By Jared Korver, CPA, at Beacon Wealthcare
Networking has become a four-letter word with ten letters, and look, I have to say it’s mostly earned that reputation. The way networking is often done seems to more closely resemble really awkward speed dating than it does the cultivation of mutually beneficial relationships with people who make careers more enjoyable and rewarding.
And isn’t that what networking is ultimately for? It seems clear to me that rather than being about getting to know the most people, networking is ultimately about getting to know the right people, and for the right people to get to know you.
With that in mind, here are a few things I think are key for network development to actually work as intended:
Numbers are Important, but Secondary
As an introvert, I do have an admitted bias against being around a bunch of people I don’t know, and there are times when I am tempted to say that I can get through life with a network of 10 people. But that’s probably not true! The size of our networks is important, if for no other reason than the statistical realities involved with larger numbers. That being said, I think we can accomplish that growth with a primary focus on the quality of the relationships we cultivate. In other words, the shotgun spray of LinkedIn invitations and the frantic handing out of business cards is almost certainly less valuable than committing to a steady process of meeting new people in the right environments. Which brings me to my next point…
Networks Increase in Number and Quality Through Involvement
I don’t think effective networking can happen in a vacuum. There always needs to be relevant, shared context for new relationships to be possible and for existing relationships to thrive. This is one of the reasons many “networking events” are so weird and often ineffective—because there’s insufficient shared experience and context. Instead, I think one of the most effective ways to build and grow a high-quality network is by getting involved with something you care about. You’ll inevitably find that when you do, you’ll naturally connect with people who care about the same thing—all without attending a single networking event. You will not only increase the size of your network, but more importantly, you will increase the value of your network. This is easily one of the single greatest benefits of NCACPA, but there are all sorts of other places to get involved as well: non-profits, alumni organizations, running groups—the possibilities are endless!
Networking is a Two-Way Street
We are all self-interested. There’s no getting around that fact. But the more we balance that self-interest with genuine interest in the well-being of others, the better off we’ll all be, professionally and otherwise. Toward that end, don’t be the person who is constantly using your network and never being of Ultimately, I think this comes down to a simple awareness of the needs of others and then bringing to bear the resources of your network on that need. We aren’t superheroes and we can’t help everyone all the time, but the simple act of connecting people can go so far, and I think we underestimate just how important our role is in that connection.
Those are my thoughts on turning networking back into a ten-letter word. What do you think? How can we recapture the value of the network?
Jared Korver, CPA, works at Beacon Wealthcare where he uses in-depth financial planning and prudent investment management to help people make great decisions and live more generous lives. A product of Carthage, North Carolina, Jared and his wife Amy live in Raleigh with their two sons. Jared holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in accounting from Appalachian State University and NC State University, respectively.
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