How to do it?
There are three different ways you can go about your networking process. Knowing where to start and how to go about this process will give you a leg up on people that wait until the last minute, so start now! Generally speaking, your first point of contact with someone will always be via email, followed by a phone call, an in-person meeting, or sometimes both. Preparation is the key to success, and it starts with the execution of the following networking approaches:
The first step to contacting someone should almost always be by e-mail. This is the fastest and easiest method to start networking because everyone in banking is constantly checking their e-mail.
The greatest benefit that comes with e-mailing is the time you have to draft your message. Any other form of communication does not allow you to think for 20 minutes about the content and objectives you have. So, take advantage of this and craft a good message that can be used as a template. Yes, it is true that people use templates… No one writes 100 completely different e-mails. That being said, you should always try to tailor your e-mails as much as possible.
When writing an e-mail to someone for the first time, it is important that you include the following information:
- Where you got the person’s contact info (gives you credibility)
- Mention interest in banking
- Reason for contacting them (what you want from them)
- Ask for time to talk
- Attach your resume (optional)
Here’s an example of an email you might send to a person you’ve never met before:
Dear Mr./Ms. ___________,
My name is _____________, and I am a junior majoring in ____________ at the University of _________. I got your contact information from _________, who strongly suggested contacting you as I am extremely interested in the field of investment banking. I would like to talk to you in order to learn about your experiences, __________ (name of the bank), and investment banking in general. Please let me know if you have time for a brief conversation sometime in the coming weeks. Attached is my resume for your reference. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
This is just an example of what to write, but it gives you a good idea of what to include and what to leave for a phone/in-person conversation.
While it is an option to cold call people, it is preferable to schedule a conversation in advance via e-mail. That way you know you are on the banker’s schedule and that you’re most likely not interrupting anything more important.
When you finally get on the phone with the person you wanted to talk to, be ready to talk about the following things:
- Who are you?
- Where do you come from? – your story
- Why your school?
- Why your major?
- Why investment banking?
The typical structure of the call looks like this:
|Small Talk||1 minute||How are you? Thank you for making the time…|
|Intro (you)||1 – 2 minutes||Your story|
|Intro (banker)||1 – 2 minutes||Banker’s story|
|Q&A||10+ minutes||Prepare a long list of questions so you don’t run out of topics to talk about|
|Thank You||30 seconds||Thank them again for their time and insight|
After you have explained your background, you will have to be ready to lead the conversation. This is when you will be able to show all the research you have done and your understanding of the industry. Don’t think about these calls as the time when you have to impress the person on the other side. Rather, use this time to fill in the gaps in your knowledge and learn as much as possible.
Bankers don’t expect you to know everything about what they do and how they do it. However, they expect you to know what is going on at a high level. If you ask specific questions about how thing A relates to thing B, they will be able to explain the connection, ultimately helping you learn. At the same time, the banker knows you did some research by showing that you know a relationship between A and B exists, which makes a very positive impression.
In-person informational interviews
There is no better way to network than by meeting for an in-person informational interview. By meeting in-person, you get to know the banker better, and more importantly, the banker gets to know you better. This is your opportunity to shine and make a great first impression.
In-person informational interviews aren’t much different than the phone conversations. You will have to be able to answer the same introductory questions and lead the conversation afterwards with good questions. However, a major advantage of in-person informational interviews is face-to-face interaction. You will be able to read non-verbal communication from the banker and hopefully adjust accordingly. If you see the banker smiling and being very engaged in the conversation, you will be much more likely to do the same. It will be much easier to relax and ask questions that truly interest you. On the other hand, if you see the banker acting hesitant or unengaged, you’ll know to change something quickly.
Whatever you do, you should start networking NOW and never stop. Start with e-mails, and then trying to schedule phone calls and/or in-person informational interviews. Although in-person meetings are preferable, there isn’t much you can do if you go to school in Minnesota and the banker is in New York. So the phone conversation is the next best option, and you should utilize it to the fullest extent.