By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager
Kenneth Ashe CPA, PMP, is the Finance Manager at Prudential Financial and an EY alum with experience in Fortune 500 companies. As a project management professional, he had some interesting insights about what goes into a successful networking campaign.
How important is networking in general to a career in the Big Four and why?
I would say that networking is essential to a long-term career in the Big Four. Bonuses and promotions are often determined by committee, so it pays to know the people on your committee.
What do you know about how the process works?
From my experience, promotions are done by committee. This involves a team of people above your level meeting to discuss everyone at your level. You boss should be in this meeting, and it’s up to her to speak on your behalf. Other team members will discuss their interactions with you as well.
I know an individual that thought she was going to be promoted and wasn’t because some of the decision makers in the room didn’t know who she was. Their rational was simple. “How can this person be so good if I don’t know who they are?”
Now you might not agree with this, but it speaks to the importance of networking. If she had only introduced herself to couple more of the group’s leaders, she might have been promoted
that cycle. (She was eventually promoted about a year later after she consciously made an effort to increase her network.)
How important is finding a mentor and why?
Having a mentor is beneficial in a number of ways. One way that I’ve benefited from having a mentor is that he has introduced me to people that I would otherwise not had the opportunity to meet.
A mentor is also someone you can discuss your career with. They have more work experience than you, and they can provide you guidance on how to make it to the next level.
I’ve mentioned the promotion processes. If your mentor is a part of the committee that is evaluating your performance, she can be asset to you. As others (aside from your manager) discuss your performance, she can even help sell your story.
How does modern technology fit in?
Technology makes everything easier. All firms have email and instant messenger enabling you to quickly connect with people in your network.
I’m a fan a face to face interactions, but technology make to easier to connect with people when face to face communication isn’t possible.
What networking mistakes should you avoid?
I would avoid trying to schedule a meeting just to network. I like “skip step” meetings, where you periodically meeting with your manager’s manager. These are a great way to build a relationship, but if you’re scheduling the meeting, make sure that you have something to talk about. A great way to ruin your reputation is wasting someone else’s time.