This is my advice to all accountants in business and to those in practice who could face redundancy at some stage in the future.

My reasoning for such advice became clear when talking to my son and his friends on their return from University for the holidays.

A significant majority of the current twenty-something generation have Facebook accounts. When they bump into old friends or meet new people they don’t exchange phone numbers, addresses or business cards(!). They simply undertake to link up on Facebook. This generation instinctively understand how to maintain and build networks. They are networking before they need to do so for business purposes. In the 21st century your network is your key to the future.

Through Facebook the younger generation has the facility to remain in touch with or to get back in touch with all their friends from school, from college, from Uni and their colleagues when they start work.  I have written a number of posts previously on this blog about Facebook which is principally a ‘social’ networking website.  It’s not the exclusive domain of the younger generation and a significant proportion of ‘users’ are over 35 (or even over 50 as I am!).

LinkedIn, unlike Facebook is largely a ‘Business’ networking website. I’m always amused when commentators describe them both as ‘social’ networks.  I think this confuses people who are unfamiliar with them and assume that they are very similar.  A more accurate collective noun is ‘online networks’.

I heard about an accountant today who is between jobs. The company he used to work for as FD has been sold and he’s now looking for a new role. He may have a strong offline network of business contacts on whom he can rely to help him find a new job/opportunity. In the current economic climate this may not be sufficient.

I would encourage him and anyone else without the perfect offline network to register on LinkedIn for the following reasons:

  • You can put your generic CV ‘out there’ showing your career history and key skills;
  • This will make it easy for you to be found by the recruiters who use LinkedIn to source candidates to fill vacancies;
  • You can reconnect (online) and remain in contact with ex colleagues and other business contacts – ie: build and enhance his network;
  • You will have a business environment in which you can communicate without using an unprofessional ‘personal’ email address and as distinct from the Facebook ‘fun’ environment;
  • You can be found online by new contacts who you meet on a day to day basis;
  • New contacts can get in touch with you without having to rely on a scrap of paper containing your scribbled phone number and email address.

Better than this would be to register on LinkedIn before your job/role goes. The additional reasons for doing this are:

  • Your profile can include reference to your current role as your current role;
  • You can get to grips with the LinkedIn website and features before you NEED to use them;
  • You can build your reputation as a helpful person before you start needing help;
  • Those who try to use any online network solely for what they can get out of it will be less successful than those who seek first to contribute to the network.

Readers of this blog who are registered on Facebook or LinkedIn – or who register on them are welcome to look me up and connect with me on those networks.

And if you are on LinkedIn and feel there are other reasons for our fellow professionals to register a profile there, please add your comments below. Equally if you disagree, please provide a contrary view.