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4 good reasons to go to that networking event

NetworkingWe are all busy. When we aren’t at work we’re juggling a long list of priorities, including spending time with family and friends, partaking in hobbies or running errands that can’t be put off any longer. You will notice, nowhere in that list is attending networking events.  But that shouldn’t be the case.

Here’s a story that might inspire you to slap on a smile, put on a nice outfit, and go to that networking event—even if you’d rather sit on the couch catching up on This Is Us.  When one CPA, Heather Zundel, moved from Las Vegas to Albuquerque, she joined her state society and started showing up at their events. Along the way, she formed strong relationships that helped her feel rooted in her new community.  This involvement led to leadership opportunities as well, such as becoming the youngest woman to chair her state CPA society’s board of directors.

Whether you’re in a new job or location or simply seeking to expand your professional horizons, you likely have heard of the advantages of participation. So, the next time you receive an invite to attend a networking event, think about the prospect of maximizing your visibility and connections and RSVP yes. Here are a few reasons why you should.

You’ll enhance your career options. Does your organization have a clear career path that could lead you to your dream job? That’s not the case in many companies, and even if it is, taking responsibility for your own career means taking steps to develop yourself beyond that path. Involvement in a professional organization can help you do just that, including groups devoted to your area of specialization or expertise--or one you’d like to get into. It can also be a good way to find an objective, external mentor who can provide advice on advancing your career. You just never know if a chance meeting will turn into an opportunity.

You can learn how to work a room. If you’d like to polish your networking skills, a professional organization can be a good place to get some practice. Plus, these events will likely be a less stressful place to hone your networking talent than ones hosted by your employer. For those who aren’t sure how to break the ice, ask simple questions that relate to the evening’s presentation or theme, such as whether the other person has firsthand experience relating to the issues discussed, or share a personal story from your own career. If you hit it off, exchange business cards and suggest getting together for coffee or lunch. The skills you learn will serve you well back at the office and throughout your career.

You may clarify your plans for the future. While it’s easy to get stuck in day-to-day business, there are tremendous benefits when you gather a room full of people together to celebrate leadership. It can help you step back and ask, “What can I learn from her?” or “Where do I want to be in a year?” In my state, the Maryland Association of CPAs is involved in the Women to Watch Awards, a joint effort of the AICPA and numerous state societies that honors experienced and emerging leaders. Participants always come away refreshed, with at least one question or insight for their careers.

You can find ways to give back. Are you interested in making a difference but haven’t found the chance to do it? By attending networking events, you will meet people with different interests and may find opportunities to support a variety of meaningful causes, whether they benefit the profession or your community.  

Take the first step

Stuck in your career? Worried about schmoozing clients or public speaking? Check out this Facebook Live session from the AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit on the power of positive networking and seek out ways to tackle these roadblocks through participation in a professional group. Attend an event and find out where it might take you.

Jackie Brown, COO, Maryland Association of CPAs. Jackie Brown has worked at the Maryland Association of CPAs since 1980 and been COO for nearly 20 years. She has also served as COO and Vice President of MACPA's affiliate, the Business Learning Institute, since its formation in 1999. A member of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee, she has also served on the AICPA Future of Learning Task Force as well as the National Commission on Financial Literacy.

Networking event courtesy of Shutterstock.

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