As a recent graduate, armed with a catalogue of up-to-date theoretical knowledge in your back pocket, you have the unique ability to solve problems that even veterans of the game might have trouble with. However, your first networking event can be a bit daunting.
Networking is a vehicle that can potentially accelerate your career faster than anything else. However, you need to take the correct approach from the outset. Here are the dos and don'ts of networking as a graduate student.
While your main aim for the evening might be to speak with the top dog at a networking event, that doesn’t mean you need to go in all guns blazing. Remember, this is a cocktail event and you are here to socialise first and foremost. Solidifying working relationships should be natural, not forced.
Be genuine and approachable
To ensure you have the right approach to the night, try to connect with people on a personal level. People respond to passion, so approach your colleagues on a common ground. The more compelling and believable the information you share, the more likely they will be to respond with the same enthusiasm. They may even remember you by the association you create: “Joe is passionate about charity in Brazil and studies tax accountancy.”
When you do manage to lock down your ideal target – such as an executive of a top-tier firm – it’s important to be genuine as well as specific. The typical day-to-day role of an executive often means they are thinking about any number of things at one time, ranging from the present state of their business to forecasting several years in advance. It’s safe to say that their thought processes are in a big-picture capacity.
Create a memorable impression by providing them with something tangible to consider. Are you looking for an internship over the summer break or a graduate position? What is it you can offer them, and how might they benefit from accepting your proposal? Whatever it may be, ensure you arrive prepared and capitalise on your moment.
You might have a few industry heavyweights in your sights at the start of the night, but that doesn’t mean you should exclude any connections that aren't the top dogs. A diverse network of connections – consisting of a range of job titles, industries and locations – could offer opportunities for your career that you never quite envisioned. Remember the old adage: “It’s not what you know but who you know.” You just never know how or how well people at a networking event are connected.
Once you have made a lasting impression, it’s important to enforce your credibility with the follow-up. If you have locked in a proposal or a catch-up over coffee, delivering on that commitment acts as a guarantor for your reputation. A strong reputation in the industry can do wonders in building the confidence others have in your abilities. Reputation is lasting and can offer you rewards well beyond one night’s interaction.
A successful evening of networking can have immediate as well as long-term benefits for your tax career. As long as you enter the night with enthusiasm and a firm approach in mind, it could be what sets your career in motion.