Today’s job market in banking and the financial services sector is tougher than ever. No matter whether you are just starting out in a finance career or are ambitious and want to climb the ladder to a top industry role, you need to learn to stand out from the crowd.
Many of your colleagues will have identical qualifications to your own. Starting at entry level at any firm, your experience within the business may be similar to that of several others recruited at the same time. What you need to help you reach the next level is an effective professional network among colleagues, clients and other personal contacts.
Whether online or face to face, it can pay real long-term dividends to foster and maintain relationships with trusted connections who you can rely on for help and advice – and who you, in return, are willing to help or mentor.
An effective professional network will keep you abreast of:
- Career opportunities in your own firm
- Potential openings in other businesses
- Industry insights and trends
- Technical know-how
- Forthcoming developments that could impact on your career
Here are three networking tips which will help finance professionals to get ahead.
Attend entrepreneur meet-up groups.
While professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, together with all the other social media options, may seem ever more important in developing strategic connections, there is still a lot to be said for the older, tried-and-tested methods.
When it comes to reaching out to an existing or potential client – or asking advice of a senior colleague – face-to-face interaction is still the most effective means of communication.
Physical meet-up groups for entrepreneurs give aspiring freelancers and ambitious industry professionals the chance to build local relationships within the financial community. Sometimes a presentation might be arranged by a mentor or a respected industry figure, maybe giving you the chance to go to school on their management techniques, or on their vision of the banking sector’s future. Such meetings present a great opportunity to ask questions and to get answers – both to solve real problems and to gain recognition within the group.
Show a genuine interest.
The gradual building of an effective professional network is a career-long task. You should consider it almost as a parallel line of work, and allocate time to extending and strengthening your network of connections on a weekly basis. Put in the time, watch and learn the techniques of successful networking, and your efforts will reap their own rewards.
However, the single surest way to nip contacts in the bud and curtail your career progress is to be too overt, too single-minded in your ultimate goal.
Show a genuine interest in the people you meet. Discuss their interests and hobbies. Ask them questions about their background, their company role or its products and services. Listen to their answers. Everyone enjoys a conversation on their pet favourite subject: themselves. But no one likes to feel they are being played along or patronised – and sometimes there can be a fine line between getting it right and wrong.
Relationship marketing is a key component in finance. Learn to be a people person, go with the flow of conversation, and don’t push too hard, too quickly for strategic contacts or contracts.
Keep up to date with industry trends.
Our top finance and accounting recruiters think it’s important to keep up to date with industry trends in order to ensure your conversation starters and advice are topical and well informed.
Networking is especially important within the financial services industry because it is a naturally volatile job market functioning in an extremely competitive environment. More so than in many other industries, you need to give people value in order that they value having you as part of their professional network.
Always bear in mind that information you may take for granted could prove valuable to a contact. Mergers and the consolidation of businesses are commonplace in finance – but getting wind of such changes, even a single day before an official announcement, could prove crucial to a career decision. Likewise, new government regulations, departmental or managerial changes, an early retirement or a shift in a company’s strategic direction may signal forthcoming problems for some of your network connections – whilst they may also provide an opportunity for others.