & Accounting.

Q: Is it normal to feel like a fish out of water at a networking event? Do you have any tips to help me use networking to advance my finance career? 

A: Yes, for most people, networking nudges them out of their comfort zone, and that’s not a bad thing.

When you attend a networking event where you already know a few people, it can be easy to talk just with your acquaintances. But by neglecting to mingle and push yourself out there, you may miss out on meeting key industry players.

Don't be afraid to join a conversation if you feel that you have something valuable to contribute. You can politely interject, introduce yourself and tell the rest of the group that you have something to add. It could be the perfect opportunity for you to wow someone important.

Kathy DownsWe’ve covered a lot of the basics of networking for finance and accounting professionals in our Networking Now series. It all comes down to confidence, preparation and getting yourself out there.

Here are three more tips to help you round out your introduction for successful networking.

1. Keep your information current.

The last thing you want to do when you're face-to-face with a professional who can help advance your career is make a note on your business card before handing it over. Make sure your cards are updated with your current title and that your social media accounts are up to date. It's important that your email signature reflects your current status and title, especially considering that 50 percent of CFOs responding to a recent Robert Half survey said they prefer to use email to stay in touch with professional colleagues. The second preferred method is networking at events and conferences.

2. Put your best foot forward.

When attending a networking or industry event, you should do some research ahead of time to determine what key players will be in attendance and what you want to ask them. Think of this event as an informational interview, and prepare to ask (and answer) open-ended questions, like, "How did you get started in your career?" and "What do you wish you knew before starting your career?" Also, be sure to wear appropriate professional attire. Just because there are cocktails involved doesn't mean that you should loosen your tie — literally or figuratively. 

3. Stay in touch.

After you've made direct contact with someone, send a follow-up email to say thanks for taking the time to meet with you. It's also helpful to keep a networking log. Make a spreadsheet where you can track who you met, where they work and what you discussed. And don’t forget to take advantage of social networking opportunities and to make a connection on LinkedIn.  

Yes, push yourself beyond that proverbial comfort zone. If nothing else, you'll walk away with a few more business cards in your pocket and a feeling that you've taken the right steps to make new contacts in the finance and accounting field.

Kathy DownsKathleen Downs, a vice president with Robert Half Finance & Accounting, started with the company in 2000. Before that, she was CEO of a recreation/retail/education organization in Bonn, Germany. Kathleen is actively involved with a number of professional organizations within the finance and accounting field and sits on several not-for-profit boards.

To read more of her columns, go to Ask a Recruiter on this blog, and ask her a question in the comment space below.


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