In the classroom: softly softly approach

For financial services professionals wanting to develop their careers, just
focusing on technical qualifications is no longer enough. Professionals at all
levels are finding they can benefit from ‘soft skills’ training, intended to
expand an individual’s broader business and management skills.

One area that has attracted mounting interest since continuous professional
development was introduced for finance professionals more than two years ago are
networking skills. With this in mind, now would be an opportune time for finance
professionals to consider networking training, not only as a way to fulfil their
remaining CPD hours, but also to help develop their careers.

Building a reputation from the earliest stages in your career through
networking will provide you with a profile and resource for future use. You can
never know too many people and better contacts gives you access to new
opportunities and clients. Meeting people, though, is about quality not quantity
and good networking is about how useful the person is to your network.

For example, from the moment you enter a room it is important to appear
confident. People you don’t know can be intimidating but the odds are five out
of six people you are looking at also feel uncomfortable at the prospect.

Being able to assess the room is also important. At any event, you should
take note of how people stand physically grouped together. You’ll find that
people stand with their bodies clearly indicating whether or not they’re open to
having someone approach and join them or not. Often people who attend the event
together will stay grouped together for the entire event. Don’t stay with people
you already know.

More broadly, we live in a global society where it’s imperative to have an
awareness of cultural differences. We all speak the language of referrals, and
we all want to do business based on trust. That said, we should be aware and
prepared for some of the differences that can affect the way we network with
other cultures.

Building your business contacts is about cultivating relationships with
people who get to know and trust you. CPD soft skills can help finance
professionals at all levels improve their career effectiveness and training
providers are increasingly working with employers to develop courses where the
content is relevant to different sectors.

Bob Hawken is chief executive of professional development at BPP Professional

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