Networking is responsible for filling 85% of all jobs—in fact, 70-80% of open positions aren’t even advertised publicly. Not only that, but 80% of professionals believe that networking can boost your career success, with 70% of people reporting that they earned their current job through their networking efforts. So, why aren’t more women in finance networking? The fact of the matter is, that a lot of people recognize that it isn’t always about what you know, it’s who you know. But this isn’t compelling enough to some because of the discomfort they experience when trying to network. There’s a picture of networking being a salesy, selfish kind of endeavor. A superficial part of career growth that takes a lot of time and effort. But, the numbers don’t lie. There are benefits to networking that won’t just impact your professional life but your personal development as well. Exposing yourself to ideas outside of your bubble of friends and colleagues, learning how to reach out for support and be of service to others, and gaining new experience that you can use later on down the road—these are all the results of dedicated networking efforts! So, again, why aren’t more women in accounting networking? Probably because you’re doing it wrong.
Now, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to network. But, the amount of thought and action that you put behind it will absolutely play a role in how successful you are. Will you become a better swimmer if you practice once a week for 30 minutes, or once a day for 30 minutes? You’re not planning ahead For networking to be successful, you have to think ahead. Maybe things are going smoothly in your career now and you don’t need support. But what if five years from now, you decide to start your own practice and have no idea where to begin? Or if your idea is even viable? If you had started networking earlier, you could have already had people in your corner that you could reach out to the moment your idea struck. Part of effective networking is taking your future into consideration. Why? Because networking is an ingredient for your career growth. And growth requires an eye on what you’re doing now and another on what you’ll be doing soon. (Or, soon-ish.) So, maybe you don’t think you need a network of other women in finance now. But, what about when you do? You’re only thinking in terms of yourself There are a lot of misconceptions around networking and mentorship. One of them, chiefly, is that this is a one-way, self-serving relationship. A mentor serves the mentee with whatever they might need. In a network, you only discuss what you’re looking for or what someone might want from you. But, for collaboration to be successful, you can’t base it on how it’ll improve your situation—instead, it needs to be about building towards the betterment of everyone involved. Networking and mentorship are a two-way street: just how the mentee can reach out to their mentor with an obstacle they’re facing, a mentor can also call on a mentee or ask their opinion on something, for example. If a mentor comes across an opportunity that matches their mentees’ expertise and desires, they should send it forward. Likewise, if a mentee comes across a similar opportunity for their mentor, they should reach out! Networking is a mutually beneficial process, with a foundation of give-and-take from both ends. You’re not getting creative COVID-19 has changed the landscape for women in finance in more ways than one. The calendar of in-person events is dry with no end in sight—but this doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to meet new people and develop relationships with others in your field. There are a number of different virtual options to expand your community. You can search on LinkedIn for professionals in your industry to connect with. Comment on a post of theirs and start engaging regularly, or message them directly and have a conversation before exchanging information. Virtual events were the bread and butter of 2020 and it looks to be the same for the better part of 2021. You can find virtual talks, lunch and learns, even wine networking events online. Now, you can network from the comfort of your own home (and pajamas). You can also join an online community of peers, like The Lady CPA Network, where you can connect with other women in accounting, find career opportunities, and even have your resume and business plan reviewed by our team of professional women in finance. Conclusion How do you make new friends? By reaching out and having conversations. How do you have food for dinner? By getting groceries. Things aren’t just going to land in your lap in your life or your career—you have to go get them. Just like in your personal life, your career is no different. Networking, and in that way mentorships, are a way of preparing for your future, growing your career, and building a network of friends and colleagues. Professionals who are mentored are promoted five times more often than those who don’t have mentors. And, people who mentor others have reported feeling less anxiety and described their jobs as more meaningful compared to people who don’t mentor others in their field. So, should you be networking? What do you think?