Being a young accountant means having one of the widest fields of career potential in front of you. The profession is in high demand, but supply, especially of CPAs, is struggling to keep up. This favorable job market doesn't mean you should sit back and relax, but rather be ready and treat opportunity as if it were always around the corner. You should be professional to the standard of seasoned pro's, bring the energy of someone new to the industry, and able to meet every expectation as times and common practices have changed. This means your LinkedIn, handshake, Twitter, business card, and Instagram pages should all be kept to a professional standard as they will be scrutinized. The worst thing you can do is impress online and disappoint in person. Keeping everyone happy and making genuine connections can feel intimidating and taxing, but it is possible and worth it.
Start by building a good base of helpful practices by considering old school and new school approaches. Figure out how to bridge the gap to meet everyone where they are at. Don't overdo it by treating people like they don't understand the internet, but also don't assume people communicate how you do or will definitely see your message on LinkedIn. You don't want to miss an opportunity because someone would rather have a phone call than a message online or vice versa.
Don't Forget the Basics
You know the feeling when you walk away overanalyzing every part of an interaction - when you stumbled over your words, when you left and both walked the same way, or when they just grabbed three of your finger during a handshake and you held on for too long? These things are the result of perfectly innocent under planning, but they're memories people think of in their subconscious when hiring. While they don't have a lot to do with your skillset or proficiency, they have everything to do with your reputation.
Make sure you keep the handshake firm but not overbearing, freshen your breath before meeting new people, and have a go-to exit strategy that isn't too short but also doesn't linger or make the goodbye awkward. No one really thinks they are bad at these things, but ask yourself if you are good at them?
Remembering a Name Goes a Long Way
This can be one of the worst most embarrassing things to happen, especially in interactions with only one or two people. You just got introduced and need to remember someone's name but draw a blank. Lucky for you, there's a trick to remembering names. When someone introduces themselves, immediately respond with their name "Nice to meet you, Sam". And right after that make three mental sentences - 'Sam's last name is O'Hare. Sam went to school at the University of Michigan. Sam has red hair". You are much more likely to recall someone's name if you've used it and if it is paired with physical qualities and other professional associations. If you still forget, just be honest and apologetic "Sorry, what's your name again? I want to make sure I remember." or simply ask for a business card.
Have a Simple, Quality, and Informative Business Card
You may think that we've completely entered the digital age. The proof is in the large number of young professionals that have mastered LinkedIn and mobile networking, but still lack a business card or have opted for a glaringly cheap option. True, the business world doesn't rely as heavily on the little rectangle of paper, but these networking tools aren't relics yet. Many people lose track of online connections because they come and go so fast. A hard copy of your information that can stay in someone's wallet or sit on their desk can prove to be extremely beneficial. Opt for a thicker card stock and good ink. You may save a couple bucks by going with the cheapest option but the goal is to stand out. Make sure you get a hardy card with a simple design that has all your important contact information on it.
Don't Force a Connection
Not every interaction is going to be great. Sometimes you won't have anything to offer the other person or vice-versa. Recognize this and move on. It's okay. The failure here would be wasting both of your time trying to make a bond that's not there.
Master Your Exit Strategy
Don't be afraid to have a lunch that runs long if the conversation is great that in general, stick to a timeline for first interactions. Be respectful of the other person's time and your own. If the conversation leaves you wanting for more, suggest you contact them and set up a meeting for lunch, coffee, or a common interest in golf or watching a game after work. If it's appropriate, offer a business card or exchange numbers. End with a good handshake and ask where they're going after to avoid the goodbye where you then walk with each other. Follow up later that day or the next with a text or connection on LinkedIn with a message saying you appreciated meeting them.
Doing these simple things well will result in boosting your professional reputation and making connections that will benefit you and your company. Keep it genuine and concise, don't try too hard, and remember to manage person to person and online interactions as equally important.