Networking can be just for fun too

May 25, 2011

OSCPA members networking at the Dayton Accounting Show

Last week I attended OSCPA’s Ohio Accounting Show in Dayton and as always, I came away with a few a-ha moments.

The first is no surprise really—CPAs, like every other professional, like to mix fun with business. On the first day, I was very popular as I handed out raffle tickets for the Kodak-Pocket Video Camera and iPad drawings. After breakfast, members hurried off to sessions but on the first break, they were back in the exhibit hall, visiting with exhibitors and straining to hear whose name was called for the latest prize drawing.

At the Society, we are always promoting the value of networking and this event delivered on such opportunities in abundance. But just as in any group, some took to networking like fish to water while others hung back, not sure of where and when to join the conversation.

At the networking breakfast, I sat with a group of business and industry CPAs. As we chatted amiably over eggs and sausage, the conversation moved from how small employers can afford to keep offering healthcare coverage to the outlook for college graduates. We didn’t pick these topics off of a networking card in the center of the table. We got there by sharing personal bits about ourselves which moved the discussion in new and sometimes funny directions, like how we get our teenagers out of bed for school.

I lunched with a group of exhibitors from CCH Walters Kluwer, and learned one from Canton knows the football coach at my daughter’s high school. We ended up talking about school funding challenges.

To my left was a retired CPA who is still active on our Dayton show committee. We both worked for the same international holding company years ago—me in Pennsylvania and he in Dayton. Who knew we’d someday be sharing lunch and talking about how much we love the mountains in my home state?

I’m pretty sure we didn’t solve world hunger or Ohio’s budget problems in those two half hours, but the conversation was interesting and provided a few friendly faces in the crowd of more than 500.

It didn’t just feel like a business event anymore. And it occurred to me that the best networking happens when you’re not even trying that hard.

Throughout the day, I ran into every one of my table mates and each time we smiled and said, ‘hello’ or shared our opinions on what we just learned—or on the food which, by the way, is fabulous at Sinclair Community College.

If networking doesn’t come easy to you, try thinking of it differently. It’s not something you must do to advance your career. It can simply be a way to meet new people. The other benefits are icing.

Getting started

For tips on effective networking, see OSCPA’s April blog post on that same topic. It includes a link to networking tips for shy people.

You can also ease into networking by sharing your time and talents doing something you love. The Ohio Society has a ton of volunteer opportunities where you can work side by side with other CPAs.

We are recruiting volunteers right now for our standing committees, and always have room for willing CPAs to plan shows and events, or to teach FETCH!, the elementary financial literacy program. There are even programs geared specifically for networking.

It all comes down to a mindset, really. Networking doesn’t have to be the big, scary elephant in the room. It can just be dinner with new friends. And who can’t use more friends?


Email effects bottom line

May 13, 2011

By Fallon Forbush

iStock_000016467380XSmall My email inbox reached maximum capacity last week, and I had thought about keeping it that way. Not deleting any items so that I couldn’t receive any more email was liberating.

Then reality set in and I cleared out my folders, continuing on the endless chain of communication that has become the staple of the way the working world communicates. We all know that email is a must, but what you may not know is that the way you email can make or break you.

How can emailing go wrong? Your email etiquette is just as important as how you dress on the job; both are a direct reflection of who you are.

Amanda Moore, the outside sales and marketing representative for PIP Printing and Marketing Services, wrote about an email experience in her Marketing for Tomorrow blog:

“I received two emails this week that caught my attention for two drastically different reasons. The first was from a job applicant who was submitting a resume. Although my company has no job openings right now, I opened the attachment because his email was so well written. The applicant had perfect grammar, spelling, addressed me personally, and took the time to do some research on my company. As I read the email, I felt as if this job seeker knew me, my business, and what I was looking for in an employee. Unfortunately, I do not have a position to offer him but you can bet I am keeping his resume. The second email was forwarded to me by a friend and actually was a marketing email from a competitor of mine. I have never seen a more unprofessional email. The email had purple font, grammar mistakes, spelling issues, illegal use of ellipsis, capitalization mistakes, random poetry-like indentations all over the place, and exclamation point abuse. My first impression was that I would never do business with this person”.

Perhaps you know better and make sure your emails are as professional as you are in the office, but do you forward annoying chain messages? Save the junk mail for your private accounts. Otherwise, people will resent you for making them sift through more emails than they already have to. It makes you look unprofessional and may result in your emails getting automatically deleted, even when they aren’t junk.

Mixing personal matters with your company email can have its consequences. Check out this video segment from the Today Show.

Even for the most well-mannered emailer, there are a few tips to be more effective.

Do you remember the last time your inbox wasn’t saturated with endless messages? If you actually want your emails to be read, you can’t neglect the power of the subject line. About.com offers great advice on how to write precise subject lines that don’t waste peoples’ time. Honestly, did you think “Hi” or “Meeting” actually works well?

Emails are informal, but failure to include a greeting and a closing can come off as cold and your communication will be less effective. Ehow.com suggests different greetings for certain people.

Perhaps before even thinking of composing an email, think about what you’re doing. It’s always easy to shoot off an email, but what is it accomplishing? When composing emails, Oprah suggests taking 10 seconds to evaluate whether or not email is the best way to say what you need.

For more, Lydia Ramsey, business etiquette expert, has a lot to say about the top email faux pas.


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