Three Keys to Effective Networking
by AccountingWeb on
By David Hanan, CMA
Member of IMA Young Professionals Committee
Senior Cost Accountant, Stemilt Growers, LLC
“Employers fill the majority of job openings through the unadvertised, or hidden, job market,” according to the Occupational Outlook Quarterly article “Getting back to work.”  How can young professionals find opportunities in this hidden market? The answer is through networking, and there are three keys to establishing a great network:
1. Understand what a network is and how to build it
2. Assess who should be in your network
3. Maintain your network by understanding how your actions impact it
Building a Network
Simply put, networking is nothing more than getting to know other people and building relationships with them. Networks can be comprised of family, friends, classmates, co-workers and so on. This means that all of us currently have a network. How expansive your network is depends on how much you put yourself out there and how much effort you expend.
Growing your network is important, and there are a variety of ways you can do this. In my experience, getting to know your neighbors, getting involved in school actives, becoming part of a homeowners association, or becoming involved in professional associations like the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) will help expand and diversify your network.
Developing Valuable Relationships
If you read the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, you know that in order to have a great business you need the right people on the bus. Well, this same theory applies to your networking – it is important to have the right people in your network.
In Tai Goodwin’s Forbes.com article, “How To Build A Powerful Professional Network,”  she discusses the people you need in your network. The list ranges from a mentor to help guide your career, industry insiders and trendsetters to keep you informed, to a mentee that you can advise. Each person will bring different value to your network by providing advice based on experience or pertinent industry information.
In addition to the value of passing on knowledge gained, becoming a mentor is one of the greatest indicators of your understanding of the information.
Maintaining Your Network Over the Long-run
As you grow your network, treat it like you would a bank account. Don’t make a withdrawal until you make a deposit. A deposit in a network can be something as simple as helping a neighbor in a time of need, going the extra mile on a class project or giving helpful advice. Any of these actions help to not only show who you are as a person, but what type of employee and co-worker you would make.
Along the same lines, you need to learn how to interact with people and develop relationships. I have done this by pursuing activities that I enjoy. For instance, I make regular trips with people in my network doing things I enjoy like snow skiing, wakeboarding, hunting and so on. Building a strong network is largely about building strong relationships with the people in your network, so when they need you or you need them for something you both feel comfortable vouching for one another.
In my experience, having a good network is invaluable. I am continually looking to a variety of people within my network for a vast amount of information and assistance. From learning the value of professional certifications, when to pursue my MBA, how to manage employees, what things to get involved in to help my career, to asking for recommendations, my network has been an invaluable source of advice.