Networking is held out by some (especially some of the biggest Investment Banking blogs) to be the best and most effective way of getting your name in front of bankers and to getting yourself noticed by the banks. And it can be effective if done correctly but from my experience it is far harder than they make it sound.
Networking is obviously an incredibly broad topic and this post will be just a general overview of how you can go about networking with Investment Bankers.
The ‘normal’ networking events make it incredibly hard for you to stand out and make an impression
Why is networking hard? Simply because most Investment Banking days organised by universities and colleges are typically swamped with students. If it is just one bank marketing on campus the ratio of bankers / prospective applicants is even more extreme.
As a student you are hoping to go there and make an impression, hopefully by asking some insightful questions and having a great conversation proving you are interested in banking and an interesting person generally. This is absolutely the right way to go about it but it isn’t likely to be very effective because you’re ability to have a good 1 on 1 conversation with a banker is absolutely nil and as soon as you leave someone else will come up and you are relying on the banker remembering your name. There are countless times as a banker when I had a great conversation with someone only to completely forget their name after dealing with 30 people right after them.
Giving your resume or business card to the banker at one of these events is unlikely to be effective
Some students come up with interesting ways to get around this problem (for example bringing their resumes along to networking events or by having business cards made up for themselves. Honestly this isn’t very effective because the resumes have to come through the appropriate application process and the business cards almost always get lost by the time applications come around.
The only really effective way of networking with bankers is to do it outside the mass events that most people attend
The biggest problem that you have as a potential applicant (as I mentioned above) is that you are one among many. If you manage to get an investment banker on their own though…you have a much better chance of getting in.
So how do you get an investment banker to chat just to you?
One of the best ways of doing this is to do what you were doing before (i.e. ask intelligent questions and look genuinely interested in banking) and just talk to them long enough that they remember you. Stick around to the end of the event when everyone is leaving and packing up and go up to the same banker and say something along the lines of “thanks for helping me out with the questions before. I have a few more quick questions about your time in banking and was wondering whether I could get your card so I can email them through to you”.
Getting their card is tricky – no investment banker wants to give it out. I said ‘no’ more times than I can remember (actually I just said I didn’t bring my cards along…which wasn’t true) because I didn’t want to be inundated with calls. However by
- Making an impression first you are likely to have some buy in from them
- By going at the end of the night others aren’t likely to see you asking for it and they aren’t likely to get asked for it again (the danger of asking for it when you are in a group of people)
- Bankers love emails because they can deal with them in their own time (phone calls are annoying so don’t offer to call)
After you get their card send the email the next day with a genuine question that you want answered and hopefully wait for their response. Don’t pester them too much with emails or calls but even just a few emails back and forth and they will remember your name when it comes to application time.
Other ways of networking with investment bankers
The above suggestion is the most appropriate for networking with bankers when you really have no other way of doing it. It is the hardest though and there are easier ways (but which require far more ground work on your part) which include:
Using your contacts
There seems to be a real stigma attached to using your contacts however unless your contact is an MD, it is unlikely to get you a job. What it will do is give you some great tips and also get you remembered when it comes to interview time. The person you know doesn’t have to be a banker either – if you are friends with someone whose sibling is a banker ask them to set up a coffee for you or something similar.
Be helpful to junior bankers
I’ve seen this done very effectively on a number of occasions. When bankers go to universities to do recruiting / marketing they typically deal with one of the finance associations. Most of the time a junior banker will be dealing with someone on the committee of these associations. This is an invaluable contact. Be helpful and make their life easy. The amount of goodwill you generate by bending the rules a little (especially when they have forgotten to submit something is amazing. I know 2 bankers that got their interviews this way.
There are skills and nuances in the way you want to approach networking because it is a fine line between being persistent and being frustrating and annoying. Also there are ways you definitely don’t want to get noticed (but that is for another post).
How have you networked with Investment Bankers? Have you found your techniques successful or do need some more solutions from me?
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