Knowing the right people and establishing relationships with them will make a world of difference in your job search. Even if you are on the top of your class academically, there are no guarantees you will get a job solely based off of the accomplishments you have on your resumé. Networking requires the initiative to make people know about yourself, your desire to work, and your achievements on a more personal level.
With networking you will be able to become recognized beyond a piece of paper that claims you are a worthy candidate. There are quite a few reasons why this will benefit you, including:
- Learning about the industry, job position, and a specific bank
- Practicing and building your story
- Recognizing what’s important and what’s not
- Establishing relationships and earning trust
- Getting your resumé through the gatekeepers (HR)
Learning about the industry, job position, and a specific bank
Who else could provide you with better information about everything that you want to know about banking than bankers themselves? Someone who currently works in the industry can fill the gaps in your knowledge you didn’t receive from background research or a class you took. You can save countless hours of trying to teach yourself how something works by establishing a relationship with a banker and asking them to explain it to you. It is hard to connect all the dots of the intricate processes of investment banking with no experience. Once you get on phone and ask specific questions to a professional in the industry, they’ll be able to give specific examples from personal experience that will make much more sense than any book definition.
If you really want to dig deep and figure out what it’s like to work in a certain position, you have to talk to someone who is already doing it. They will be able to tell you their daily tasks, and all the small things in between that no one bothers to write about. Another priceless component of a real conversation is the ability to analyze their tone and non-verbal communication. Just through their tone, you will learn about certain tasks and maybe figure out how enjoyable or frustrating they are.
Finally, you will be able to ask a lot of specific questions that apply specifically to your interest. Remember that books and guides are written to answer questions that would apply generally, to large masses of people. They can’t possibly address all of your concerns. Have you ever seen a company website undermine any of their qualities? Of course not. All companies glorify their business, and can’t stop talking about how great they are and how much value they’re bringing to this world. Realize that this is all biased, sometimes fabricated information. By talking to people in the industry, you’ll be able to explore what is really going on. You can talk about what it’s like to work for the bank, what kind of support you get as an employee, what’s the structure of the company, what the relationships with senior people are like. It is very hard to get that information from websites.
Practicing and building your story
When you start meeting new people, you will have to introduce yourself. Whenever you conduct a new informational interview, you will have to tell the person you’re calling a few main things about yourself:
- What’s your name?
- Why you’re calling?
- Why you’re interested in banking?
- What’s your life story (how did you get where you are?)
When you call as many people as you should (50+), and do this every single time, your answers will be so well crafted that doing the actual interview will be a piece of cake. You know why? Because in the interview, the interviewer will ask you to introduce yourself, and you’ll be saying the same thing you already practiced countless times in the past.
Another beneficial result from networking is the fact it helps build your story. Imagine you finally get an interview. The interviewer starts and asks you why you are interested in investment banking. If you’re smart, you’ll leverage the networking you’ve done and tell him something like “Well, I’ve talked to 60+ people so far in the industry, and I really liked everything I heard” or “I’ve talked to Joe, Anna, and Dan in your firm, and I loved everything they had to say about your culture and the way you treat your employees.” Sounds impressive, right? It shows how much effort you put into this process and gives you a tremendous amount of credibility.
Recognizing what matters and what doesn’t matter
When you’re entering the world of investment banking, there is just so much to learn. You might think to yourself, “When am I going to learn all this?” Once you start talking to people, you will realize that they don’t expect you to know a lot of things that you thought you should. After conducting multiple interviews, you will start recognizing patterns of what people care and talk about. As a result, you will be able to focus more on the important stuff, and leave all the rest for some extra time (if you’ll have any).
Establishing relationships and earning trust
Imagine the following scenario. You are a managing director and need to choose between two equally qualified candidates for a new hire in your group. One candidate is somebody you’ve never heard of before, and the other was strongly recommended by your friend. Who will you hire?
Most people would hire somebody who had a strong recommendation because it is more predictable that the candidate will perform well (otherwise, he or she wouldn’t get recommended).
Therefore, when you’re looking for a job in investment banking, your goal should be to establish strong relationships and earn trust of bankers so they feel comfortable recommending you to their colleagues.
Additionally, you never know when someone you know will have influence on your life. Knowing people in the industry might give you opportunities you have never dreamed of before.
Let’s say you establish a good relationship with someone who’s older than you. First, this person serves as your mentor and you try to learn as much as possible for them. That’s already a huge benefit. But now, let’s say this person happens to know people who are starting a new hedge fund and they’re looking for young, bright individuals. Guess whom your mentor suggests? You! Congratulations, you got your way in and you didn’t even know that this hedge fund was being created. These kinds of things happen all the time and they are result of strong relationships between people.
Getting your resume through the gatekeepers
This is probably one of the most important goals for all of you that are reading this. Yes, you’re networking in order to get that interview. However, it is no coincidence this reason is in the last place of reasons why to network. If your mentality is just to use people in order to get interviews, you won’t make it far. There will be something in the air that is hard to describe, but will prevent you from being a successful networker. People can feel when they are being used. They can hear in your voice that you’re not really interested in what they have to say. You don’t want to be that person.
However, if you focus your networking in order to learn from it, and explore why you’re truly interested in this field, all other things that you’re looking for will somehow fall into place. You have to trust yourself. When you call people in order to learn from them, they will recognize your sincerity and enthusiasm about the field. And remember, these are some of main “skills” bankers are looking for in recent graduates. When a banker recognizes he/she is being called for the right reasons, he/she will try to help you out and will get that resume in front of the HR saying, “This is the kid that deserves the interview!” That’s what you want.