I have been in the accounting and financial world (in one way or another) since I graduated from college nearly 40 years ago. Technology has changed significantly in that time with tweets, texts, and emails becoming common means for communicating. One concept that has not changed, however, is networking with our peers. Technology allows networking and keeping in touch to happen in many forms, and resisting these digital ties puts you at risk of losing touch, or worse, being forgotten.
Like it or not, our world has expanded to include email, cell phones, instant messages, texts, and more. The communication is a double-edged sword of sorts, because while we hate to be tied to these devices, most of us make our living using technology in one fashion or another. My profession as an accountant has particularly relied on technology, from building my network to tracking data.
Connect with Your Network
Choosing the proper channel to network depends on your profession, and for financial and accounting professionals, having a presence on a site such as LinkedIn is a good start. You can decide who to connect with and what parts of your profile to display, and it is a good way to promote your skill set to those who may be looking for a professional in the field.
Before you write off LinkedIn as a job search site, think about the individuals you have worked with over the years and how it may be difficult to find them if you want to talk to them about something in accounting. Rules and expectations change periodically in accounting, as they do in other professions, and sometimes we just need to talk through a thorny issue with someone else in our field. In my experience, reconnecting with a past colleague via LinkedIn allowed me to solve a difficult issue in an area where I needed support. I found the colleague quickly on LinkedIn, and he acted as a great sounding board for me during our implementation process.
Reconnecting with a past colleague allowed me to solve a difficult issue in an area where I needed support.
Keep in Touch with Your Network
I have a network of about half a dozen individuals in my profession who I can call on anytime to talk shop. If you have that type of network of colleagues, carefully consider how you keep in touch. Ensure you have their most up-to-date contact information, and rely on different technology channels to communicate.
While LinkedIn and myriad other forms of technology may be good for staying connected, there still is no substitute for a phone call once in a while to touch base and stay updated on each other’s lives. Though a phone call may take more of your time, it can be beneficial to build a relationship that spans beyond a time of need. It’s important to give back to your network and not simply ask of it. Colleagues are more likely to take your call if they have talked with you in the last 6-12 months than if you have not connected with them in 5 years. Careers are built on connections and hard work. If we do both, we are likely to stay the course and keep current in our field.
Join Organizations in Your Network
Additionally, there are accounting organizations out there that can be a great source of knowledge and support. If you are a CPA, there is the local chapter of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). CMAs can connect with other professionals through a local chapter of the Institute of Management Accounting (IMA). There is also an organization for accountants without either of these designations called the American Accounting Association. Tax professionals also have an organization called the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP). Regardless of the organization, you’ll likely find a local chapter that meets regularly and provides a place for accountants to socialize, network, and earn Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credit to help accountants remain current in their field. Why not surf the net over your lunch break and see if you can find a local chapter to expand your network?
As you earn your degree and take your first steps in the accounting world, build a network of peers, professors, and mentors who you can rely on for your accounting career. Use technology to your advantage and leverage the channels to stay in touch. Forty years from now, you’ll be glad you did.