Networking lies at the center of every effort to get into Finance for the first time or to take the next step in your career. Because even when you are taking the formal route of applying to a job through your university or a job-page, networking will provide you with an edge by being connected with people in the industry, having practiced your pitching and other interpersonal skills, and becoming more of an insider before, during and after the formal interview process.
I have spent most of my life as a Finance professional networking to be a better professional, calibrate my next move or, as I became more senior, to generate new business, revenues and profits.
The recipe, however, is always the same for us at Breaking into Finance, and we summarize it today as a decalogue.
- THE LIST: the starting point and the element that will concentrate your efforts is growing the list of target companies and contact people at those companies. If you are starting from scratch start dreaming big and putting only there your ideal employers, and then continue to grow it with smaller firms, related companies, headhunters, etc. The key to your list is to always come back to it, keep notes and always make clear markings for the next steps, setting reminders for next contacts, etc. It might not be obvious but a relationship that starts today with a coffee with a stranger and evolves with periodic meetings and e-mail, might result in getting your desired job in 6 years: I can attest to that! (E-mail me if you want the details).
- Spend time and be creative to make your list grow: if you want to do successful networking, you should take networking as a part-time job or full-time job, if you are at full speed trying to originate new opportunities. Also, think beyond LinkedIn and Google to get ideas and “leads” to make your list grow bigger. Who was your high-school classmate that entered into banking? Didn’t your sister in law know someone at that fund? I found that when you are spending significant time in growing your network, you start “seeing the Matrix” and make more and more associations that lead to productive coffees or conversations.
- That what you measure you can improve: use whichever analogue or digital tool you prefer, but create an interactive tracker that allows you to add notes and follow up steps to each row in your list (step 1).
- Reach-out / say bye to shyness: as a kid I was shy, and I am still not a big fan of picking up the phone and go on a telephone call spree. However, I forced myself to progressively do those calls I initially dreaded, by always following the same steps: having a script in front of me, putting myself into a good state before the call by smiling or playing a song I like and then go on and making that call. It will become natural! And the same goes to getting out there and having face-to-face meetings.
- Make it face to face, when possible: make your network grow, one coffee at a time. It is always better to make it in person, as you will interact, see each other’s body language and it will be good to put a face to the name. In COVID19 times it maybe tougher to meet in person, but you should still try. If not possible, go for a video-conference, to at least see how the person looks like.
- Find a mentor: with the purpose of getting advice, keep your efforts in check and provide extra discipline, as you will have to prepare every time you are bound to see your mentor. An important note: mentorship is a bilateral thing, so make sure that if you want someone to mentor, that person is willing and able to do it. Doesn’t have to be many years your senior though, when possible, these mentor/mentee relationships are the most productive.
- Realize you are not bragging, you are just selling yourself. In my experience, we Latins/Southern Europeans tend to be talkative, but when it comes down to sell our strengths, we become shy or “let the employers discover it with time”. Which is the wrong approach for a short, targeted period of recruiting, and one in which you are putting yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage. Rehearse talking about your achievements as well as practicing how to rebate the most apparent weaknesses you may have, and you will suddenly be a more valuable candidate, even when at the core, your experience, education or skills, hasn’t changed at all!
And three things to be aware of
- The enemy within: many times you are your own worst enemy, sabotaging your own efforts, procrastinating, or thinking you can’t do it, that they won’t hire, you, etc.
- Social agenda: whether you are in your MBA, your masters or your undergrad, or just working and feeling “the next beer with your colleagues is way more fan than researching for your next job”, you will sometimes have to skip some of the fun to increase your chances of success
- A marginal effort (in terms of time) rarely produces big changes. Looking for a job or your next career step needs to be taken seriously. So as implied in the previous point 9, make the conscious effort to block out some time each day
Keep the chin up and don’t get discouraged! I usually compare networking to fighting “guerrilla” style; it is constant, it is spread-out, and you rarely see a linear progression. And especially in these convoluted times, it can be even more discouraging. But paradoxically, these are the times when spending most of your extra time or extra energy on networking, will produce the extra results that allow you to be that respected professional that managed to make a great transition or career move in the midst of the worst uncertainty crisis in many years.
At Breaking into Finance we are ready to help you. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have comments or question on this articles, or if you want to learn more about our Services: the Individual Program or the Institutional Program.
Until the next time.