Networking Tips

The Mindset

The first rule in networking is to not ask for a job despite both parties knowing you are looking for one. Instead, build the relationship and let the other person decide how much she is willing to help. Networking is not a transaction – the other person is not obligated to help you. You should approach every networking session with the mindset of learning new things, improving the delivery of your story, and building a network of mentors.

Power of Reciprocity: Robert Cialdini’s work can greatly help in networking. Reciprocity is the technique in Cialdini’s Influence book that helped me the most. The key is to focus on selflessly providing value, while expecting nothing in return. Frankly, I feel better by adding value as the other person is taking time out of her busy day to take a call or have a coffee with a Nobody. With this mindset, I have gained many long-time mentors and received advice and job leads because most human beings have an innate desire to return the favor.

Selfless good deeds don’t exist. I do them to feel better.

It is a number game. Many will not respond for different reasons, but you will never know why. You just need to be consistently persistent. This is a non-linear pursuit: You might land your dream job on the first try. You might need try thousands of times. Luck is an ingredient in this endeavor, but failure is guaranteed if you give up before you get out of the Valley of Disappoint.

Do not give up

The Targeting

Another Cialdini insight here: People respond to similarities. Reach out to alums and family’s friends, they are easier to relate and have higher response rate. If you went to a smaller school, reach out to alums even if they are in a different function of your dream firm. I remember reaching out to an MBA alum at a European bank who was in equity research operations, she forwarded my resume to the director of research which got me an interview for an equity research associate opportunity. It’s also totally fine to reach out to non-alum and there is always something you can relate to your target if you look hard enough: maybe you both played football in school, are from the same town, etc.

The Preparation

Treat the networking like an interview. Rehearse your elevator pitch: why are you reaching out, what do you want and what’s your background and value add. Having done many peer interviews during business school and mentoring sessions, I noticed my attention decreases after the three-minute mark. So keep the pitch to 2-3 minutes. The other person will be impressed by your preparation and respect of her time.

Do your homework: Use Google, please. Everyone likes a self-starter (particularly true if you want to pursue investment research). Look up the person on LinkedIn, the firm, the profession, and so on. All the homework will reflect in the quality of your questions, which should impress.

The Adjustment

Don’t beat a dead horse (or milk a dead cow): If someone doesn’t respond, follow-up only once more one week or two weeks later. Move on if you don’t hear back. Some will respond but will be aloof, or worse, discouraging. If their reasoning is valid, self-reflect (discussed in the next point). If they are just an elitist or an asshole, ignore them - it’s better to leave no impression than a bad one. Don’t let their negativity hurt your confidence.

I remember networking with an alum on the buy-side who told me doing investment banking after MBA was the only way to break to the buy-side. One, he did not even do investment banking. Two, I knew sell-side equity research was at least another path. So I thanked him politely and never asked for his advice again. The moral of the story: Just because someone is more experienced doesn’t mean they always know what they are talking about (which is why I always encourage my readers to triangulate across many data points to form their own views and keep me honest.

Beating a Dead Horse
Don’t beat a dead horse

Self-reflection: I encourage growth mindset, but intrinsic ability is equally crucial. Ultimately, your intrinsic ability is what drives the other person to risk their reputation to vouch for you. If no one is referring you or telling you job leads, either you are not a good fit for the profession or your competency is not at the expected level. In that case, you need to ask a close mentor or friend for the harsh truth so that you can improve or pivot.

Create non-linearity: Finally, take advantage of channels that can accelerate your brand building. Social media is a good example where your followership can grow exponentially as long as you say intelligent things. If you haven’t already, start a social media account, or start a newsletter or podcast, etc. Another trick is to ask two introductions at the end of every one-on-one networking call. That way you get three connections out of one reach-out (provided the initial networking call went well.)

Reaching Out

  • Keep track of your contacts using a CRM spreadsheet

  • Have a professional email address: first.last@mail.com

  • Use email / LinkedIn messaging for initial reach out. For research, I have found LinkedIn to be very effective. Cold calling feels like Bud Fox in the 80s to me, so I have never done it.

Bud Fox Impersonator Asked About Harambe on Ruby Tuesday Earnings Call
“Hi, any high-paying job?”
  • For international candidates: In the US, we don’t address people using titles. Just use name. (ie. Use “Hi, Cathie” instead of “Dear Ms. Wood”)

  • Bad time to reach out:

    • Try not to reach out on a Monday. People are relatively busier.

    • For investment research, don’t reach out during earnings season.

  • State your goals up front. Always be concise (my recurring theme.)

  • Please do not send out a link of your online calendar app link and tell your target to pick a time (someone has done that to me). Instead, propose a few big time blocks / days that work for you, but caveat that you are flexible.

Finding your target’s contacts

  • Poor person’s way: Hard to teach resourcefulness, but that goes a long way

    • Alumni database

    • Business cards from career fair, professional conferences, etc.

    • Ask your existing connections

    • For investment research: Bloomberg terminal has a people function. You can search for people based on firms / titles, etc; If you work on the sell-side, you can ask your salesperson with good relationships for buy-side contact info.

    • For sell-side research: Find team’s emails on research reports, if you have access through friends or school’s business library (all business schools should have it); Check analyst’s LinkedIn, a lot of them are posting openings as LinkedIn status nowadays.

    • Figure out email formats for firms of your interest (eg. maybe Wellington Management email format is first.last@wellington.com. J.P. Morgan uses middle name in their email format, tough luck.)

  • Expensive way: any paid people stalking tools (not endorsing any particular one.)

Following Up

  • Always send a thank you email after every networking call. It’s a nice thing to do and good way to differentiate in today’s world. Small things like this might just make you that top of mind person for the next opening.

  • There is no textbook timeline on when to follow up. 3-6 months is reasonable to me. Some explicitly tell you not to follow up too frequently, so honor that.

  • Run your networking like a services business: Acquire customers and then KEEP THEM (think lifetime value). Find ways to add value and engage with your connections. Plants need watering, relationships need to be cultivated to become lifetime mentorships.

  • Another touch point I use is new year. Send a personalized email to each connection. If you want to really differentiate, send a paper holiday card with handwritten notes. People don’t do that anymore, that’s why it can differentiate.

  • Always communicate one-to-one: Everyone wants to feel the personal attention. So don’t send a happy new year blast to all your connections at once because 1) people value privacy 2) it does not feel personal.

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