Build yourself a fan base

For many accountants thrown into the job market, their personal network
quickly becomes a vital lifeline to finding new employment. But how should you
best develop yours? A colleague of mine, Steven Pearce, helps professionals
develop personal impact at work and in business relationships. He says that to
stand out from colleagues, candidates or firms, you need to develop a personal
brand and a loyal fan base.

Few of us think of our contacts as a fan base, but they are as they support
us in business or social contexts. Whatever your current goal, consider which of
your contacts could help. Map out your network (you’ll be surprised how big it
is) and look to fill the gaps. You may find your current contacts can help, or
you may find that you need to meet a prospective contact at an industry,
business or social event. Some accountants have even used social networking
vehicles such as LinkedIn to see if a contact will meet for a discussion, or is
available for a call.

One unwritten rule is, when interacting with your contacts, avoid being seen
as always asking for favours. If you are constantly taking, people’s support
soon evaporates. Instead, think of ways you can help them and, if you don’t know
how, invest time to understand their current goals and aspirations. When someone
helps us in an appropriate and valuable way we never forget it and feel the need
to reciprocate.

Building a network is both an exciting and challenging feat that is always in
a state of development. Social networking technology means we can forge
relationships very quickly with large numbers of people. However, face-to-face
and personal human contact still counts for a great deal – especially in
business. Emailing and even telephone conversations can only say and reveal so
much. Often more in-depth relationship building discussions can only be had when
we’re physically with someone, whether that context is coffee, lunch, an
informal meeting or dinner. This means that your network mantra should be
quality of relationships, with the right people, over quantity. Focus on those
where the chemistry is right and you feel that there is mutual benefit from
staying in touch.

John Timperley is managing director of The Results Consultancy

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