8 Networking Tips for CPAs
If you poll CPAs on how they found their current position, you would find it’s often through networking, both informal and formal. Making personal connections often leads to professional opportunities in the accounting world.
When searching for a role as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), effectively cultivating and leveraging your network can help your resume rise to the top. The key to networking as a CPA is to remember that networking can happen anywhere. Below, we share eight networking tips to ensure you’re prepared when opportunity knocks!
1. Work Your Network
Networking doesn’t just happen at official events. Share with your personal and professional network that you’re looking for a new opportunity as a CPA – if they don’t have a lead, they may know someone who does.
Take the time to sit down and think about the people you’re already connected with who could be a potential resource for you, from former classmates to coworkers. Check LinkedIn to see if there are any fellow alumni working at the company of your choice who might be able to help you get a foot in the door.
2. Attend In-Person Networking Opportunities
The age of the Internet has given jobseekers a variety of new avenues to connect and explore opportunities. The smartest way to leverage these new digital tools available is to use them as a supplement to your in-person networking. Skip adding other professionals on LinkedIn you don’t know and focus on making a few key connections with people who can help you advance your career.
AICPA has a comprehensive guide for where professionals can find networking opportunities, including:
- Community Groups
- State Organizations
Many of these organizations schedule regular networking events where professionals can make connections with people in their field and beyond.
Don’t forget to attend the annual Becker Tax Conference to learn from our CPE instructors and tax experts, as well as meet colleagues in the tax industry.
3. Never Leave Home Without Your Business Cards
How many times have you walked away from a great conversation and forgotten the name of the person you were just talking to? Make sure you’re able to cultivate your network by leaving them with your business card.
Don’t have business cards yet? It’s never been easier to create your own business cards at a print shop or online. It’s important that the people you’re trying to network with have your name, your contact information and know that you’re a CPA looking for your next opportunity.
Another tip: write down something from your conversation on the back of your business card before handing it to the person you were speaking with. It will help that person put a face to the name once they leave the event. And the road goes both ways: don’t forget to get the business cards of people you’d like to follow-up with.
4. Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
The best networkers know how to communicate effectively. Practice your elevator pitch so you’re sure to get all the important information about yourself out at the top of the conversation. Your elevator pitch should include the following:
- Your name and profession
- Where you’ve worked or where you currently work
- Your career specialty or interests
- The value you can bring to any employer
Here’s an example of a quick and effective elevator pitch.
“I’m Jane Doe. I’ve been in accounting for 10 years and just earned my CPA designation. I help my clients reduce their tax obligations – in some cases, by up to 50%.”
With this pitch, you’ve just shared who you are and the value you bring. This is important to mention early to frame your conversation.
5. Focus on Connecting, Not Networking
At networking events, taking the time to really listen and connect with other professionals can set you apart from other CPAs who are only focused on what they can get out of each interaction.
Never count someone out just because they can’t do something for you today. It’s important to be kind and thoughtful with your interactions. Someone who doesn’t have a position open today might remember you two years from now when something new opens up.
If you focus on connecting with people one-on-one instead of trying to sell yourself, you will come across much more authentic, likeable and memorable.
6. Send A Follow-Up Email Within 24 Hours
The work you do after a networking event or when meeting a new, promising contact can be just as important as the initial interaction. Don’t wait for people to reach out to you! Take the initiative and send them a quick thank you email.
Make each email personal and avoid using a generic email template. Here are some things you should include in your follow-up email.
- Your name and the event you met this person at
- A reference to something you discussed in your conversation
- An action step to move things forward
Here’s an example:
It was nice running into you at XYZ networking event on Thursday night. I enjoyed talking to you more about XYZ topic, it’s always nice to get a fresh perspective. If you’re free sometime this week I’d love to sit down with you some time and talk more about your work with XYZ company.”
7. Internships Are a Networking Marathon
Internships are key for gaining on the job experience before you look for your first job. But have you ever considered using your internship to network? As an intern, you’re in a position to soak up as much knowledge as you can and create connections with heavy-hitters in the industry.
Use your time interning to work on projects you’ve never tried before, meet people in different departments, find a mentor and learn as much as you can from them. Think of it as a 600-hour job interview. Even if your internship doesn’t end with a job offer at that company, you can create future opportunities by connecting with the people you’re working with.
8. It’s Never Too Early to Start Networking
You don’t have to be a working CPA to start networking! If you’re a student currently pursuing your accounting degree, then chances are your university offers a variety of resources. Many universities will offer on-campus recruitment fairs, access to professional societies and resume help.
Networking with your professors is another way to start building connections early. Visit with them and pick their brain during office hours. Ask your professors questions you have about the field, talk to them about their career path and get advice about navigating the professional world. They may also have contacts they can connect you with once they know more about where you want to go.
Connecting with others in your field through networking is one of the smartest ways to position yourself for success as a CPA in the future. At the end of the day, business is about people. Growing and cultivating your professional network will offer a lifetime of career opportunities.