Leveraging Your Contacts

Networking Overview: Networking is a common synonym for developing and maintaining contacts and personal connections with a variety of people who might be helpful to you and your career. It is an especially important aspect of career management in the financial services industry since it helps you keep abreast of:

  • Career opportunities in your own firm
  • Career opportunities in other firms
  • Industry trends
  • Pending developments in your firm and their ramifications for you
  • Sources of technical expertise that you can tap

Note that changing jobs internally can present some special challenges. Meanwhile, changing jobs itself can be an integral part of a long-term career strategy.

Networking Essentials: The art of networking has several essential aspects:

  • Meeting people who can be of help to you
  • Collecting and updating contact info, like phone numbers and e-mail addresses
  • Keeping in regular contact with those in your network
  • Thanking people for their help
  • Helping others when asked

Networking in Finance: Networking is particularly active in the financial services industry for a few important reasons:

  • Frequent layoffs created by consolidation of the financial industry or the business cycle
  • Changes in strategic direction that reduce the importance of your position or department
  • Mergers or internal political struggles that damage your career prospects (e.g., when a mentor or a sponsor is forced out, or when you are made subordinate to a similar group coming over in a merger)
  • Financial professionals' eagerness to shop their talents around
  • The need for trusted advisors on professional and career questions

Networking and Job Changes: Networking is also especially important in the financial services industry because managers who move to new positions (either within or across firms) often bring along a whole team of subordinates.

In many instances, these teams remain intact through several moves, even if they are across several different employers. Skilled networking is critical to getting on board with such a team and advancing your career in the process.

Networking and Problem Solving: Deft networking also allows you to tap technical expertise when you are faced with business problems that exceed your capacity, or that of your colleagues or staff, to solve. Knowing whom to contact with a particular business question or problem is like having a consultant at the ready to assist you. Career advancement often depends heavily on being able to get quick, accurate answers to problems from your personal networks.

Networking and Continuing Education: In using your network of personal contacts to assist with problem-solving, you should be increasing your base of knowledge. Additionally, you should utilize your network for educational purposes even when there is not a specific problem at hand. Keeping in touch with knowledgeable people and discussing their fields of expertise can be an informal but extremely rich source of continuing education.

Mentoring Programs: Some companies and organizations offer formal mentoring programs in which younger, less experienced employees are introduced to older, veteran employees who will provide career advice and guidance.

These programs can be structured to varying degrees, possibly with meetings on a regular basis, and possibly with formal agendas for these meetings. Whether or not the company or organization in question sponsors a formal mentoring program, savvy younger employees should attempt to establish informal mentoring relationships with more senior employees, such as their supervisors or more experienced colleagues.

Networking Challenges: Employees who work at remote locations away from headquarters, who spend weeks or months at a time at clients' work sites (a particular issue with auditors and consultants, such as those employed by the Big Four), or who telecommute are particularly disadvantaged regarding networking, since they have limited face-to-face contacts with other key personnel in their companies.

For More Information: Follow the links below for more detail on topics in career advancement where networking plays a vital role.