Networking Is the Name of the Game at NABA ConferenceNetworking Is the Name of the Game at NABA Conference
School of Business students participate in the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) Eastern Region Student Conference.

Attending an accountants’ conference this fall reaffirmed Dana Butler’s belief in the power of networking.

Butler ’11 was one of 13 Ithaca College students who participated in the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) Eastern Region Student Conference, where her contacts ranged from radio show hosts to accounting firm executives.

“The most important thing I learned was that networking is by far the most important skill to use in the business world,” said Butler.

Good grades and involvement in clubs and organizations are basic, she explained, “but if you have connections with people in companies that you want to work for, it will take you so much further. People also get to where they want to be without help sometimes, but having someone who is invested in you and willing to help you up the ladder really makes a difference.’’

Eleven students from the School of Business and two from the Park School of Communications traveled to Bethesda, Maryland in October for the conference, twice the number of Ithaca students who attended last year. About 600 students representing 50 campus chapters of NABA participated in two-and-a-half days of workshops, seminars and interview sessions to better prepare minority students for careers in accounting and financial management.

Five students secured interviews at Goldman Sachs, Reznick Group, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Prudential, Ernst and Young, Grant Thornton, and KPMG, said Shamika Edwards ’11, an accounting and business administration major. The IC contingent also made connections with companies like JPMorgan Chase, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, General Electric, and Johnson & Johnson.

Edwards maintained a contact created at last year’s regional conference and interviewed this fall with that person for a summer internship at Deloitte. She said she paid attention to his advice from last year: “He poured so much into me as an individual and as a leader and challenged me to show ‘perpetual and exponential growth’ the first year, and it was good to hear him comment on my growth and development that second year.”

Ithaca’s contingent – primarily freshmen and sophomores – was one of the youngest at the conference, Edwards said.

“Our freshman stood above average and networked with professionals efficiently and effectively, causing some to question their class standing, ask for resumes, and invite them to return the following year,” she said. “The sophomore class was similarly effective in finding people who they will remain in contact with.” One student interviewed with three companies and another participated in the fashion show, displaying what is – and is not – business casual attire.

After the conference, sophomore Denisha Freeman had a second interview with KPMG. “I met a ton of KPMG professionals and they were willing to tell me about their experiences in college and gave me advice about the steps I need to take to start my career,” she said. One KPMG employee told her that, since all candidates are qualified for openings, the company looks for someone who will fit in well. “What the interviewers are looking for is something different, and just being yourself will help you stand out,” she said.

Luisa Simeon ’11 met a Deloitte representative who arranged an interview with the company during the conference. A second interview followed. Now she’s waiting to learn if she gets an offer.

“One thing that I have done with my job search now is actually make sure that I know someone or have a contact there that could advocate for me,” Simeon said. “I think that is where the importance of networking comes into play and keeping in contact with those networks that you make.”

She also learned the importance of mentoring and providing networks for the next generation of students. NABA emphasized how the first black CPAs made it their mission to train other blacks to enter the field.

“I found this lesson very important because it shows what kind of community and people NABA has. From that it makes me want to give back to the NABA, especially at Ithaca College when I graduate, whether it be coming back and talking to the students or giving job opportunities.’’

IC upperclassmen prepared the freshmen and sophomores for the conference, helping them with writing a resume; learning interviewing and networking skills; researching companies; and offering a “dress for success” session. NABA members had help from the Office of Career Services and Bethany Kilgore, the school’s professional development coordinator. As a result, said Edwards, the freshmen and sophomores “exuded an ease and comfort throughout” the conference.

Networking means keeping in touch with people you know at various companies, asking for advice, getting to know what’s going on at the company, says Butler. “Now, instead of just looking for a job I look for connections, too.”


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