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How grad school kickstarts your networking engine

MAC students

Work ethic and ambition? Check.

Specialized education from a school with a great reputation? Check.

A great professional network? Umm …

It’s a cliché and it’s true: Who you know can be as important as what you know.

A great network also can open doors to new opportunities and new relationships. Friends in your field can advise you on tough career choices and help you get through the challenges life throws at you. A professional network is the difference between a good career and a great career.

For accountants, who spend much of their time working with colleagues and clients, relationships are critical.

But how do you develop a strong network? Your school — at least some schools — can help.

>> Download “The Essential Networking Tips Checklist.”

“During my time at UNC, I was very fortunate to build a very close group of friends,” says Gurband Mann (MAC ’11), who works in transaction advisory services at EY’s San Francisco office. “A lot of them have gone down different routes. Some are still with the Big 4, some are in industry. I’ve been able to bounce ideas off them. It’s been a great sounding board.”

Mann and other UNC Kenan-Flagler Master of Accounting (MAC) alumni credit the relationships they built at school — and the common ground the Carolina name gives them — for helping them build new professional relationships, too.

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Nathan Andrews (MAC ’93) who co-founded Deloitte’s tax management consulting unit, runs into old classmates years later. Their common experience allows him to quickly establish rapport.

“I walked into a company a year and a half ago, and there was a classmate,” he recalls. “You know what we talked about? We talked about the MAC Program.”

And that’s not just for client-facing jobs at accounting firms.

“The most challenging part of any professional relationship is making a personal connection — what can bind you together and provide a common interest,” says Anne Lloyd (BSBA/Accounting ’83), chief financial officer at Martin Marietta Materials, a publicly traded company. “Often times, the UNC connection is just that — a tie that binds together common interests, whether it be a quick connection when alumni are in town for sporting events or a quick call after a big win.”

The UNC bond extends beyond the accounting program, beyond the business school and across the country.

Mann found himself in his California gym for a workout, wearing a Carolina T-shirt and carrying a Carolina gym bag. “I got approached by someone who had gone to UNC for law school and we struck up a conversation,” Mann says.

Mann also taps his Carolina contacts at other EY offices and when he’s advising interns or interviewing prospective employees. On the West Coast,  the Carolina connection carries extra power because it’s not quite as common as it is on the East Coast.

“When you do see someone wearing UNC gear or having UNC ties, people are quick to approach,” Mann says. “They come from the same community, Carolina, where everyone’s very familiar.”

Want some tips on how to build a strong professional network? Download the “Eight Essential Networking Tips You Might Want To Try Next.”