Maximise the power of your professional network and unlock your career potential

Published: 17 Nov 2017 By Mike Trollope

Today’s finance jobs market is highly competitive. And if you are already well on your way to ascending the career ladder, the chances are that despite your impressive CV, on paper you probably tick just as many boxes as your equally qualified counterparts. When your qualifications and your achievements aren’t enough to make you stand out from the crowd, what can you do to ensure you are more employable than the next finance executive?

In a market where recruitment budgets are being readily and regularly signed off and new roles are constantly being created, it is clear to see why the majority of finance professionals are open to hearing about career opportunities. However, the abundance of new roles on offer coupled with an even larger number of active (and passive) candidates on the market means there is a lot of competition, especially at a senior level. More than ever, employers have the luxury of cherry-picking the very best new executive talent.

The vast majority of job-openings, especially senior interim opportunities, are rarely advertised or publicly announced – they are filled through word of mouth, networking and headhunting. Some sources say that as many as 85% of roles are filled through pre-existing connections. What that means to you is that when the opportunities arise, if nobody knows your name you won’t so much as get a look in, no matter how suited you are to the role. This fact becomes ever more acute the higher up the food chain you get.

How do you gain access to this ‘hidden jobs market’?
Your professional network could hold the answers.  

The old adage is that ‘it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know’. But in the modern world, when it comes to maximising the impact on your career trajectory, it’s actually who knows you that really makes the difference.

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Networking is not about using people to climb the ladder – it is about utilising the power of individuals’ natural desire to help others and multiplying that exponentially through sheer numbers. A meaningful and successful professional network can create a matrix of connections and relationships that can help keep you abreast of industry developments and best practice, build a formidable professional reputation, keep you updated about potential openings in your own business and elsewhere, and help you put the feelers out into even the most niche and difficult to penetrate corners of the senior-level finance jobs market.

How can finance professionals develop and maintain a professional network that works for them to build their professional profile and create opportunities?  

As recruiters, networking is our bread and butter. Our entire industry is based on our connections, our reputation, and on being the go-to contact for market knowledge whether you are looking to fill a post in your business or for your own next career move. This is where FENG comes in…

FENG was founded in the USA in 1991 and now has over 52,000 members with 80 major cities across the continental United States, 11 International Chapters, and 39 Special Interest Groups. Its purpose is to create the opportunity for senior financial professionals to network, share job leads and create friendships with peers in the financial community. The UK chapter was founded by Nick McCall, CEO of Hay Hill Wealth Management in 2001 and has over 750 members. With such a strong professional network of his own, I spoke to Nick and asked for his advice and his top three tips on how to network effectively.

1.Networking is more than a numbers game

Merely accumulating a large collection of business cards and LinkedIn connections isn’t enough to ensure your network is truly valuable. The quality of your connections is paramount, and it’s imperative that you put as much effort into maintaining your old connections as you do to establishing new ones. Nick McCall thinks the key to maintaining a meaningful network is more than just populating your network with contacts.  He says, “The most important thing is persistence. Networking is all about building up relationships over time and not expecting quick fixes or answers.”

2.You get out what you put in

Networking is about creating a knowledge, advice and assistance-sharing platform, not about having a bank of personal stepping stones. Your connections will see straight through you if you are clearly just ingratiating yourself for your own benefit. Nick adds, “It’s important not to just ask for favours from your contacts. Offer to help others with your expertise and your own industry knowledge, share potential employment leads, and stay in regular contact with your network.”

3.Make yourself three-dimensional 

Though a traditional CV has stood the test of time as the standard method of advertising your qualities as a potential candidate, in this new technologically advanced world it simply isn’t enough to differentiate you from others with similar skills and backgrounds in a crowded marketplace. Networking gives you the opportunity to show who you really are, and build a professional and personal reputation within the industry.

Tech-savvy job-seekers can develop their personal brand by creating a strong social-media and online presence. There are many options available, including becoming an industry influencer by writing blogs and articles for trade websites, showcasing your thought leadership on forums, and by creating well-rounded profiles on LinkedIn. It’s important to go back to basics though, and remember it’s not only an online presence that is important in this day and age. Nick recommends a combination of creating an online presence and attending industry events, meetings, lunches and drinks opportunities. He says, “We live in a digital world that cannot be ignored but at the end of the day nothing beats having a face-to-face meeting.”

Inside every finance professional is a big industry persona just waiting for their time in the spotlight.  With effort, persistence and integrity, your personality and potential can really shine through if you are willing to identify yourself and build your visibility within the industry by using the power of networking.

Mike Trollope – Associate Partner, Finance, Cedar Recruitment

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