Networking & LinkedIn
Networking is a crucial skill for developing your accounting career. Networking is used by professionals to widen their circles of acquaintances, find out about job opportunities, and to increase their awareness of news and trends in their fields. Building and developing relationships is mutually beneficial for all involved. For job seekers, it can be as valuable as the contents of your resume. For working professionals, it can be the key to career advancement, conflict resolution and a positive work environment — or lead to valuable word-of-mouth advertising. Networking can be done in traditional methods such a mixers/receptions, virtual via Linked In, or through professional organizations.
- Work on your Elevator Pitch: An elevator pitch is a quick synopsis of your background and experience that can be used as your introduction in a variety of networking situations. (More on this below.)
- Start with People You Already Know: You would be surprised by how many different people you know are already connected in your field of choice. Start by contacting friends, family, classmates, faculty, and former employers and let them know your intended purpose and need to network.
- Do Informational Interviews: An informational interview is an informal conversation you can have with someone who is working in an area of interest to you. It is an effective research tool and can help you gain tips and insider knowledge on a particular field or company.
- Attend Networking Events: Various organizations, companies, universities, alumni chapters, etc. host a variety of networking events or career fairs throughout the year, and are valuable opportunities to mix and mingle with professionals. Keep an eye out for these type of events, and step outside your comfort zone.
- Join Professional Associations: Professional associations can provide opportunities and people that are connected to your industry of choice. Most associations hold annual conferences where you can learn more about the field as well meet those already working in the field. Additionally they also provide an opportunity to read publications and trade journals that professionals in the field are currently reading. Many have FREE memberships for students, which all MAC students can take advantage of.
- Build a Relationship: Remember that the point of networking is to build a relationship, not just a onetime conversation or transaction. This takes time and patience, and is a delicate balance of give and take. Developing relationships will keep you in the communication loop and provide you with ties to important contacts and key players. By helping others in their development, you will establish mutually beneficial relationships that can exist throughout your career.
An elevator pitch is a quick synopsis of your background and experience. The reason it’s called an elevator pitch is that it should be short enough to present during a brief elevator ride. Your elevator pitch is a way to share your expertise and credentials quickly and effectively with people who don’t know you. This speech is all about you: who you are, what you do, and what you want to do (if you’re job hunting).
Things to keep in mind when putting together your elevator pitch:
- Keep it brief. It should peak someone’s interest, and help spark a conversation.
- Share your skills. Don’t just focus on where you’ve worked or went to school, but focus on the skills you’ve gained along the way.
- Practice, practice, practice. Just like you would practice a big speech or presentation, you should also take the time to practice your elevator pitch and get feedback from trusted sources.
- Be positive and flexible. Focus on what you do have and bring to the table, not what you don’t Be ready to follow the conversation based on the questions you may get from the person you are meeting with.
- Mention your goals. Don’t be afraid to let the person know what you hope to accomplish from this engagement, in a more general sense.
- Know your audience. Be ready to tailor your pitch based upon the person you are speaking with. Figure out what their role is at the company, and how their expertise can help you reach your goal.
How to craft an elevator pitch:
- Who are you?: Introduce yourself, who you are, where you are from, what your background is.
- What you do?: Think of this as your mission statement. What do you do for a living? What is your expertise?
- What are your talents?: Highlight your skills and point out what your value is. What makes you stand out? How can you benefit this conversation?
- What do you hope to accomplish?: Mention your goals for this conversation.
- Ask a question: End with a question – or two – for the person, to keep the conversation going, and help spark a connection.
LinkedIn has been around since 2003 and is widely considered the benchmark for professional networking social media platforms. When used correctly and effectively, LinkedIn can perform near miracles for your career’s development. Recruiters and employers use LinkedIn to source candidates for employment, so, if you don’t have a presence on the site, you won’t come up during searches. Having a LinkedIn account also means that you can use the site to research companies, interviewers, recruiters, and hiring managers, which is helpful before submitting applications and showing up to interviews. Even if you are not actively searching for employment, you can use LinkedIn to connect with current and former colleagues and link to people you meet at networking events, conferences, and so on.
If you would like a tutorial on how to utilize LinkedIn more effectively (or even how to get started) watch this 30 minute overview by Allison Manning, to get acquainted to the tool: Click here to view the Linked In Overview Session.
We are always here to help you build your profile and learn how to navigate the tool. You can make an appointment at any time. Additionally, here are some helpful resources you can explore when you are navigating the tool:
- What is your role and responsibility in the firm?
- How do you like working at the firm? How long have you been doing it?
- What is your favorite part of the job? What is your least favorite part?
- What do you enjoy doing the most outside of work?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- What kind of projects are you working on right now?
- What do you think are the most important skills for success with the firm?
- What other professional development opportunities are offered during employment?
- What changes have you seen in your role and in the firm in the past few years?
- What is the culture like in the office?
- What makes your organization stand out among other competitive firms?
- What are the biggest challenges facing the firm right now?
- What are some of the short-term and long-term goals for the firm, and the specific office, in the coming years?
- How did you get interested in accounting?
- What is a typical day/week in your job look like?
- Is there any support for those interested in pursuing their CPA certification?
- How is your performance evaluated?
- What advice would you have liked to have heard when you were starting out?
- What does the onboarding process look like? What kind of supervision did you have when you started?
- Did you ever see yourself being in the position you are now, and what has been your journey to get there?
- What is one thing that you encountered in the profession that you did not expect when you were in my shoes?
- Where is the most interesting place you’ve traveled for work?
- What would make someone the ideal employee for your firm?
Effectively engaging and influencing others in a virtual world is crucial for your personal and career success. This includes being mindful of your personal brand, engaging with professionals in your industry, and market yourself effectively.
UNC has compiled 8 steps to Create and Manage A Strong Virtual Presence, that we highly recommend all students take a look at.