What you should know about who you should know.

The typical, cynical version of the line goes like this: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Usually meaning that itfill in the blank: getting into college, getting a job, getting a promotionhas everything to do with connections, and nothing to do with merit.

Well, phooey. Connections are a good thing, and you don’t have to feel bad about actively pursuing them. It just makes sense: if you’re seeking professional advice, information, camaraderie (or, yes, a new job or new clients), turn to fellow professionals.

Networking is not a shortcut, or a replacement for doing a good job; it’s part of life in the business worldanother widget in the toolbox you use to gain knowledge, expand skills, build business, identify opportunities and advance your career.

And like any part of that life, a little preparation on your part will go a long way.

Step One

Get real, not just virtual.

These days, when someone says “networking,” we’re pretty much conditioned to think online, as in social networking. Which is an incredibly powerful tool for interacting with far-flung contacts and tapping the wisdom of the hive. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitterthey’re big for a reason.

So use them to their best advantage. Just keep a couple of things in mind. Don’t overdo itit’s not about “how many you know.” Set up shop on few sites or message boards where you can be an active participant and nurture your online presence. Being a one-comment-wonder in a dozen places doesn’t really do you any good. And friending everyone you come across? Well, that’s just…wrong. (Besides being really hard to keep track of. You still have a day job, remember.)

But don’t use these digital godsends to the exclusion of meeting real, live people. An amazing amount of connections will always get made with the accompaniment of piano music and cocktail napkins. And it’s still the best way to figure out what the local scene is really like. Which leads to…

Step Two

Get over yourself.

No, seriously, you’re great. You’ve taken the time to target a specific event that’ll give you a chance to mingle with some great potential contacts. You’ve researched the topic of the event, and thought about questions you might want to ask. You’ve got a pocket full of business cards, a carefully lettered nametag and a pen at the ready. You went to the dry cleaner. You brushed your teeth.

Well, guess what. You’re not the only one in the room who’s trying to hit their magic “people I need to talk to” number, or looking for an in, or swallowing hard and slapping a smile on their face. You’re at a networking event, after all.

So, to achieve your main goalcreating a powerful web of business connections that you’ll be able to draw on in the futureyou need to step outside yourself a little bit. Pay close attention to the goals of the people you meet. Think about how you can be part of someone else’s network for a change.

It’s a truism because it’s true: We’re all in this together. That’s kind of the point of a network. And the good news is that, in addition to being helpful, when you do a good deed you’re also demonstrating that you can be an asset for others. You become the kind of person people turn to, the go-getter they want on their teams and committees. Andbingo!all of the sudden you realize you’re building your own network, after all.

Step Three

Get practical.

Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard this all before. (And if you haven’t, we have a list of articles with more detail on this subject that you might want to read below.) But what should you actually do?

You’ve come to the right place.

The AICPA is all about networking. There are innumerable places for you to plug in, whether you just want to dip your toe in the water or you’re ready to dive in headfirst. Take a look:

  • Community
    A great online oasis where you can start your meeting of the minds. Share questions, answers and ideas with CPAs who share your outlook and concerns. Watch the tips fly, and the connections take hold.

  • Conferences
    Find out where you can get together with a few dozen or a few hundred of your closest professional friends. Swap stories over morning coffee, compare notes after the keynote. Mingle. Don’t forget to smile.

  • Committees
    With so much work to be done, you will almost never be turned away from serving on a committee. Especially when there are 180 or so to choose from. Find the one (or more…) that speaks to you.

  • Volunteering
    In addition to all your committee and task force options, there are other ways to get involved in your local community, through financial literacy programs, and audit committees that promote good corporate and non-profit governance.

  • Advocacy
    Take a stand! Put your knowledge and persuasive powers to productive use at the state or national level, promoting the legislative or regulatory interests of CPAs and the public at large.

  • State Associations
    Get connected to the goings-on in your state, and discover a whole new level of opportunities for involvement.

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Networking Career Success

Article Networking starts with identifying your contacts, making connections, maintaining your network and becoming a resource. Access these and other networking tips here.
Published on September 26, 2016

5 ways to get more followers on Twitter

Article Twitter can be great for your professional career and personal pursuits. Great tweets are simply not enough. You must consistently look for ways to get followers.
Published on February 28, 2016

How Are We Doing in Engaging the Next Generation of Leaders

Article A major key to securing the future of our profession in these uncertain times is engaging students and younger members in creating that future. In order to do that, we must do a better job of speaking to the things that matter most to them.
Published on February 02, 2016

Career Planning & Development

Link The CPA profession offers a multitude of opportunities and possibilities. These tools and resources that can help guide you through what's possible.
Published on January 22, 2016

The 7 types of people you need in your network

Article Too often, young professionals’ networks lack diversity in terms of age, race, and gender, as well as role, geographic location, and industry. Just as importantly, they lack people who play specific roles. Here are a few key types of people who every network needs.
Published on November 18, 2014

How to Make a Killer First Impression Your 30-Second Elevator Speech

Article Everyone should have one … a brief sound bite of what you do for a living. That’s what is referred to your “elevator speech,” a well-known business term that seems simple and, yet, can be so daunting to many young CPAs.
Published on June 17, 2014

Engaging in Social Media With Other Accountants Whats in it for You

Article As a young CPA, you may think social media is only good for texting to confirm a dinner date or posting your brother's graduation pics on Facebook. Think again! The more you put into social media, the more you'll get out of it, especially when you are social with other
Published on August 19, 2013

Participating in Professional Associations

Article Involvement in industry associations, such as the AICPA and state CPA societies provides unparalleled opportunities for networking and professional growth.
Published on April 16, 2013

The Number One Networking Mistake...and How to Solve It

Article Great networking isn’t about quantity … it’s about quality. Yet, most of us do not take the time to “listen;” instead, we pacify our networking friends by giving them random names that won’t do them much good, let alone enhance your own reputation. Find out how why listening is so
Published on October 12, 2012

Networking 101

Article Networking is an important part of building a successful career. Here are the basics.
Published on September 25, 2012

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