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The life and times of a networking zealot

Chair's Message

Katie Gabriel, CPA | October 2021 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated September 30, 2021

My name is Katie Gabriel and I have a confession: I love to network.

In my prime, I would attend networking events four nights a week with some nights being triple booked. Networking isn’t and never has been work for me. I love meeting new people and deepening relationships and I’m fortunate that many of my closest friendships originated from networking events.

Through the years, I’ve streamlined my networking to be more focused with a few organizations and specific topics of interest. It became important to be more intentional about where I was spending my time. Then, of course, having a baby followed by a pandemic brought my networking and social calendar basically to a screeching halt. Worry not, I participated in virtual networking — but we all know it’s not the same.

I realize I am likely an outlier among this readership, and that networking can carry a negative connotation. But allow me to explain myself: I see networking as a fantastic opportunity to meet someone you wouldn’t have otherwise met, learn something you wouldn’t otherwise know and potentially help brighten someone’s day or help them along the way later on. Sure, sometimes business comes from these relationships, and that’s an awesome outcome. It’s also fulfilling to be in a spot to meaningfully connect with others and make relevant referrals.

Turning forward the clock 

As people return to the office, more networking events are being scheduled. Long-lost coffee meetings, lunches and happy hours are also returning to calendars. What I’ve found as I’ve stepped back into social situations is that I’m feeling a little rusty. I don’t imagine I’m alone in this regard. Many of us are out of practice. As I’ve reentered the social scene, I’ve run into people who I haven’t seen in two-plus years and I’m finding that my immediate name recall isn’t what it used to be with so much time lapse. Perhaps others are experiencing the same issue.

Let’s offer everyone grace during this transitional time. I’ve had success from offering up my name first, whether I recall the person’s name or not. For example, “Alex, great to see you! Katie Gabriel (as you smile, extend a hand or wave).” Or “Hi, nice to see you (if you can’t think of their name), Katie Gabriel.” This takes the pressure off of them and makes it less uncomfortable should they have forgotten your name. Please do not take it personally if people don’t recall your name; we’re all getting used to flexing that muscle again.

I recommend being intentional about networking. It’s far better to build your network long before you need it. Carve out dedicated time in your calendar for this purpose. For some people, this may look like a coffee meeting every week, for others it might be attending an industry event or lunch with a former colleague. Figure out what is a realistic target and start connecting with people. 

The MNCPA is a fantastic place to turn if you’re looking to connect with other professionals. The young professional group (YPG) events are designed for networking to happen naturally and, as some CPE classes and other programs start to be offered in person, you’re bound to have an opportunity to connect with others. You can also consider joining a task force or volunteering to find ways to build relationships.

I look forward to seeing you in person soon!

Katie Gabriel, CPA

Chair, MNCPA board of directors