How to Network: Start the Conversation Off Right

Networking Tips

This is the second in a series of weekly blog posts on how to network for finance and accounting professionals.

In our last post, we looked at how accounting and finance professionals can get started during “networking season.” There are a number of high-quality conferences and other activities where you can meet industry colleagues, talk about your company and learn about what's happening in the sector. In the process, of course, you’ll find out about opportunities that may benefit your own career.

Start With a Great Introduction

Do you want to know how to network? Let’s imagine you’re already there. You find yourself in a room full of your peers. Maybe you want to talk to a particular person, or maybe you're going to work the room and see what happens. How do you actually go about approaching people? A good introduction is half the battle. The idea is to convey some tangible details about yourself and your work, and do it quickly. Many people spend a lot of time crafting their perfect opening, and if you want to network effectively, you should, too.

Stick to the rules of social etiquette. Introduce yourself, shake hands, and then chat for a moment before you launch into business. Watch the other person for social cues such as body language, and make sure he or she seems willing to start a conversation before you launch into one.

Talk About the Value You Create

The next step is to talk about what you do. Remember that what you do is not the same as your job title. Who do you help? What value do you add? A quick summary phrase is a great way to stay on point. “I help small businesses manage their compliance commitments,” for example, tells a whole story about who you are and why you're worth knowing. It also creates an opportunity for the other person to ask follow-up questions.

Mention a Recent Win

Text based imageIf you carefully craft a statement — for example, “I've just finished a project to automate our reconciliation process that shaved five days off the time we spend on financial close” — you can pack a lot of information into it. Talking about recent successes may feel like bragging, but it isn’t if you do it right. It’s a straightforward way to illustrate what you have to offer. Each piece of information (automation, account reconciliation processes, managing staff hours) is then a potential starting point for a conversation.

Here are a few things to avoid when introducing yourself:

• Don't be nervous.
It can be intimidating to put yourself out there, especially if you're one of those people who hates networking, but, ultimately, there’s no reason to be nervous. Remember that everyone is there for the purpose of networking, and many of them may be feeling equally intimidated.

• Avoid the info-dump.
Sometimes you meet someone at a networking event, and they open by giving you their name, employer's name, job title, education history, salary range, rank, serial number, favorite color and more. Keep your self-description short and sweet. Remember, you're starting a conversation, not hiring a biographer.

• Don't dominate the conversation.
Allow other people a chance to introduce themselves, too. Ask them questions and show an interest in their answers. Networking conversations are reciprocal, so you get the kind of attention that you give.

You got the conversation started, but what's next? If you're searching for a new job, consider submitting your resume to Robert Half for help in finding your next finance or accounting position.

Learn More

Stay tuned for upcoming posts in this series where we'll offer additional tips and discuss more networking basics and etiquette.