Getting that first job in your field of interest can be a daunting task, however effective networking is proven to be a key factor in landing interviews and eventually job offers. In fact, a study done by the American Psychological Association found that networking is typically associated with accelerated growth in career success and higher salaries than candidates who do not network. As such, it is crucial to start developing and refining your networking strategy as early as possible.
Effective networking can help you:
- Build an industry network
- Develop knowledge about the role you’re applying to
- Gauge which firm’s culture you would fit in best with
- Become more confident when chatting with professionals
Networking is as much of an art as it is a science, an applicant must find a good balance between understanding the firm on a professional level and getting along with the contact on a personal level. There are countless articles online about the “golden rules of networking”; however, very few resources lay out tangible frameworks that apply to the continuously evolving finance recruiting process. Today we will focus on just that: how to structure your networking strategy to make a great impression on professionals and secure an offer at a top financial institution.
Reaching out to professionals
Finding the right contact
LinkedIn is a great tool to screen and learn more about professionals and their backgrounds. In fields such as investment banking, recruiting is typically run by individuals between the analyst and VP level. Most firms task analysts with screening resumes, therefore it is crucial to make a great impression with them to help your resume stand out. Though it is important to focus on getting along with everyone at the firm you’re applying to, there are many benefits to reaching out to a person with shared backgrounds or interests. Common grounds such as school, major, hometown, sports or movies provide a great opportunity to build a more personal connection. Once you have found an individual you would like to chat with, the next step is to reach out. There are several ways to get in contact with an industry professional, including getting a mutual contact to put you in touch, reaching out via a cold email, or directly messaging them through LinkedIn.
Structuring a cold email
Cold emails should be done thoughtfully as they are crucial to establishing a first impression with a professional. The first step is to get the person’s email address. Company email formats can usually be found online. Once you have the format, you can plug in the professional’s name to get their email. For example: the email format seen on rocketreach.com for TD Securities is email@example.com. If your contact’s name is Jane Doe, their email would likely be firstname.lastname@example.org. It is important to consider that companies may update their email formats over time or have different formats across geographies. As such, if your format isn’t working, try reaching out to an upper-year student who has networked/worked at the firm and inquire about the email format.
The next step is to draft your email. The message should begin with a small section containing background information on you and, if relevant, how you found them. Your email should then move to why you decided to reach out, which is typically to learn more about the firm and their responsibilities. Finally, you should end off by providing a time frame for when you would be available and how they can best reach you.
Example cold email structure:
Hope you’re doing well. I’m a second-year student at Laurier University, and I’m currently exploring a career in _____. I had the opportunity to tune into ____’s information session yesterday and was interested to hear about your experience in ____ at _____. I was particularly interested to hear about your perspective on ____ as it is something I would like to learn more about. I understand you must be very busy, but I would really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to chat about _____.
I am available at the following times next week (Nov x — Nov x): Monday (xam — 5pm), Thursday (1pm — 4pm), Friday (9am — 5pm). Please let me know what time works best and what number I can reach you at.
T: (XXX) XXX — XXXX
Note: This structure is solely for demonstration purposes and should not serve as a template for your own cold emails, but rather a guideline on how to reach out effectively. It is highly recommended that you structure your email based on what you want to get out of the chat.
If you do not receive a response to your initial email after a week or two, send a follow up email reiterating your interest in learning more about the firm and their role. If you still do not hear back from the person in a couple of days, consider sending a second follow up email. In the event that they do not respond to either follow up, they may just be busy or unable to chat. If this is the case, it is best to move on and reach out to other people at the firm.
If your email does get a reply, try to be responsive. If you included a timeframe with your availability in your initial email, it is likely they will also give you a time frame that outlines when they are available. In the event that they respond with their availability, choose a time that works best for you and reiterate that you are excited to speak with them soon.
Structuring coffee chats or phone calls
You’ve spent the time to find a contact and reach out to them, now it’s finally time for that chat! Whether it’s over the phone or in person, it is important to come across as someone that is easy to get along with and has a genuine interest in the industry.
Typical coffee chat/phone call structure:
- Spend 30 minutes researching the person’s background and come up with a list of targeted questions
- More personal “get to know you” chat at the beginning
- Give a short introduction on yourself
- Ask the person your questions about them, their role or their firm
- Conclude by thanking them for their time
- Send a follow-up email
Starting the chat
Begin the chat on a conversational note by taking the time to talk about how their week has been or what they’ve been up to outside of work. Additionally, if you found anything in common with this person, this would be the time to discuss that. Once you have built a good rapport, ask if it would be helpful to give some background information on yourself. Be mindful not to turn this into a “tell me about yourself” response. Instead, walk the person through a ~1 minute summary of your background, anything interesting about you, and what led you to this chat.
Asking about their background
Once you have gotten through your intro, spend time asking targeted questions about their background, any interesting experiences, and what led them to their current role. For example, if their LinkedIn shows that they had a unique experience such as teaching students in China, this may be something you want to ask about. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that don’t directly relate to their job experience, as it can be difficult to form a personal connection talking about dry work topics. Additionally, ask questions that go beyond what you can find online, such as “what made you personally choose this firm” or “what does your team value in their employees”. Detailed questions can help make a lasting impression as they illustrate that you have done your research and have an interest beyond superficial facts about the company and role.
List of general career networking questions:
- Why did you choose to pursue finance? Why this field (IB, PE, S&T etc.)?
- What kind of mentorship opportunities did you get at the junior level?
- What helped you stand out during your summer at this firm?
- What resources did you find most helpful when you were in my shoes?
- Does the office have any interesting culture initiatives? (annual vacation, regular team dinners, happy Fridays etc.)
Ending off the chat
Conclude the conversation by thanking the person for their time and asking if there is anyone else on the team they would recommend reaching out to. If you are going through the recruiting process, take this opportunity to ask for further information regarding timelines and what to expect.
Sending a follow up email
It is always a good idea to send a follow up email after a chat. A follow up email should thank them again for their time, and potentially highlight a point you found insightful. Towards the end of the email, consider bringing up a non-work-related discussion you had (sports game coming up, movie you both like etc.) to continue the conversational tone.
We hope that you found our insights helpful and will implement some of our tips in your future networking endeavours. We hope you’ll continue to drive more insights from your own networking and share them with fellow students who are nervous about speaking with industry professionals.
Additional resources related to networking can be found below:
This article is originally published on Medium by Western Capital Markets and is authored by Shayan Hasan & Ariana Ghavami.