WEST ORANGE, NJ — In the age of social media, making professional connections has never been easier, but the managing partners at the Livingston-based accounting firm Levine, Jacobs & Company, LLC, recently hosted a networking event for professionals under the age of 40 to make sure that meeting others face to face does not become another trend of a bygone era.
Walking into the banquet room at the Essex County Country Club in West Orange, approximately 60 people—representing a total of 25 different companies from fields including accounting, law, banking, public relations and more—were informally making conversation, enjoying appetizers and sipping drinks while simultaneously taking the first steps to cultivating long-lasting relationships.
Michael Karu, CPA, a senior partner at the accounting firm, explained that one of the goals of the annual event is to encourage networking among younger professionals, which he said has become “a lost art.”
“They all need to learn how to do it because the contacts that they make in their 20s, 30s or 40s they’ll be able to use in their 50s and 60s,” said Karu.
Vivian DiStaso of the New Jersey Law Journal, a co-sponsor of the event, added that social media “can only help this process.”
“We didn’t have it 20 years ago, so these young professionals—they meet tonight, and they can keep these connections going through social media, but social media can’t replace something like this at all,” she said. “The key is meeting face to face, develop a relationship and then social media can just enhance that relationship and keep it going.”
Karu added that he tries to encourage the younger professionals who work with him “to get out there to meet people, to interact [and] to make professional contacts” because as these relationships mature, they become invaluable resources and might even turn into friendships.
He provided an example where he needed information from a contact in a technical area in the tax code.
“I understand it, but not to the extent that an attorney would because of the nature of [the code],” he said. “I called somebody yesterday. He was on the phone with me 10-to-15 minutes, [and I know] I’m not getting a bill. I can pick his brain because he knows that I’m going to send work to him anyway.
“Maybe not right now, but he knows that it happens, and I’ve been doing that for years, and he in turn will send cases to me. So, the relationships are beneficial for both sides.”
Karu explained that this is the third event of its kind that Levine, Jacobs & Company has hosted alongside The Law Journal, adding that certified public accountants (CPAs) work very closely with lawyers. The event also focused on young professionals in general making connections with other professionals in related industries including real estate, finance, insurance, banking, public relations and consultants from other fields.
“Some of our skills are even almost interchangeable,” said Charles Ott, a co-managing member of Levine Jacobs, about CPAs, lawyers and financial service professionals. “We’ve all worked so closely together.”
Adding that Levine, Jacobs is “an evolving firm,” Ott noted that the firm has hired seven new professionals from staff all the way to the managerial level over the last year and a half.
“It’s important that they develop those types of relationships to develop their career and better serve their clients—our clients—as a firm and help other professionals do the same,” he said.
Ott continued that lawyers and accountants both have relationship-driven professions, but he realizes that “it’s tough to get out there and young people struggle.”
“We’re an online-driven society these days, so getting people to make connections—real connections, face-to-face and have meetings and real discussion that are more than one sentence long—is difficult,” he said. “This [event is] one of those opportunities to do that.”
In the future, Levine, Jacobs & Company hopes to coordinate with other organizations, such as the Essex County CPA Chapter or the Essex County Bar Association, in order to host more frequent events.