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Ever heard the term 'business networking'? It's often used as a way to gather information and research quickly, provide new business leads, and keep in touch with what the industry is doing.
It's also a great way to get a job.
Think of networking as something like Facebook. Over time you add friends and build a social network. Now imagine that in real life and with a business focus.
With almost three-quarters of job opportunities going through word of mouth, the roles you see publicly advertised are just the tip of the iceberg; you don't want to miss out. As they say, it's not what you know but who you know.
- How to start networking - It can seem daunting to start when you have no existing network, so here are some tips: You already have a network Think of all your friends, teachers, your friends' parents, ex-students, alumni organisations, the people at your part-time job - and your own family. They're the foundations of your network. Ask around if anyone works at a Chartered Accounting firm, or in the industry of your choice. With the rule of 'six degrees of separation' there's bound to be someone in your network who can put you in contact.
- Networking is a two-way street - If someone you know has been looking for a role or a contact and you hear about it, let them know. They'll remember that when they hear about something that could help you.
- Join LinkedIn - LinkedIn is to business networking what Facebook is to social networking. You'll also often find forums and blogs on industry websites.
- Attend industry events - This is a more traditional approach, but there's no substitute for meeting people face to face. Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone by chatting to people you don't know.
- Industry e-newsletters - Most industries - and indeed organisations - have free newsletters which they email out at regular intervals. You'll hear about companies doing well - which means they may need more personnel - and there's often an employment section. Register for e-news for timely industry and career advice.
- Follow up - If someone passes on a lead or connection, follow up with an email to thank them and report back. If you pass something on, again follow up to see how they went.
- They don't have to be friends - Unlike your social network, you don't have to be friends with everyone in your professional one. Only connecting with friends will severely limit the depth and breadth of the network - and opportunities.
- Mention mutual contacts - If you do have an opportunity presented that's come about through your network, mention the connection. It'll break the ice at an interview if you mention 'so-and-so who's a good friend of a friend of mine'.
- Keep a contact record - You want to build up information about those in your network over time. Keep a record - most email programs have an address book, where you can add information such as their birthday, home address, personal email, and mobile.
- Be patient - Networks build up over time. The longer you actively pursue having one, the bigger it will get.