Networking is important when it comes to getting an Investment Banking job. I don’t believe that it is the silver bullet nor is it the most important thing that you can do in order to get a job (as others believe) however at the margin it can make the difference in landing that elusive Investment Banking job.
If you’re like most people, you’re not a natural born networker. Knowing that you should be out there networking and actually being out there and networking effectively are two very different things. If you use the tips in this post I can guarantee that you will become a better networker. Most people don’t understand the basics of networking and why it works. Hopefully this will provide some more insights for you.
Networking is an art….not a science
Networking is not something that you can do by following a set of instructions. You cannot have a set script that you use over and over again. There are bits that you can plan and have in the back of your mind but networking is much more of an art than a science.
It is about being good with people and being easy to talk to and interacting well. In fact it is all about relationships, developing them and nurturing them.
Here are 5 tips to make you a better networker
1. Make friends…not contacts
- Most people don’t know how to network because they think networking is about making the most contacts that they possibly can and hoping that one pans out
- Although this is networking…it is not effective networking
- Effective networking is more like making friends (which most of us know how to do)…you don’t actually need to become friends with someone you are networking with but the approach to the interaction should be the same
- People are far more willing to recommend someone for an interview or job that they got along with (i.e. the friend approach) rather than someone they barely knew (i.e. the contact approach)
2. Be genuine in your interactions
- The most ineffectual thing you can do while networking is to look like you want something from someone
- Examples of this can include ‘interviewing’ a person you are networking with. That is asking them a heap of questions to validate whether they are a useful contact
- If they are a useful contact you will have really put them off with your process
- Being genuine may mean that you are less efficient at meeting the person you actually want to meet…but the ones you do meet will remember you (and be more willing to go into bat for you)
3. It is much easier to make friends and network with those with whom you have a common contact
- Networking events are inherently difficult places to meet people…because they are so ‘fake’
- Genuine interactions (like the ones I mentioned above) are hard to generate at networking events because they are designed by their nature to create contacts
- Use your existing friends and their friends and contacts to network effectively. It is much easier to be genuine and to have free flowing conversation when you have common points of interest
- For example one of my friends at university had a brother who was an investment banker and another had a dad who worked in an investment bank. The brother was nice but ultimately unhelpful but the dad turned out to give me really good advice about interviewing for banking positions
4. Once you have caught someone’s attention…don’t let that spark die
- If you have nailed steps one through three you have probably caught someone’s attention and at the very least you are having a good conversation with them
- You have done the hard work so don’t miss the easy part. Email them, suggest a coffee or just find some way of engaging them and keeping in touch
- If you meet someone once I guarantee that you will be forgotten…if you interact with them a few times you are much more likely to be remembered
5. Give before you receive
- Most aspiring bankers are often annoyed and surprised when a contact they made didn’t come through for them
- Remember this rule: you are more likely to want to do something for someone who has done something for you
- This doesn’t mean buying them gifts or doing anything like that. It just means that if you are able to put yourself in a position when you can help out a junior banker…they will remember it
- Want an example?
- I was responsible for lodging my bank’s promotional materials for a university societies finance careers book. I was busy and forgot to do it by the deadline…in fact I missed it by a week
- When I realised this I got in contact with one of the society’s liaisons who got everything from me, got it into the book without any hassles on my part. He obviously had to go out of his way to do this but I appreciated him getting me out of a jam
- The same student made sure he met me at the next university recruiting event. He didn’t remind me about what he had done for me…he just made sure we had a chat
- When recruiting season came around I remembered him and made sure I looked out for his resume
One final thing you should remember…
…is that one good relationship developed is better than 10 contacts. You are never going to be able to network effectively for every bank you are thinking about applying to. Spend more time trying to develop a few relationships.
The fact is that networking may or may not be the reason that you get a job in investment banking. I developed some good relationships when I was going through the same process…however the bank I ended up getting a job at was one where I didn’t know anyone at all. In fact I hadn’t even met them at a recruiting event.
Networking is important but you shouldn’t do it at the expense of other efforts, like getting good marks and nailing your cover letter and resume. There is nothing more important than your application when it comes to getting into investment banking.
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