The definition of networking is: The action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. You might know that most of the highly successful people in COPAS have a network of other business professionals that they can collaborate and solve problems with. We call it a knowledge network, because that’s really the way it’s been used.
Building a Knowledge Network vs. Traditional Networking
Here is an example of how a knowledge network operates. Let’s say you have an accounting issue and unsure of how to handle it. You want to quickly find helpful advice and a resolution. What do you do? You tap into your network and ask them if they have had a similar issue in the past, and how that issue was resolved.
We also call it a knowledge network so that it is clear what we mean when the term “networking” is used, it shouldn’t evoke thoughts of slightly awkward business lunches and long conferences full of fake enthusiasm – because that is not what it is about. Some employers are sensitive to the term for the very reasons above as they think the word “networking” will lead to the loss of a valuable employee.
I’d go as far as to say that knowledge networking is the “secret sauce” of COPAS. I’ve witnessed many members building and effectively using a knowledge network over the years. Many of them now are the ones often called on to dispense the knowledge, but I know they started building their network early in their careers and it’s paid off.
I did the same thing. I have many personal examples from my days in the industry where I used my knowledge network to answer questions about an issue or get another perspective on matters. It was one of the ways I could justify my continued membership and COPAS leadership participation to my management.
Building Your Trusted Knowledge Network
Maybe you’re put off by the idea of networking. Networking isn’t a phony, glad-handing personality, ripe with insincerity activity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The ability to network is probably one of the most valuable skills you can have. If you are on board with the idea of networking, you may be asking yourself the following questions:
- What makes a good networker?
- How do they act?
- What do they say or do?
You may observe characteristics such as an outgoing personality, genuine sincerity, good listening skills, and someone who follows up and keeps up communication. I remember many times in my youth hearing “birds of a feather flock together.” I think the same thing is true here. How do you want to be treated? What kinds of people do you trust and consider to be good friends? You tend to surround yourself with those trusted people and those are the people you want in your network.
Here are a few ideas that you might consider to start building your knowledge network.
Attend society meetings (lunches or committee meetings)
Attend society meetings and sit with someone that is not from your company. This is especially important if you are with a large company that can fill an entire table. The talk at the table in those all-company situations is generally social in nature or “shop talk” between departments.
Attend COPAS meetings
I’m not referring to society meetings here. If you are interested in building your knowledge network, you should seriously consider attending the Spring and Fall COPAS meetings. If your schedule or travel doesn’t allow this to happen, consider having some committees meet in January and July. Use these events to your advantage – that is what they are there for, after all.
Observe who is speaking in the committee meetings
Make it a point to try to sit closer to them or even next to them. Observe who they are talking to during breaks. What are they saying about the discussions in the room? At the break, go start up a conversation. Ask them what they meant about a particular comment. Make sure you are actively listening and let them give you all of the background you can absorb.
Ask for a business card
This seems pretty straightforward, but let’s take it a step further. After they give you their card, ask if you can give them a call with questions. If they say no, they say no, but chances are that they will be happy to give you advice and answer your questions. Always make sure you give them your business card as well. They are more than willing to take a future call if they have your card rather than you explaining how/where you met and who you are. They will have a name and a face in mind when you do decide to give them a call.
Remember, the people you are getting to know have networks too. Look the people up you met previously at the next meeting and touch base, but don’t stop there. Find another one or two people that you would like to talk to that will help grow your network.
Find a Mentor
COPAS has a mentoring program at the Spring and Fall meetings. If you want a mentor, request one. They will for sure introduce you to everyone they know.
Keep track of successes that have come from meetings
Keep track of how meeting new members has helped you in your daily role. It could be used as justification for attending future meetings. It doesn’t have to be formal, just be able to articulate to your supervisor the value that contact has to your business. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.
Networking is more than just getting out and meeting people. It’s a plan to get to know people, who will do business with you and introduce you to others for the same purpose. It might be a little uncomfortable at first, but try and you’ll be surprised by how it positively affects you and your business.
Learn more about building your knowledge network and generating business with the help of COPAS. We provide expertise for the oil and gas industry through the development of Model Form Accounting Procedures, publications, and education. We are a forum for the active exchange of ideas that results in innovative business and accounting solutions. Contact us today for more information.