Meeting expectations: your guide to networking

A room full of cool faces doesn’t need to fill you with fear. With just a few of the best tips, you can be prepared to attend any event (real or virtual) with confidence.


Networking is the process of creating and developing social and professional contacts. No matter how good you are (or will become a good accountant), you can’t work in a bubble – you need references, advice and information from other people. Networking will help ensure this by staying up to date on the latest developments in your industry. If you’re not a naturally outgoing person, it might seem a little daunting, but don’t worry, you can find a networking style that suits your personality. It doesn’t have to be ‘working’ in a room full of strangers.

Who?

Everyone has the potential to be part of your network: from your manager to the CEO. Colleagues, colleagues and customers are your obvious “targets”, but restaurateurs, electricians and software vendors are also great people to build trusting relationships with. If networking seems a little selfish and intrusive to you, there is another way to think about it. It is not just a matter of stepping on the next step of the ladder; it’s about gathering skills, tips and contacts that will help you work better and smarter throughout your career. It is also about helping others by sharing your experience.

How?

There are many different ways to network. Casual interactions in the kitchen where you can chat with a colleague. Small local meetings where you can meet potential customers. Larger, more formal events such as national conferences or exhibitions are ideal for learning from industry experts, socializing with colleagues and potential employers, and discovering new trends and services. There are also virtual opportunities for networking, in remote meetings and webinars, or via social media. They all have their perks and you can gravitate towards what suits you best.

A great place to showcase your networking skills before entering the big world of accounting is through the ICAEW communities and your local ICAEW student society. Kiara Hudson is studying ACA while working for Hillier Hopkins LLP in Hertfordshire. She plays an active role in her local ICAEW student society, as Treasurer, participating in activities from hosting online study sessions to organizing annual dances. She was great at building her confidence in her and honing her leadership skills. Kiara’s advice is’ Be bold! You need some confidence in your abilities when it comes to talking to new people. You never know: you may have a skill or quality they are really looking for. ‘ Kiara now has extensive experience on her CV and a contact book full of fellow accountants to keep in touch with when she qualifies. And she has already put her networking work into practice, recommending a friend for a position at her company.

Four steps to success online

1. Have a strategy

Get a clear idea of ​​what you want to take away from an event before attending. Look for companies or people you will meet so that you have questions or thoughts to contribute. Is there anyone in particular you want to talk to? Contact them in advance with an introductory email or via LinkedIn, and it will be easier to bring them closer to the event.

2. Trust in the project

Look the part. Dress cleanly and appropriately and you will feel more prepared. Body language is also important, so make eye contact. It is also true in the virtual world. And while it’s natural to feel a little shaky when meeting new people, be aware of your worth. What are your specialties and interests? As someone starting out, you may not feel like you have much to offer, but you do have new perspectives, enthusiasm, and digital skills and know-how. Prepare some icebreakers or conversation pieces and practice with your friends and family. If you believe in yourself, others will too.

3. Stay busy

Remember to listen and respond thoughtfully to what others say, but don’t push an agenda when you’ve just met someone. The good news is that hybrid ways of working offer more opportunities for beginners to make their mark – in the virtual world it is much easier to interact with people higher up the hierarchy, so take the opportunity. Write a blog; attend a webinar and ask questions; post your thoughts on LinkedIn and invite people you respect and admire to connect.

4. Follow up

When it comes to successful networking, it’s quality, not quantity that matters. Don’t always chase the next contact – take time to strengthen the relationships you have. Follow the meetings with a cordial thank you for taking the time and, where appropriate, an invitation to meet again, whether it’s for a quick Teams meeting or coffee. If you contact people via social media, such as LinkedIn, put a note in the invitation to remind the contact where you met. Take time each day to check your profiles and respond to any comments or messages. And remember, it’s a slow burn. You won’t always get immediate results, but your efforts will pay off in the end.

Begin your networking journey by attending your local ICAEW student society, including attending a local event near you.


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