At any event or gathering, amongst the conversations that follow over the latest notification, law amendment or a book, I am sure we have all come across someone say, Do you know Mr who works in this enterprise and trains in the domain, etc.? Did you notice that the conversations have already started and you have already started connecting and developing your contacts? You just developed a network which may turn out advantageous for you. In todays age, professional networking is considered as one of the most valuable career skill for future career development. The saying goes that you need to have a professional network established even before you need a network. However, most professionals dont network enough and dont build a network until the time we need it, which at times can turn out to be a bit late. Business networking may turn out to be a stressful and scary event for many professionals, especially meeting strangers can be quite daunting. However, in the end, it all comes down to its not what you know, its who you know
Here are a few advantages of Networking:
1. Networking is a great way to develop business leads and open new doors for professional opportunities.
2. According to the statistics, networking is the best way to land you in a new job by making others know that you are looking for a new job and what your skill set and expertise is!
3. It helps you enhance your skill set. The more you meet and interact with people, the more you learn and explore yourself and the more confident you become.
4. Networking helps you identify the best and the latest business practices in the industry.
5. You could possibly end up finding a mentor or people who are more likely to help you progress further in your career.
Though the benefits of networking go much beyond, the question is, how do we Chartered Accountants network enough to our advantage? We have many platforms for networking, most commonly, the Study Circles of the ICAI, Conferences and Seminars organised by ICAI for CPE hours, etc. Also there are various industry events such as events organised by certain Chambers and Associations where there are delegates present not only from the CA fraternity but also different parts of the industry. We can turn it to our advantage by simply striking a conversation with peers which can thereby become a positive aspect in terms of learning, growing and developing with the community of peers which can indeed go a long way. This can be a good opportunity to acquire new business leads and directly coming in contact.
In addition, there are many professional network groups dedicated specifically to networking where people from various industries meet once a week mostly like in a breakfast meeting, lasting for about an hour, and simply exchanging business cards. This face-to-face approach, though a traditional approach, is the most effective in developing inter-personal relations. Being a part of such professional groups will not only help you enhance the image of your business by becoming visible in diverse industries but also helps develop credibility in the minds of your clients. Networking has now become easier through online social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc. where you can instantaneously reach out to professionals. It is also easier for those who are conscious or uncomfortable with the face-to-face setting. But remember, do not use online business networking as a substitute for networking in person.
Also one can make use of professional networking platforms such as CAclubindia.com for reaching out to peers on a wide scale through participation in forum discussions, contributing articles, updates, interactions etc. This will not only help you help others solve their queries by expressing your views and sharing your knowledge but also get you recognized amongst the fraternity and create a brand image for yourself. Having a virtual presence in todays age is important, no matter at what stage you are in your career. You can benefit from such forums virtually and gain credibility for the long run.
Networking is a two-way street. It involves nurturing relationships with people you come across and developing trust. If you know someone who is looking to get a particular thing done, help them without any expectations of potential business. They will remember you when they come across something that could possibly help you. In other words, as the French saying goes tirer quelques ficelles pour quelquun which means pulling some strings for someone from your network to get something done.
Here are a few strategies to develop a strong network:
1. Develop your networking muscle by attending lots of different networking events, seminars not only of your domain, but also those related to your clients to gain a different perspective.
2. Though you should genuinely be nice to everyone you meet, learn to say no. It is not necessary that you have to take up every opportunity that comes your way. You need to choose which the best for you by developing thick skin as you will come across many interesting people.
3. Develop a positive circle by giving your time, advice and referrals. Always try to give value to others in order for others to increase the value you get back.
4. Maintain regular and consistent communication with people from your network.
5. People like to do business with whom they like and trust. So stick to your values and ethics once you are well established in your network and once you have started getting referrals.
Though you dont necessarily have to be friends with those in your professional network, it also does not mean that you always have to meet on serious work related matters and building up your contact list. It is all about developing relations without expecting the end benefits in mind. You never know when your peers may end up being your best friends and the bond may last a lifetime. Though this friendship may never turn into a professional assignment, but it could definitely help you improve yourself and be better personally.
According to a survey Young Professionals Career Motivation Study An Insight into Chartered Accountants aged under 40 years conducted in 2011 by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, for Chartered Accountants under the age of 40 based in Australia and overseas, it was observed that though the under 40 Chartered Accountants were digitally driven, professional networking was identified as an important skill for Chartered Accountants to move through future careers. Next in career timeframe were teamwork, leadership and communication skills. Also networking remained a strong motivator in every phase of career.
It does not matter whether you are a starter or a well-established person in your career. A saying goes in Gujarati Language Olkhan Sonani Khaan which means You never know when your contacts and network can be a gold mine of opportunities for you. Do not neglect your professional networking just because you have a job or an opportunity you love right now. To succeed, you have to continuously connect with new people, cultivate emerging relationships and leverage new networks.