Referral relationships are like gold in accounting firms. These networks can be a source of new business, a barometer for gauging marketplace trends and a sounding board for personal and firm growth. For staff or newer managers and partners, building your own referral network is critical for continued career success. Here are a few tips for how the next generation of leaders can find and nurture new referral networks.
- Don’t wait for the invitation.
With the hierarchy that is often reinforced in the accounting firm structure, staff and new managers can find themselves seeking permission or waiting to be invited to business development activities. The professionals that proactively pursue new relationships and build networks will quickly stand out from their peers. Of course, partners and other senior professionals can offer mentoring and provide sound advice for identifying strategic market opportunities, but successful networkers don’t wait for partners to invite them to their events and meetings. Leverage what your leaders teach you about business development and the marketplace to get out there and build your own network.
- Find people and groups that interest you.
If you are introverted, it may take extra motivation to convince you to spend time networking outside of the office. We find that choosing people and groups that interest you will actually get you excited about going to events! There is a networking group for every shared interest, from school affiliations to recreational activities to industries you serve. What may start out as more of a personal interest or relationship can often turn into strong business networking groups.
- Use technology – then get out there!
We are blessed with so many technologies to help us find people for our networks. LinkedIn is the top social network for the accounting profession and for good reason. With LinkedIn’s strong search functions, relationship mapping and publishing platforms, you can quickly find and communicate with individuals and groups that share your interests. Using other online sites, you can also subscribe to groups, find meet-ups and participate in web-based events. We recommend that once you’ve used technology as your starting point, you should go the extra mile by making personal connections at live events. Finding the right balance of online and in-person connections will help build your network.
Building a golden network takes initiative, intention and integration. The key to success for anyone building a network from scratch, whether being new in their career or getting acclimated to a new city, is to move outside their comfort zone. Networks aren’t created overnight and they don’t grow by chance. We recommend starting slowly to make sure you invest the right balance of time building a foundation of technical and networking skills. Once you’ve found your rhythm, you’ll see your network grow and your career soar.