What is the golden rule not taught within any curriculum? The prominence of building your network.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “it’s all about who you know,” right? Well, that’s exactly what it means to have a network. But, how do we build one? Where does it come from?
The Network Building Recipe
In the beginning stages of my career as a public accountant, I was working several hours a week to get things done. There was barely any time for anything fun, let alone this thing called networking. But what I had failed to realize is that networking isn’t just happy hours and taking CPE. It’s not a class that you take once a week or even once a month.
You’re networking in everything you do!
Of course, there is some formality at times, but this term ‘networking’ is really just a formal way of saying “making friends”. The most advantageous networking is simply doing things that you enjoy and making friends along the way! In my opinion, the best recipe for building a strong network includes a blend of three ingredients.
The First Ingredient
College affiliates – classmates, professors, career center personnel, etc.
This starts the day that you walk onto campus. These people you’re about to spend the next two, four, five plus years with are more than just the person sitting next to you in the classroom. These are future co-workers, bosses, management’s spouses, owners of the company you’ll work for, etc. Remember this!
Now don’t forget about the other resources available to you too – faculty and staff! Your professors are likely former employees that have been successful in their area of expertise. So much that they’re sharing their best practices to mold the next generation of professionals. Utilize them! Absorb everything they can teach you! Talk to them about their experiences and use them as your personal career counselor as you begin to shape your professional self.
As an alum of St. John Fisher College, I’ve had the best relationships with some of my professors. These relationships earned me my very first internship at 19 years old. I was doing some bookkeeping and individual tax work at a small CPA firm above a Subway restaurant in Greece.
This experience opened doors for me. It gave me the foundation needed to intern with a large, regional accounting firm my senior year of college that then resulted in full time employment one year before graduating with my MBA. I was so fortunate to be sitting at my graduation with a full time job waiting for me on the other side of the stage; all stemming from the professors I’d naturally adopted into my network.
The Second Ingredient
Professional organizations – groups that include professionals of common business practices
An easy way to add professionals like yourself to your network is to join local organizations revolved around relative content. For example, an HR professional would benefit from joining the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) or the National Human Resources Association (NHRA).
Joining these organizations exposes you to other ways of doing business while also offering your best practices. As professionals, we’re sometimes guilty of doing things the way they’ve always been done, but remember, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Open your mind! Listen to what others are doing and you might just learn something.
Being an accountant turned recruiter, the professional organizations I belong to are, New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA), NextGen and Emerging Leaders.
NYSSCPA is an organization specifically for accountants in New York State, while NextGen is a committee of NYSSCPA focused around those young in the profession. Being a participant in both allows me to maintain existing relationships while developing new ones! We have fun together through friendly competitions, educational seminars, and more!
The last professional organization I belong to is Emerging Leaders, a society affiliated with the United Way of Greater Rochester. Though not directly related to accounting, finance, or even recruiting, being a member offers me the opportunity to meet some of Rochester’s most successful leaders that I otherwise may not encounter. As a result, I was able to have breakfast with the CEO of Broadstone Real Estate, Chris Czarnecki! What a fun experience to talk with one of Rochester’s most successful business leaders!
The Third and Final Ingredient
Personal organizations – groups that have personal meaning to you
You’ll have a most genuine approach to getting involved when you’re working on a mission that gives you purpose. While these people may not have a direct correlation to your day job, they share personal interests. This can even be something as silly as the gym! There’s more to a cardio intensive class than sweat rags and a need for H20. It’s pushing each other to do the best that you can!
This tends to be the most missed ingredient because people intuitively associate networking with their professional selves. But what they fail to realize is that your network is like a web; that person chugging the water bottle next to you might just be the sibling of your next boss!
Some of the organizations that I’m active with include: Open Door Mission, Rochester Animal Services (interchangeably known as the Verona Street Animal Society) and Habitat Young Professionals (an affiliate group of Habitat for Humanity).
These are all support missions I feel passionate about and help paint a picture of who I am. I’ve met some incredible people along the way and diversify my network with every dinner served, dog walked and house built!
And voila! You’ve successfully provided yourself with the tools for a successful network. People that you can learn with and learn from.
Dream big, work hard, stay focused, and surround yourself with good people!