Every year, one of the Zicklin Graduate Accounting Society (ZGAS) major events is the KPMG Speed Networking event. This year was no exception. Eight professionals from the Audit, Tax and Advisory service lines along with over 120 students participated. Everyone involved was pleased the event was such a success.
I was very glad to see that all participants were so eager and active while talking to the professionals; however, I observed that a lot of student-participants were networking just for the sake of networking. What I mean by this is that some conversations seemed to lack a genuine exchange of ideas and value-adding points. Whether you are looking for a referral or merely a deeper insight, this type of conversation is not really helpful or sustainable. I would like to share with you some of my basic tips to enhance your networking skills.
- Be prepared: Professionals will always appreciate seeing that you are interested, so show how much you know about relevant subjects. It may also be helpful to point out any common connections between you and the person you are talking to - mutual friends, school, education, activities, professional credentials, or work-life balance.
- Listen well: Again, it never hurts if you are an active and respectful listener. Communication goes both ways. So on one hand, good listening will allow you to catch useful information for you to converse. On the other hand, your respectful listening will be appreciated and reciprocated.
- Body language: The person you are speaking with may notice any moves you make. First (and most importantly) make eye contact. It is very easy to express how interested you are or aren’t through your eyes - calm down, maintain a good posture, and avoid extreme gestures.
- Respect other participants: Your professionalism and personality is important at all times, even in casual situations, such as while waiting for an event to begin. Treat everyone and yourself as a professional. You never know if you’re talking to someone who could be a valuable connection.
The next step is practice. Although these techniques could be honed with your career advisor or friends, it is important to understand exactly what aspects of communication are the most effective and how authentic and genuine conversations can bring you the most benefit.