Stay connected: 3 tips for networking while working from home.
The recent Annual Benchmark Survey of Finance Professionals revealed that most finance professionals adjusted well to the new world of remote work. Working from home, however, is not without its drawbacks. According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work report, loneliness, difficulties with collaboration, and gaps in communication are the biggest struggles of working remotely. To combat those challenges, don’t overlook the importance of networking with not just your colleagues, but with your peers — even while remaining socially distanced.
Whether the word “networking” energizes you or strikes fear into your heart, now is an excellent time to reach out to other finance professionals. During a recent Path to Becoming a CFO talk, Alphabet board member Robin Washington emphasized the importance of continuing to make connections as part of the lifelong learning process during this period of rapid change. “You have to learn how you learn, how to teach yourself, because you've got to stay current. There’s never been a more important time to reach out to peers.”
Connecting with others offers opportunities for different perspectives, industry insights, professional support and advice, and much-needed social interactions — the types of interactions that we take for granted in an office environment. And, of course, networking leads to career opportunities and other chances for professional growth.
Virtual networking opportunities remove the constraints of geography, so it’s possible to connect with finance peers around the world. But, just as you wouldn’t just walk into any live networking event without first verifying its value, it’s important to approach virtual networking strategically. Below are some tips for effective networking while you work at home.
1. Find worthwhile groups.
To find the best online networking group for you, follow the same principles you would in person: seek out inspiring people with similar interests, and situations where it’s easy to share your thoughts and ideas.
The simplicity of Slack facilitates easy, streamlined conversations, which makes it the platform most closely resembling real-life networking events. An excellent example is Airbase’s Off the Ledger Slack community, which is a finance-pros-only community that facilitates conversations started by its finance and accounting members. The #vendors-and-software channel is the most debated, there’s often discussion on how to handle accounting around PPP loans, and the #job-postings channel is regularly updated with info on job openings. Membership is vetted by the community manager to ensure only finance and accounting professionals participate, and a “no sales” policy is strictly enforced. You can find other Slack communities by asking for recommendations on sites like Quora or Reddit, or through Google (just add “Slack Community” to your search topic).
LinkedIn has become even more popular since the onset of the pandemic, with a 50% increase in conversations between connections in 2020. The breadth of LinkedIn groups provides fantastic opportunities to focus on your specific career goals. Not sure which groups to join? LinkedIn will make suggestions based on your interests. Click on “Work” in the upper right corner of the homepage, then “Groups,” then “Discover groups: Find other trusted communities that share and support your goals.” You can also enter a topic in the search box, then select “Groups” in the dropdown menu in the results list that follows.
Your LinkedIn profile will display the groups you belong to, so choose groups that align with your values and interests. This feature can also help you perform some due diligence on your competitors or your customers in order to determine other groups that may hold value.
Educational events like webinars provide opportunities to continue professional development and broaden your network, all while working from home. Many companies report that their webinar attendance has gone up over the last year, and more are being added to meet the growing demand. Webinars that offer CPE credit (like some of Airbase’s webinars) help meet continuing educational requirements, and can be leveraged as opportunities to broaden a network. Be sure to check out the social accounts of the hosts and other participants if that info is posted. Don’t be shy to broadcast your attendance, perhaps by tagging the speakers or other participants in your social posts. And if you have a question during the webinar, let your voice be heard.
2. Make authentic connections online.
Interacting on screen will be different than an in-person event, but the basic rules still apply. As with face-to-face conversations, it’s important that virtual interactions aren’t one-sided. It’s always easy to spot LinkedIn or Slack participants who are primarily interested in getting help, but not in offering any assistance to others. Sharing content that provides value to your peers is a great way to be viewed as a helpful presence. Be sure to read the (virtual) room before you post to ensure you’re adding to the conversation, not just making noise or self-promoting.
If you share an article, be sure to emphasize why you’re sharing it and how it helped you. To create some engagement, ask related questions that spark interest in reading it. Some experts recommend commenting on others’ content for a while before posting your own, but always do so in an authentic way — simply saying “Great article!” might not make the impression you’re aiming for.
3. Get your name out there.
Establishing yourself as a trusted voice in your field improves your visibility, and consequently your connections. Look for opportunities to share your expertise, whether you write a guest blog post for an organization you believe in, or add your name to HARO’s database as an authoritative source for reporters working on finance stories.
If you’re seeking other work opportunities, make sure you tell your growing network. Rhoda Longhenry, Partner and Global Head of Financial Officers Practice at True Search, talked to Airbase founder and CEO, Thejo Kote, about the importance of using connections in advancing a career. She explained that even if you’re happy in your current position, it’s always good to build relationships with recruiters and others who are in hiring positions. “I would say just network, return recruiters’ calls, even if you’re not looking, and build those relationships.”
While many of us miss the opportunity to connect with others, there are still many ways to engage with peers and add to your own network. In fact, the opportunities to connect are far greater now than they ever have been.
If you’d like to join the Off the Ledger Slack Community of finance professionals, you can apply here.
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