Getting Connected: How to Network Like a Pro

How to Network Like a Pro

We continue our “Ask a Recruiter” series with Kathy Downs, a vice president at Robert Half Finance & Accounting. This week, Kathy discusses honing your skills for professional networking, beginning with a question about how to network.

Q: What advice would you give about leveraging networking to get ahead?

A: You’ve probably heard the old saying, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” In the world of finance and accounting, your technical skills undoubtedly help you climb the corporate ladder. But knowing how to network and putting those skills to work can put you a step ahead of the competition — and even open career doors. 

Some specific tips for networking in different arenas:

• The workplace

Many people overlook the value of networking in their own offices. But coworkers come and go, and you never know where they’ll end up. Stay on good terms with current colleagues by organizing a monthly lunch or happy hour, and keep it professional. Then, after you leave the company — or they do — keep in touch. Current or former colleagues may hold the keys to your future career success.

• At seminars and conferences

Of course, you'll need to have plenty of business cards on hand, because many organizations use networking events as an opportunity to scout for talent.

Kathy Downs


Learning how to network at seminars and conferences can be very beneficial. It brings you together with professionals you’d never meet otherwise. I suggest attending talks and lectures on subjects that pique your interest. Hang out afterward to mingle with speakers and other participants. Of course, you’ll need to have plenty of business cards on hand, because many organizations use networking events as an opportunity to scout for talent.

Discover how to make a strong case with your boss for attending professional conferences

• On social media and online

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn offer myriad ways to network online with colleagues, former classmates and professionals. You can join groups on some social media platforms and find online discussions to learn new methods for tackling financial challenges and approaching big data.

Find out about Robert Half's complimentary finance and accounting leadership development webinars, many of which qualify for continuing professional education (CPE) credit.

Q: How is joining a professional organization especially effective for networking?

A: Professional organizations give you a chance to share ideas with industry colleagues outside the office. They can promote career development in many ways, helping you step into leadership roles and learn new tricks of the trade. Membership also demonstrates your career dedication to current employers, which is never a bad thing.

Here are several finance and accounting-related professional networking groups that Robert Half works with on a variety of initiatives:

• American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

AICPA has been an advocate for certified public accountants (CPAs) for more than a century. Its various conferences, volunteer activities and task forces allow you to expand your networking. You’ll also have access to CPE credit opportunities offered to members, which focus on the latest issues CPAs face.

• American Payroll Association (APA)

APA offers members a wide range of benefits, including free e-books, webinars and career resources. In addition to its local chapters, the organization hosts national events. APA’s annual Congress lets members rub elbows with fellow payroll professionals.

• Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance (AFWA)

AFWA gives you opportunities to hone essential leadership skills and network with other female finance professionals. The group hosts several regional conferences a year, as well as an annual national conference. In addition, members have the chance to acquire CPE credits, backed by a scholarship program for degrees and certifications like the CPA, Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Internal Auditor (CIA).

• Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA)

ALPFA focuses on enhancing Latino business and leadership in today’s workforce by increasing career opportunities and customizing professional development plans for its members. Networking events focus on current financial topics, such as finance in healthcare. And members in the group’s more than 40 chapters are eligible for leadership scholarships, as well as GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) workshops and test-prep materials. 

National Association of Black Accountants (NABA)

NABA is a network that has professional and student chapters and offers community outreach, student development and networking. There are 7,000 members nationally and local chapters throughout the United States.

Financial Executives International (FEI)

The mission of FEI is to advance the success of senior-level financial executives, their organizations and the profession. For more than 80 years, FEI has connected senior corporate executives, now with more than 11,500 members globally.

• The Institute of Internal Auditors (The IIA)

Established in 1941, the IIA is the internal audit profession's global voice, recognized authority, acknowledged leader, chief advocate and principal educator. It serves more than 185,000 members from more than 165 countries as the profession’s watchdog and resource on significant auditing issues around the globe.

Q: How can recruiters facilitate professional networking?

A: Recruiters offer an array of services when you’re looking for a new position. They can be your “eyes and ears” to the job market, with abundant ideas about how to network with professionals in your area.

If a specialized staffing professional reaches out to you, take some time to listen, then ask about the best ways to keep in touch. Even if you’re not looking for a job right now, there’s no predicting what will happen in a few years.

Read more about how you can work with Robert Half's recruiters to find a position matched to your unique skill set and requirements. 

Knowing how to network can help your career today and in the future. I wish you the best!

Read More 'Networking Now'


Kathleen 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 feel free to ask her a question in the comment space.