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October 16, 2009 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Help me network like a professional. What are common mistakes that soon-to-be graduates make at network events? What is proper etiquette for name exchanges, gracefully making one's way into a group conversation, and how one does one make an impression without coming off too strong? Particulars after the break.

This is a large networking event for accounting students put together by the campus and about twenty accounting firms. If anyone has experience in this job field specifically, that would be great. The purpose is mainly for students to get to know the different firms by briefly meeting representatives and staff from each and asking questions. What is the best way to ask thoughtful questions, but how do I incorporate myself into it or somehow make it more memorable?

Also, I'd greatly appreciate just any general advice for dealing with situations I may not be thinking of.
posted by cgomez to Work & Money (7 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Don't try to impress people with some piece of arcane accounting knowledge. At best you will make the person to whom you're speaking insecure (why don't I know what this kid knows?), and at worse you'll make yourself look foolish (this kid's got it all wrong...it's actually this...)

Better to ask the person specific questions about them. Show interest in the person you're talking about.

Avoid topics like politics, family, religion, sports, etc.
posted by dfriedman at 9:29 AM on October 16, 2009

"What drew you to this field/to this firm?"

Be memorable by being presentable, relaxed, and prepared.

Do you know which firms are invited yet? If so, spend some time looking up each one online and learning about them. What are their major accounts? Revenues? Business philosophy? General image? Specialties? Needs? Geographic scope?

You might even jot some details about each one on index cards, and use them as flash cards to prep, or bring them with you in a pocket, as crib sheets.

Knowing something about each firm will make you stand out. Conversations will look like:

"Hi, I'm cgomez, what firm are you with?"
"Beancounters & Co.,"
"Oh, Beancounters - you folks specialize in external audits, right? I have some experience with that from my internship at MidasCorp."

..and so on.

Bring clean copies of your resume, and business cards. If you don't have business cards yet, grab a kit from a copy store and make some.
posted by Miko at 9:39 AM on October 16, 2009

Trent from The Simple Dollar has been doing a series of posts reviewing this book: Never Eat Alone, and I've found both the book and his comments worthwhile in learning how to network.
posted by snowleopard at 10:23 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Show them you're smart and you're a good guy. Be confident, but don't be a dick. Be outgoing, remember names, ask people about themselves. Wear a really nice suit.
posted by bunny hugger at 12:10 PM on October 16, 2009

Networking at an accounting firm recruiting event is a little different than networking in general and a lot of general networking advice posted here doesn't necessarily apply.

Here are some tips specific for this sort of event:

Get the firms list in advance and research each of them and what they do so you can ask intelligent questions about the firm and the type of clients and work they do. The Big 4 you can assume have all sorts of big clients all over the place. For the regional firms, find out what geographical areas, industries, and client size they specialize in. If that information isn't readily available on their website you can ask them that.

Ask the recruiters how long they've worked for the firm, what position/area they started in and what they do now, why they chose their firm, why they chose their specialty.

Questions you should be prepared to answer about yourself:

1. When will you graduate? When will you be eligible to sit for the CPA exam? (And if you don't intend to sit for the CPA exam, don't bother talking with accounting firms, just talk to any non-accounting businesses that are there to recruit entry-level cost accountants.)

2. Are you interested in audit or tax? Why? (A mix of reasons having to do with the work itself and the lifestyle factors should be acceptable. Audit has lots more client contact, long hours, lots of travel, and frequently changing teams. Tax work is usually done in the firm's own offices, with much less travel and more predictable hours, and you generally work with the same coworkers day-to-day.)

3. Why do you want to be an accountant? (Bad answer: "I like math." This is a bad answer because the math is trivial and Excel does it for you. Good answer: "I like working with people and I'm great at communicating quantitative information.")
posted by Jacqueline at 1:29 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

ask questions that other people don't ask. especially if you are meeting real employees, rather than HR drones.
posted by mezamashii at 5:26 PM on October 16, 2009

AFTER your interesting conversation and exchanging cards, always make sure one of your closing questions is "Do you know anyone else I should talk to to learn more?"

You will get either an in to another conversation where you are, or contacts for later conversations.
posted by whatzit at 9:00 PM on October 16, 2009

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