KEY SKILLS FOR ACCOUNTANTS: HONING YOUR TECHNICAL ACCOUNTING SKILLS & ABILITIES

Accounting is a rapidly expanding field, with high forecasts for rapid growth over the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that “142,400 new accounting and auditing jobs will open up by 2024” – an 11% growth rate.

This means that if you are interested in joining this booming field, or are already working in it but are looking to take the next step in your accounting career, now is the time to get started. One of the best ways find a great job in accounting is to focus on your technical accounting skills and abilities. Because so many people in accounting-related fields do not have formal training, and because so many of the accounting positions available require a credential (such as a bachelor’s degree, certificate, or even a master’s degree), having a set of well-honed skills in accounting will help you stand out from the competition and find success in this in-demand field.

Key Skills for Accountants

Because accounting is such a large and complex field, with no two accounting jobs looking exactly alike, it can be challenging to determine the top accounting skills and abilities professionals need to have in their back pockets. However, most individuals will need to have a general set of accounting job skills that translate across all areas of the field.

Financial Skills

Perhaps the most obvious skill for an accountant to have is a facility with financial data. By its most basic definition, an accountant is someone who manages, inspects, and analyzes a business’s or individual’s financial records. As a result, some of the most important skills in accounting include the ability to apply financial frameworks used by businesses to prepare financial reports and to complete other financial tasks.

A good accountant will be able to apply professional judgement when preparing, analyzing, and interpreting financial information, and should be able to perform these tasks in a way that reflects both the art and the science of accounting. Accountants may also be required to assess an organization’s accounting systems to ensure sound financial information, generate appropriate asset evaluation, and reduce the risk of fraud. They must also be comfortable assessing the ethics of financial-related decisions, and should be scrupulous in their reporting.

As the go-to financial experts in their organizations, accountants must be able to research financial-related subjects, synthesize the information gathered, critically evaluate it, and communicate it to a non-accounting audience in a professional, cohesive, and logical way, clearly separating fact from opinion. They should also be able to evaluate financial information within the context of their organization, its strategy, and its culture, not just within a generic bubble of accounting best practices.

Analytical Skills

Most accountants are analytical by nature, and are drawn to the profession because of the high level of analytical ability it requires. Accounting job skills consist of far more than just number-crunching: accountants must be able to execute in-depth financial analysis, and be able to approach each situation with a critical mind, working from a strong, integrated foundation of accounting knowledge to determine the appropriate course of action and the techniques to be used. In addition to being able to use financial data effectively, one of the most important skills for accounting professionals is the ability to interpret that financial data, and analyze the interplay between that information, the overall organization, and various individual departments within it.

Accountants must be strong problem-solvers and decision-makers, and must be able to objectively analyze information to identify problems within and challenges facing an organization and its accounting framework, then use an integrated approach to develop effective solutions to address them. An accountant should be able to think not just critically, but creatively as well, and understand the relevance of accounting information to all aspects of overall organizational health.

This also extends into the realm of risk analysis, as accountants are often tasked with identifying and assessing factors that may jeopardize the success of a project or entity, both in the context of the overall business and in specific situations, such as an audit.

Organizational Skills

Because of the highly technical nature of an accountant, some of the most important accounting skills and abilities center on organization. The most successful accountants are detail-oriented, since everything must add up exactly on the bottom line and every cent a business brings in or sends out must be accounted for. This also involves being extremely comfortable working with, and keeping track of, large amounts of data.

Additionally, accountants must be involved with, and often responsible for, a variety of different systems which require constant maintenance and updating. They must be good planners, as accountants must often be looking far ahead to their next deadlines, and have strong time management skills. On top of this, accountants must be able to keep up this high level of organization even under pressure, especially during busy times like tax season.

Information Technology Skills

Accounting is now just as focused on technological aptitude as it is on facility with numbers. Today’s accountants are often tasked with information technology responsibilities in addition to traditional accounting functions. On a basic level, accountants must be very computer-savvy and comfortable with technology, as most modern organizations use a variety of different accounting information systems to manage their accounting activities. An accountant might be expected to have a strong background in a number of applications, including finance-related software systems, Microsoft Excel, and data modeling programs, among others. They must be able to manipulate, extract, and analyze from each of these individually, and often use several programs in conjunction with one another to obtain a holistic perspective of an organization’s finances.

Accounting professionals who wish to set themselves apart as competitive candidates for a new job or a promotion may want to develop a specialization in one specific application or type of system, or familiarize themselves on a deeper level with the most common accounting information systems so as to be able to guide and inform an organization’s decisions regarding which applications to implement to facilitate accounting functions.

AREAS OF ACCOUNTING IN BUSINESS

Accounting and finance are integrally related for a business firm. Accounting is the study of how information is gathered and distributed in and out. Finance, broadly, is the study of how firms make the investment and financing decisions they must make to operate their business. Finance needs accounting information to operate. Accounting must have financial experts to translate accounting information for general use.

There are three major areas of finance that business owners and managers usually have to be knowledgeable of. There are three major areas of accounting as well:

Financial Accounting

Financial accounting is the area of accounting concerned with external parties interested in the business firm. Financial statements, for example, are produced for the benefit of the external investors. Investors need to be able to review financial statements such as the income statement, the balance sheet, and the statement of cash flows in order to determine whether or not to invest in the business firm or remain invested in the company.

Financial statements are also of interest to another group of external individuals and those are the creditors of the firm. Those creditors are the bondholders of the firm or they could be the debtholders of the firm. Creditors are individuals who have loaned money to the firm and are interested in receiving a return on their investment and, eventually, a return of their principal.

Managerial Accounting

Managerial accounting is the area of accounting associated with gathering and preparing financial information for those inside business organizations such as managers and staff. It can be compared to financial accounting which is concerned with information for external individuals. Managerial accounting is the field where the gathering and preparation of financial information are for the insiders of the firm. The Institute of Certified Management Accountants states that management accountants are the “value creators” among accountants, thereby taking their place between the finance people and the financial accountants in the business organization.

Cost Accounting

Cost accounting looks at the costs of production for a business firm by looking at the fixed costs of the products they sell and their input costs. Input costs are compared to output costs to measure the financial performance of the firm regarding production costs. Cost elements often used are indirect costs or overhead, raw materials, and labour. Managers often use the information from cost accounting to set up cost control programs for the business firm.

Summary

There are other areas of accounting involved in business firms. There is tax accounting. Business firms may have internal tax accountants or may outsource their tax accounting. The area of auditing is usually both internal and external and budgeting analysis is an internal function. In addition, there is governmental accounting, outside the sphere of business, and forensic accounting, which uses accounting and finance information to support litigation involving fraud and embezzlement.

WHY AN INTERNSHIP IS IMPORTANT FOR YOUR FUTURE CAREER

You need experience to get experience.” This seems to be the biggest issue for young adults transitioning into the workforce these days. Employers in today’s labor market rely heavily on resumes that illustrate a relevant work history, whether that’s from internships, volunteer work, or actual job experience.

Take a moment and think about it. If you’re looking to gain experience, working as an intern is arguably the most advantageous plan of action. That one internship you did over summer could be the difference between winning a job opportunity or losing it. If that information alone isn’t compelling enough, we have compiled a list of reasons why partaking in internships are important for your future career.

An Internship Provides Real Life Experience and Exposure

If you’re lucky enough to snag a beneficial internship, it can be remarkably valuable towards your career. An internship enables you to gain first-hand exposure of working in the real world. It also allows students to harness the skill, knowledge, and theoretical practice they learnt in university. You can acquire endless amounts of education in your life, however, that knowledge doesn’t always translate to the working life. The great thing about internships is that it teaches young professionals about the specific industries and companies they are interested in. Internships provide a nice learning curve for students with little experience of the professional world.

The Opportunity To Learn More About Yourself

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle

The experiences we go through are what shapes us. Your internship will not only encourage personal development, but also greater understanding of self. To know yourself is to know your goals and how to best achieve them. Finding this level of clarity is difficult, but sometimes all it takes is trying someone new, out of your comfort zone. For example, take a Business Marketing student who decides to do an internship related to his field of study. That internship will give them a chance to explore what a career in business marketing would be like. Sometimes, reality does not meet expectations.

Internships offer opportunities to transition into full-time positions.

Although, it is not guaranteed, most employers are always seeking to add value to their organization. With an internship, you’re given the opportunity to showcase your talents, commitment, and value to a prospective employer. Furthermore, employers are more inclined to hire you once they have invested time and money to train you.

Given these points, an internship is more than crucial for your future career. An internship is the building blocks necessary for creating the path to a successful career.

5 COMMON ACCOUNTING INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

While your resume can get your foot in the door for an interview, it’s the in-person conversation that will make or break you as a candidate for an accounting position.

Actively preparing for your interview, including practicing answers to common accounting interview questions, will help you make a great first impression on the hiring manager. Read on to learn more about five common accounting interview questions, and how to answer them.

1. Why do you want to be an accountant?

This is one of the most common accounting interview questions. This fairly standard interview question is a typical warm-up, since it’s an opening that breaks the ice and allows the hiring manager to get to know you better. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s a throwaway question.

You should answer thoughtfully by giving examples of things that happened in your life that led you to the accounting field. Were you the high school class treasurer? Did you save for months to buy your first car? Whatever the scenario, give the interviewer some background about yourself and your interest in accounting.

2. Do you possess any knowledge of accounting standards?

Even if you’ve never had a job in the field of accounting before, you should be prepared to answer this question with some knowledge of the International Finance Reporting Standards (IFRS).

The IFRS was previously known as the International Accounting Standards (IAS). While there are so many facets of IFRS that it would be impossible to be up to speed on all of them, prior to an interview you should do some research on the most recent changes to these standards and be prepared to discuss them.

3. How do you minimize the risk for errors in your work?

As an accountant, you’ll be held to a very high standard of excellence, because even the smallest errors can lead to big financial issues. And, if you’re interviewing for a role in the audit department, your ability to catch errors can save the company large sums of money.

It’s extra helpful if you can provide a real example of a time where you caught an error through double-checking, or through another method.

4. Describe a time when you’ve helped reduce costs.

This can be one of the more challenging accounting interview questions, especially if you’ve never held an accounting job before. While some accountants stick strictly to the duties and responsibilities of their job, others go above and beyond by making suggestions to management and identifying areas where money can be saved.

By describing a scenario from your coursework, an internship, or a previous job, you can show the hiring manager that you’re willing to go the extra mile, and that you’re a team player. You can also show the hiring manager that your priorities are aligned with the company’s goals.

5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A common question in all industries, this accounting interview question gives you the chance to show off your foresight and ambition. Your answer should be both modest and truthful, highlighting the things that you hope to learn from a position with the organization you’re interviewing with while displaying a solid plan for your short term career trajectory.

In addition, be prepared to talk about whether or not you have a master’s degree related to accounting, and if you plan to go back to graduate school. You should also be prepared to share whether or not you plan to earn your CPA (Certified Public Accountant license). Preparing for and passing the multiple exams leading up to the CPA are a large commitment, but can be a benefit to the company and to the hiring manager.

The one thing to keep in mind with this question is that you don’t want to show a disinterest in the position you’re interviewing for. In other words, don’t show that you’re simply interviewing for the job to gain experience today . . . so you can take the boss’ job in the future. The hiring manager wants someone with ambition, but also someone with genuine interest in the position at hand.

By preparing for these accounting interview questions, you will increase your chance of getting a job in the field of accounting, even if you’re a new graduate. It may be helpful to practice answers to these accounting interview questions with friends or family members before you land your first accounting interview.

TOP 10 NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION TIPS

Strong communication skills can help you in both your personal and professional life. While verbal and written communication skills are important, research has shown that nonverbal behaviours make up a large percentage of our daily interpersonal communication.

How can you improve your nonverbal communication skills? The following tips can help you learn to read the nonverbal signals of other people and enhance your own ability to communicate effectively.

1. Pay Attention to Nonverbal Signals

People can communicate information in numerous ways, so pay attention to things like eye contact, gestures, posture, body movements, and tone of voice. All of these signals can convey important information that is not put into words.

By paying closer attention to other people’s unspoken behaviours, you will improve your own ability to communicate nonverbally.

2. Look for Incongruent Behaviors

If someone’s words do not match their nonverbal behaviours, you should pay careful attention. For example, someone might tell you they are happy while frowning and staring at the ground.

Research has shown that when words fail to match up with nonverbal signals, people tend to ignore what has been said and focus instead on unspoken expressions of moods, thoughts, and emotions. So when someone says one thing, but his or her body language seems to suggest something else, it can be useful to pay extra attention to those subtle nonverbal cues.

3. Concentrate on Your Tone of Voice When Speaking

Your tone of voice can convey a wealth of information, ranging from enthusiasm to disinterest to anger. Start noticing how your tone of voice affects how others respond to you and try using your tone to emphasize ideas that you want to communicate.

For example, if you want to show genuine interest in something, express your enthusiasm by using an animated tone of voice. Such signals not only convey your feelings about a topic; they can also help generate interest in the people listening to you speak.

4. Use Good Eye Contact

Good eye contact is another essential nonverbal communication skill. When people fail to look others in the eye, it can seem as if they are evading or trying to hide something. On the other hand, too much eye contact can seem confrontational or intimidating.

While eye contact is an important part of communication, it’s important to remember that good eye contact does not mean staring fixedly into someone’s eyes. How can you tell how much eye contact is correct? Some communication experts recommend intervals of eye contact lasting four to five seconds. Effective eye contact should feel natural and comfortable for both you and the person you are speaking with.

5. Ask Questions About Nonverbal Signals

If you are confused about another person’s nonverbal signals, don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good idea is to repeat back your interpretation of what has been said and ask for clarification. An example of this might be, “So what you are saying is that…”

Sometimes simply asking such questions can lend a great deal of clarity to a situation. For example, a person might be giving off certain nonverbal signals because he has something else on his mind. By inquiring further into his message and intent, you might get a better idea of what he is really trying to say.

6. Use Signals to Make Communication More Meaningful

Remember that verbal and nonverbal communication work together to convey a message. You can improve your spoken communication by using body language that reinforces and supports what you are saying. This can be especially useful when making presentations or when speaking to a large group of people.

For example, if your goal is to appear confident and prepared during a presentation, you will want to focus on sending nonverbal signals that ensure that others see you as self-assured and capable. Standing firmly in one place, shoulder back, and you weight balanced on both feet is a great way to strike a confident pose.

7. Look at Signals as a Group

Another important part of good nonverbal communication skills involves being able to take a more holistic approach to what a person is communicating. A single gesture can mean any number of things, or maybe even nothing at all. The key to accurately reading nonverbal behavior is to look for groups of signals that reinforce a common point. If you place too much emphasis on just one signal out of many, you might come to an inaccurate conclusion about what a person is trying to say.

8. Consider the Context

When you are communicating with others, always consider the situation and the context in which the communication occurs. Some situations require more formal behaviours that might be interpreted very differently in any other setting.

Consider whether or not nonverbal behaviours are appropriate for the context. If you are trying to improve your own nonverbal communication, concentrate on ways to make your signals match the level of formality necessitated by the situation.

For example, the body language and nonverbal communication you utilize at work is probably very different from the sort of signals you would send on a casual Friday night out with friends. Strive to match your nonverbal signals to the situation to ensure that you are conveying the message you really want to send.

9. Be Aware That Signals Can be Misread

According to some, a firm handshake indicates a strong personality while a weak handshake is taken as a lack of fortitude. This example illustrates an important point about the possibility of misreading nonverbal signals. A limp handshake might actually indicate something else entirely, such as arthritis.

Always remember to look for groups of behaviour. A person’s overall demeanor is far more telling than a single gesture viewed in isolation.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Some people just seem to have a knack for using nonverbal communication effectively and correctly interpreting signals from others. These people are often described as being able to “read people.”

In reality, you can build this skill by paying careful attention to nonverbal behaviour and practicing different types of nonverbal communication with others. By noticing nonverbal behaviour and practicing your own skills, you can dramatically improve your communication abilities.

ACCOUNTING CAREER PATH OPTIONS

So you’ve completed your accounting qualification and it’s time to enter the job market – but what career paths are there available?

There are a wide variety of options available to you if you have a degree in accounting. Generally, the type of job that you enter into will depend on your own interests and personal areas of strength.

Below are some typical accounting job categories.

·       Accounting Systems & IT

·       Accounts Payable

·       Accounts Receivable/Credit Control

·       Analysis, Planning & Strategy

·       Assistant Accountant/Part Qualified

·       Audit, Risk & Operational Review

·       Business Services (Chartered Accounting)

·       Corporate Advisory & Finance

·       Finance Managers, Controllers & Chief Financial Officers

·       Financial & Management Accounting

·       Payroll

·       Tax & Treasury

As a graduate, not all of these job categories will be available to you. Below, we focus on 5 key positions. Of course, there will be other alternatives, but these are the more popular and most common for a new graduate.

Accounts Payable

Accounts Payable involves entering invoices, reconciling to supplier statements and internal documents, processing payments and ensuring that all transactions are correctly documented and accounted for while maintaining the company’s AP ledger.

What career path options are there? Entry-level positions require a high school certificate, although more companies are beginning to require at least a degree in business or accounting. Those with degrees can be expected to be promoted into senior or managerial roles, or to an Assistant Accountant position.

Accounts Receivable

Accounts Receivable involves creating customer invoices, preparing customer statements, allocating payments received and ensuring that all transactions are correctly documented and accounted for while maintaining the company’s AR ledger.

What career path options are there? Similar to Accounts Payable, entry-level positions require a high school certificate, although more companies are beginning to require at least a degree in business or accounting. Those with degrees can be expected to be promoted into senior or managerial roles, or to an Assistant Accountant position.

Assistant Accountant

In this role you work under the supervision of an accounting senior who delegates junior accounting tasks. Generally the role involves assisting with the preparation of financial statements and statutory returns, performing balance sheet reconciliations including bank reconciliations, overseeing accounts payable and receivable, entering journals to facilitate with month end process such as accruals and prepayments, and maintaining the general ledger. Generally they will also assist in the preparation of taxation returns such as BAS, GST, FBT and payroll.

What career path options are there? Entry-level positions require a degree in business or accounting though some companies also require candidates to be qualified or part-qualified with a CA or CPA. Those with experience can be expected to be promoted into a Financial or Managerial Accounting position.

Junior Accountant – Chartered Firm or Public Practice (Audit/Business Services/Taxation)

Depending on the nature of the business, a Junior Accountant can be involved in preparing the financial statements and taxation returns for a variety of clients. Generally a graduate will start in a role by processing income tax returns for individuals and then progress to processing financial statements for sole traders, to partnerships and small companies. This will often involve preparing BAS, GST and FBT returns. Sometimes the role will also require the completion of financial audits.

What career path options are there? Entry-level positions require a degree in business or accounting though some companies also require candidates to be qualified or part-qualified with a CA or CPA. Those with experience can be expected to be promoted into a senior position, or move to commerce and industry in an Assistant Accountant role or a Financial or Managerial Accounting position.

Payroll Clerk

A Payroll Clerk performs a variety of tasks around employee pay. Generally it involves entering new employees into the payroll system, removing employees who have left the organisation and maintaining the records of those who currently work for the organisation. Other tasks include entering changes in pay or tax status, maintaining attendance records, ensuring that deductions are handled correctly and assisting in processing termination pay. More experienced clerks might calculate and prepare general ledger entries, calculate earnings and deductions totals, and file tax reports.

What career path options are there? Entry-level positions require a high school degree, although more companies are beginning to require at least a degree in business or accounting. Most people who enter payroll choose to stay in the area. They are generally promoted to senior or managerial positions. Those who prefer to be involved more in accounting will make the move early on into AP or AR and follow in the path to becoming an Assistant Accountant.

There are many options open to you as a graduate in the accounting industry. Defining your career path now will set you up for future success!

TEAMWORK SKILLS

Employers expect employees to be team players. Teamwork is required for almost every industry, ranging from business services to information technology to food services.

This is true even if it seems like your job is best suited for an independent worker. You may perform the bulk of your job duties alone, but you’ll still have to be able to think of your work in the context of the company’s broader goals, and communicate your accomplishments to other people at the organization.

Regardless of your role, you need to be able to work well with others – and also convey that fact to hiring managers, recruiters, and prospective employers. Scan any job listing, and you’ll see that even ads that seek “self-starters” also inevitably drop the phrase “team player.”

Here’s a list of teamwork skills that employers are looking for in resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews. Emphasize the ones that are mentioned in the job description, but feel free to round out your application by mentioning others that apply.

How to Use Skills Lists

You can use these skills lists throughout your job search process. First and foremost, it’s a smart strategy to use as many of these skills words as you can in the text of your resume – both in your initial qualifications summary and in your descriptions of your work history. Many employers use automated applicant tracking systems to rank the resumes they receive; these systems are programmed to search for and prioritize particular “keywords” (typically, the skills or “qualifications” listed in an employer’s job listing).

The second place to incorporate these teamwork skills is in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, try to mention one or two of these terms, providing a specific example of a time when you demonstrated these skills at work.

Finally, you can use these skill words in your interview. Make sure you have at least one example of a time you demonstrated each of the top five skills listed here. Choose stories that emphasize your skills and show how they have helped you to solve the organization’s problems. Be as specific as possible.

To give your examples maximum impact, try to include quantifiable statistics – numbers, percentages, or dollar figures – to show the tangible results of your efforts.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully, and focus on the skills listed by the employer. Also review our other lists of skills listed by job and type of skill.

Top 5 Teamwork Skills

1. Communication

Being a good team member means being able to clearly communicate your ideas with the group. You must be able to convey information via phone, email, and in person. You want to make sure your tone is always professional but friendly. Both verbal and nonverbal communication are important when working with a group in person.

Related resume keyword skills: Advising, Collaboration, Contributing, Coordination, Creativity, Creative Thinking, Give Feedback, Goal Setting, Guidance, Influencing, Language, Management, Persuading, Research, Team Management, Teaching, Verbal Communication, Visual Communication, Written Communication.

2. Conflict Management

An important teamwork skill is being able to mediate problems between team members. You need to be able to negotiate with your team members to settle disputes and make sure everyone is happy with the team’s choices.

Related resume keyword skills: Conflict Management, Cooperation, Defining Problems, Flexibility, Logic, Logical Argument, Logical Thinking, Mediation, Negotiating, Problem Solving, Team Building, Team Building Activities.

3. Listening

Another important part of communication is listening well. You must be able to listen to the ideas and concerns of your peers in order to be an effective team member. By asking questions for clarification, demonstrating concern, and using nonverbal cues, you can show your team members that you care and understand them.

Related resume keyword skills: Active Listening, Critical Thinking, Group Decision Making, Hearing Concerns, Interpreting, Listening, Nonverbal Communication, Questioning, Receive Feedback.

4. Reliability

You want to be a reliable team member so that your coworkers can trust you. Make sure you stick to deadlines and complete any tasks you are assigned. This will help you gain your colleagues’ trust.

Related resume keyword skills: Commitment, Community Building, Confidence, Confidence Building, Dependability, Helpfulness, Helping, Honesty, Leadership, Multitasking, Participation, Perform Tasks, Responsibility, Team Oriented, Task Management, Trust.

5. Respectfulness

People will be more open to communicating with you if you convey respect for them and their ideas. Simple actions like using a person’s name, making eye contact, and actively listening when a person speaks will make the person feel appreciated.

Related resume keyword skills: Acknowledging Others, Encouragement, Expanding Ideas, Idea Exchange, Interpersonal, Motivation, Opinion Exchange, Oral Communication, Patience, Positive Attitude, Relationship Building, Sharing Credit, Support, Team Player, Tact, Understanding Feelings.

STRATEGIES TO EXPAND YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK

If you ask anyone how they got where they are today, you’ll quickly learn that many successful businessmen and women have connections. These connections, however, were likely not handed to them; they were forged through passion and networking.

“Business revolves around people, and it is driven by relationships, which affect every aspect of business from sales to recruitment,” said Yiannis Gavrielides, CEO of Covve. “It is therefore important for us all to build and maintain real professional relationships.”

With the power of social media, you can network simply by sending an invitation on LinkedIn or following a contact on Twitter. But with increased accessibility, it’s more important than ever to build your personal brand and network like a pro. Here’s how to do it.

1. Work on your LinkedIn profile.

Social media sites, particularly LinkedIn, have changed the networking landscape. Many people rely on their LinkedIn network for referrals, introductions, reviews and references, all of which come in handy when you are looking for a job, said Michael Brown, a career consultant and author of the book “Fresh Passion: Get a Brand or Die a Generic” (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2013).

Brown adds that anyone you deal with professionally should be added to your LinkedIn network. Even if your contact with these people was short, add them, because you are trying to grow your network.

LinkedIn is also a great space to learn about someone’s professional and educational background to find similarities and create great conversation for a first meeting, according to Tyler Whitman, licensed real estate salesperson at Triplemint.

2. Ask for help.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone in your network to introduce you to someone they know, Brown said. This is business, he said, and most people are happy to connect you to someone who can help.

You can also ask for help from a networking “wingman.” It can be awkward to brag about yourself to a stranger, said Whitman, but if you network with a friend, that person can talk about you and your success, and you can do the same for them.

3. Keep in touch.

Networking is not a one-and-done deal, where you meet a contact and only speak with them when you need something. If you really want to connect, you should nurture a sustainable, give-and-take relationship.

“After meeting someone, assuming there is rapport, I make sure I stay in touch,” said Gavrielides. “Staying in touch with people requires effort, and it is important to regularly re-engage … I feel that conversations must be natural, but the effort to re-engage must be conscious, as we are all too busy to do it effortlessly.”

4. Never stop looking for opportunities (but do it right).

Focus on growth and think about the people you encounter on a daily basis, said Brown. Grab a business card, or search for them on LinkedIn, if there is any chance you can call on them professionally in the future.

However, the one key tip to keep in mind is not to be selfish when you network, said Whitman. Create a foundation first, he said. Learn about the other person and tell them about you. Once there is a foundation, it’s OK to ask for what you want, but don’t jump the gun and ask for a favor outright.

“Networking should be authentic and should be part of both our business and professional lives,” said Gavrielides. “We are naturally social beings and should ensure we socialize rather than engage in forced exchange. The relationships I built along the way are now customers, suppliers, partners, colleagues, investors … [and] many are close friends.”

Additional reporting by Jennifer Post. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.