Networking! Most of us have heard this term being thrown around constantly when job searching. However, what exactly is it? What do you need to know or be able to do to network well? These were the questions that plagued my mind as I contemplated attending my first networking event, back in Spring 2018. Thankfully, because I had heard that networking is an important asset to securing a job, I managed to pluck up enough courage to begin my CPA Recruit journey. Four months later, I had successfully learned what networking was all about and ultimately landed an internship with a Big 4 accounting firm. Therefore, in this post, I share a list of three things that I learned about effective networking.
1. Networking is not as complicated as it sounds
Networking is simply a process of exchanging ideas, information, and contacts between two or more individuals. For example, making friends is networking. Becoming acquainted with classmates is networking. Chatting with professors about career paths is networking! Basically, as students, we have all experienced some form of networking in our day-to-day lives. Once I came to this understanding, I realized that this process of interacting with others should remain just as simple even when communicating with recruiters. After all, a recruiter’s main goal is to get to know a candidate, just as the candidate’s main goal should be getting to know the recruiter and the company they represent.
2. Preparation is key
If there is anything that helped the most to increase my networking confidence, it was definitely carrying out intelligent company research before attending events. Doing so helped me discover many interesting topics that I could touch on and relate to when speaking with recruiters. Some of the key research topics I found to be useful included:
· Corporate Mission, Vision, Values, and Culture
· Types of positions the company offered (specifically those of personal interest)
· Current news—especially on topics I was passionate about.
Carrying out this research provided me with a good understanding of a firm; once I was at the events, I then had the opportunity to ask any unanswered questions I had.
3. First impressions go a long way
The most useful lesson I learned from my networking experience was the importance of starting off on the right foot when meeting new contacts. Company representatives usually meet many talented students at networking events. Therefore, the students they are likely to find as highly suitable candidates are the ones who positively stand out by conducting themselves in a professional and sincere manner. Reflecting on my experience, I believe the following list of behaviours made me stand out by helping me establish meaningful relationships with my contacts:
Being professional – listening actively, maintaining good eye contact, and practicing positive body language were very important behaviours in demonstrating my full engagement in
conversations. This showed my respect for the other person; helping me to make a great first impression.
Being memorable – when I left networking events, one of my top priorities was always to ensure that I would be remembered by the people I met. I worked on achieving this by discussing unique things about myself during conversations. For example, I shared many personal stories, ranging from my involvement with teaching kids about entrepreneurship, to discussing my strong interest in the current technological trends within Accounting. Ultimately, I believe this helped me become memorable as my conversations would have been significantly different from other students’.
Helpful advice: to further help recruiters in remembering you, it is very important to send a follow-up email within 24 hours of meeting them. In addition to thanking them for their time, it is very useful to briefly mention something specific and unique that both of you had discussed earlier. This helps the recruiters to put a face to your name and remember who exactly they were speaking to.
Being yourself – as cliché as that may sound, being oneself is one of the greatest keys to developing genuine connections with people. From my recruitment experience, being myself meant:
· Talking about things that I was truly excited and passionate about.
· Asking questions that helped me understand the direction I wanted to take my career in.
· Demonstrating a genuine interest to know more about the other person; who they were, what they were passionate about, what they enjoyed about their job, and so on.
After the 4-month recruitment period, it was quite fulfilling to see that the firms I eventually interviewed with were the ones whose representatives and I had shared a great connection from the first meeting. Thus, it became clear to me how first impressions truly go a long way.
My experience in a nutshell
At the start of my recruitment journey, I was very unsure about how I was going to succeed at networking events. However, I went out there with the goal of meeting new people and learning about various firms so I could identify the firms whose values, culture, and career opportunities resonated with my passions, goals, and interests. Along the way, I made many mistakes. However, I learned a great deal from them, as I have shared in this post. These lessons were what truly made all the difference in helping me network successfully. So, if you are someone who may be nervous about networking like I once was, the insights I have shared should certainly give you a head start in building your networking confidence and skills!
Nyasha is a final-year Accounting and MIS student at SFU Beedie School of Business. Throughout his undergrad, he has gained valuable knowledge and experiences through completing Accounting co-ops, working as a Teaching Assistant, volunteering for the CMC as a Business Career Coach, and competing in several case competitions. Nyasha is passionate about mentoring others and is always willing to lend a helping hand. If you would like to chat with him, feel free to reach out to him on LinkedIn.