Building a Better Network

Is it better to surround yourself with people just like you, or is a diverse group of colleagues? For many of us, it is more comfortable to stay within a network of like-minded people who look, talk and act like us.  Accountants who network with accountants may discuss interesting initiatives and issues within their profession, but they will not learn what is impacting people (read potential clients) in other professions.

Building a stronger professional network depends on going outside your comfort zone. Networking outside your profession can offer you new ideas, diverse opinions and exposure to various professions. For young professionals, establishing a diverse network is really important to ongoing success and job satisfaction.

An AICPA blog post, The 7 Types of People You Need in Your Network, talks about how to build a well-rounded network.  Develop a strategy for developing your network that includes people who fulfill specific roles:  Mentors, Peers, Influencers and Prospects. Three others groups – Cheerleaders, Grounders and Connectors – are, I think, more difficult to cultivate but critical to your success.

Cheerleaders – In every career, something goes wrong. Clients leave, accounts are lost, mistakes are made. We all need trusted friends and colleagues who know us, believe in us and will stand by us when things are not going well. A cheerleader helps lift the fog and lets you get back to the business of doing business.

Grounders – If Cheerleaders pick us up, Grounders ensure we don’t fly out into orbit! Think of these folks as the realists in your network. They challenge you, encourage you to push harder and are the people you can count on to help you think through your biggest ideas.

Connectors – This under-developed group are the folks who offer you access to their network. While many people you meet will not do this, the Connectors take pride is offering contacts, information and resources to help you succeed.

Networking does take effort but you will reap benefits. Identify opportunities within your professional and personal communities to meet diverse groups of people. Whether it is your local Chamber of Commerce, a charity that you care about, Rotary or Kiwanis, or the PTA at your child’s school, get involved. For networking, showing up is half the job.  Actively participating is the rest.