When looking at your priorities, both at home and at work, networking likely falls somewhere near the bottom of the list. Time spent on career development is also time that could be spent with loved ones. But if you can spend just 10% of your week networking, you’ll be amazed at how much of a difference this time cultivating relationships can make in your career. Whether it be sending an email to an old colleague to check in on how they’re doing or getting some time on the calendar with a firm partner, every little bit counts.
The opportunities are endless
There are many women's networking groups out there that you can get involved in. Even beyond your state CPA society, there are a plethora of ways to network with other women in the profession. You can try websites like Meetup.com for a broader search engine for networking groups or Ellevate for women-only groups. The number of professional groups out there that help women navigate the unwritten rules of the profession is ever-increasing. I was recently at the CalCPA Women’s Leadership Forum, where they were teaching female accounting professionals about the areas of the firm that they may not have been exposed to before, covering topics such as: how to effectively sell, get a board position as a woman and the secrets that only men are generally privy to in firms. This is an example of how you can get out there, get involved and learn the things you need to get ahead by sharing information, together.
There are plenty of women out there trying to help other women succeed. By seeking them out and staying connected, you can create those mutually beneficial relationships. My friendship with Gail Perry, editor-in-chief of CPA Practice Advisor is one of those important relationships. She is an example of someone who, for a long time, has promoted the success of female accountants in the industry; ensuring there is a spotlight on our progress and what we can still do to help each other. Our networking relationship has culminated in this column, where we are able to provide guidance on important topics for women in the industry so they can be more successful.
Another example of a firm that has been working to create an environment to develop these relationships internally was highlighted in this year’s Accounting MOVE project. Nebraska firm, Bland & Associates, was noted for its approach to training partner-track employees. Aside from training around leadership, practice management, sales and business development, the firm focuses on helping future leaders build a network with future partners of other firms as well. The ability to build friendships with people outside your firm who you can relate to and work through shared struggles with is another way of building a powerful female network.
Look outside your professional circle
I’ve been fortunate to have had the same two best friends since I was a kid. From our younger years passing notes in school, to discussing more important things such as the goals we set for ourselves in our careers and balancing our families. Although we have different careers, we’ve been on parallel paths and have been there to support each other all through our lives. There isn’t a moment throughout my career that I have not doubted myself and wondered if I was doing everything I needed in every facet of my life, but luckily for me, my girlfriends are on this adventure with me and we are there to pick each other up when we need it and provide referrals to experts we know when a need arises.
Together, women can achieve anything, and much more when we help each other, rather than siloing ourselves. Take the first steps in reaching out to the people you work with, start forging these important relationships so you are there to support each other in your careers as each of you need it. Determine early on in the networking relationship what the give and take will be and how you can help each other. Meet regularly, not just once, so you are top of mind and understand the issues each of you are facing and how you may be able to help each other. Create a network outside of work as well, either in the ways described or by creating your own networking group. Leverage your networks in order to thrive in your career and experience the satisfaction of helping other women achieve their dreams as well.