Getting good grades and having a solid career trajectory are both important to your career as an accountant, but equally important is networking with those already in the field. Networking allows you to connect with both firms and potential mentors which can help launch your career or improve it in the future.
Surgent’s Success Coaches continually interact with students at campus events, Beta Alpha Psi meetings, and other professional sessions. At these events, we’ve noted several ways students can stand out when networking, and we want to share them with you so you can have the best networking experience possible.
1. Mention a unique, relatable fact about yourself
If you’re networking with a group of peers who have been going through the same program you have, you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. One way to do that is to mention a unique fact about yourself that relates to your professional career. Maybe you learned something during an internship you think would apply to whoever you’re networking with, or maybe you were a college athlete and know your time management skills and drive will work well within a specific organization. Think of something unique to your experience and apply it to whoever you’re talking with.
2. Talk career, not job
One of the best parts about networking events is they’re not as formal as, say, an interview. It’s a good chance to talk about what you plan on doing with your career and where you see yourself in the future. Employers like to see candidates with goals and drive, who will be an asset to their organization now and into the future. Try to stay away from questions specific to the job, such as salary, working hours or job responsibilities; these are better saved for an interview.
3. Don’t ask easily researched questions
If you can type a question about a company into Google and easily find the answer, it’s best not to ask it at a networking event. Remember, firms are looking to see if you’d be a good fit for their organization; you should be doing the same. You want to make yourself stand out by asking questions that highlight who you are outside of school.
Think about your values and what you like to do in your free time. If you really enjoy tutoring accounting students, ask if the firm has college mentoring opportunities available. If you want a culture where you get involved with your co-workers, ask about how close knit the community is within the organization. Employers are more likely to be candid at networking events, so this is a great opportunity to get a feel for the organization’s culture.
4. Be a team player
Despite what many think, accounting is a team sport. You want to showcase your ability to work with a team at a networking event. If you’re talking with a group, ask people questions, listen to their answers, and acknowledge what they say. Even if this is between you and another student, it shows you work well with others and have good communication skills, both of which are invaluable in any organization.
5. Give a card, get a card
It may seem early to start talking business cards, but it’s a great way to be remembered after a networking event. Unless the event specifically calls for it (i.e. a career fair), resumes should be left at home in favor of a business card. Resumes are both bulky to carry around and bulky to give away, and a business card makes you look professional.
If you do give a card, make sure you ask for a card in return. This not only shows your interest in the person you’re networking with, but it gives you contact information for a follow up e-mail or phone call. Use this as a launching point to start a mentoring relationship or request a job shadow opportunity, both of which can help you learn about a company’s culture and get your foot in the door.
Networking events are a great way to help you figure out what you want to do with your career and find companies that align with your vision and values. Stand out from the crowd by adopting these tips at your next networking event.
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