I am never surprised when a member tells me that he isn’t good at networking.
As financial professionals, we tend to “come with the woodwork.” In any major corporation, the accounting department is usually where you will find most of the longest service employees.
And, it is not only our staff that tends to stay, but us too. As you may know, I was in the advertising business for 9 years. I had occasion to chat with a friend of mine who was an art director at another agency. Although I had only worked at 3 firms when I was 46, he at the same age had worked at 25 different agencies, some of them twice. The need to develop job hunting skills in his case was essential, in my case, not as important.
Any skill you practice you get better at doing. As we all move into middle age (and the alternative to getting older isn’t pretty), we need to build our job changing skills, and key among them is networking. If you accept my personal observation that large companies don’t hire senior executives, the only place to look for work is small and middle market firms.
Unfortunately smaller firms fall into two broad categories: good ones and bad ones. The good ones often get acquired and the bad ones go out of business. In each case, your job as Chief Financial Officer is often eliminated. This is why you will find yourself changing jobs so frequently. Don’t let it feel like a surprise anymore. It isn’t you and there is little you can do about it other than be prepared.
Trust me, my art director friend always “had his bags packed.”
Networking is about building lasting friendships, something we make easy in The FENG. There are so many ways to get involved that it would not be possible to enumerate them all in one editorial. So, I will only mention the “low hanging fruit.”
Have you been to all of the chapter meetings within driving distance? It is a great way to meet your fellow members. The bonds formed by in person meetings often work the best. To really get out and “touch someone” can’t be beat. To learn first-hand about the warmth and concern that others will provide you if you give them the chance will surprise and amaze you if you haven’t experienced it before. And, the great lesson that it won’t kill you to let others help you, couldn’t hurt either. As you learn this lesson, I hope you will pass it on to others. Perhaps they will even let you help them.
When you extend the hand of friendship to others you will often find that you get more out of it than they do. It is another of those amazing things you have to experience to believe.
If you want to do a little practicing, I always recommend calling a few new members. The many folkways of The FENG are more than a little beyond belief. You can see it explained on our website, but our goal is to ensure that new members experience it first-hand. See if you can make believers (or as I call them Fanatic FENG’ers) out of at least one person every week.
If I may quote Bob Walker, Chair of our Dallas chapter, look for your mirror. Finding members who are just like you is easy in The FENG. We have a fully searchable membership directory out on our website. Take a look for old friends and then proceed to make some new ones. Firms where you have worked, competitors of your firms are all good places to start. Nearby neighbors (search by area code and telephone exchange) can give you some folks to meet for coffee in the morning, lunch at mid-day or even dinner.
All it takes to become a professional and remarkable networker is practice. Pick a way to get started and have at it. I know you all can do it.
If you need help getting started, please call me, just not everyone on the same day.