I think regardless of whatever industry you join, or whatever profession you are in, you can’t escape the word ‘networking’. It was prominent during my industrial placement (who is also an Accenture client), also prominent during my summer internship (again this company is also another Accenture client), so there were no surprises that in the consulting world, networking has been brought up again.
What I have come to realise is that networking is a lot simpler than what I made it out to be. When I hear networking, I used to think of groups of people talking about anything and everything whilst exchanging business cards. There is no denying that scenario is called networking, but networking can also be striking up a conversation with someone in the breakfast queue whilst you wait for a new batch of scrambled eggs to be cooked.
For example, a fresh faced grad talking to a manager whilst waiting in the breakfast queue, who is part of some communities the grad would be very interested in joining. And the manager has also offered to help them if they come across any unfamiliar processes or terms (Accenture Acronyms [AA] will probably be discussed in a later blog). Details are swapped, a follow up message is sent a little later and the manager introduces them to a few other people and hey presto – a small network of contacts has just been built up.
The above scenario is actually how I got my mentor, who has been extremely helpful in helping me find my feet and of course introducing me to people to expand my network. (It’s actually through my mentor’s contacts I was able to find the current project I am on now. A bit of six degrees of separation.)
Networking isn’t just the big, structured events with managers and senior managers mingling with big groups of people. Though in my ten months with Accenture I have attended quite a few and have come to rather enjoy them – it is often in these big events that I am reunited with people in start group who I haven’t seen for a while due to the fact we are on different projects. I also get to meet a wide array of people from different projects and even different locations – Accenture is very global.
Networking can be those random, sometimes simple conversations you have by the coffee machine, in the lift or in my case, the queue for breakfast. Networking can be done by joining various interest or sports groups (of which Accenture has loads!) This is my preferred way of networking as you’re already surrounded by people you have something in common with. Accenture is all about the people, and the more people you have in your network, the more you’ll find that you’ll enjoy life at Accenture and be offered more opportunities.
However it is not just enough to have a wide network, you also need to engage effectively with it! How many times have you bumped into an old friend and said you would catch up at a later date. More often than not, these plans do not materialise and that old friend who you haven’t spoken to in ages, once again becomes that old friend you haven’t spoken to in ages.
Social and interests groups are a great way to expand your network. I am part of a few interest groups which I hope will help as part of my career advancement (such as Analytics and Big Data) as well as communities such as the Accenture African Caribbean Network; which not just an interest group, but also part of my identity and culture, where I can talk to colleagues with whom I share some common ground with. I believe networking in groups were you have common interests with other people makes breaking the ice just that little bit easier. I also play women’s rugby for Accenture, which again extends my network – although I am mainly there to play rugby, as a close-knit community we are all able to discuss work and offer advice on any work-related issues.
I’ve been fortunate to make some contacts who are senior managers and who can and have offered me their advice, guidance and help on numerous work and even personal related matters. But it should come as no surprise that the more senior you are, the busier you are. Getting hold of some of these managers can sometimes be difficult and last minute meeting cancellations and postponements will be likely. However, they genuinely want to help and I’ve found that I need to be persistent if I want to get someone’s time. I like to schedule regular catch ups with many of my contacts to see how they are and let them know what I’ve been up to. It’s likely when I search for my next role, I’m going to ask my network what is available and the more I engage with them, the more likely they are to select or recommend me for roles they come across. And the same is true for the reverse. If I know of any roles that someone in my contact is suitable for I’ll notify them of potential opportunities.
Networking is very simple – the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.