How to Network Your Way Into Investment Banking in 5 Simple Steps

bjbj Today, I’m going to be telling you about
how you can network your way into investment banking in five simple steps. I’m basically
doing this for three reasons. Number one, a lot of people tend to over complicate this
process and pretend that it’s quantum physics, or something really advanced. But actually
if you’re using the right strategy, then it becomes quite simple and it’s really just
a matter of applying the right tactics to your networking efforts if you want to succeed.
The second reason is that even when the economy is good, even if we’re in a bubble right now,
then networking is still how you’re going to set yourself apart from the thousands or
tens of thousands of other people looking for work right now. But then, when the economy
gets bad, when the bubble is about to burst or if it’s already burst and your career is
sort of in free fall right now, then networking will be how you save yourself and how you
find something else when there are thousands of other employed people who are looking for
the same types of positions you are. When I talk about networking here, I’m really referring
to two different concepts. One is relationship development through informational interviews,
through networking and following up over a long time period, and then the second method
is cold calling. Basically, just calling small and local firms and directly asking if they
have internships or jobs available. Now, of course, there are other related concepts.
With informational interviews, you have to actually figure out what types of questions
you’re going to ask. You have to think about taking weekend trips possibly. You have to
think about who you are going to conduct your informational interviews with whether it’s
alumni, whether it’s people you met at information sessions. Then finally, making your request
once you’ve contacted these people and conducted your interviews. These are the two basic processes,
and there is going to be a lot of overlap between the different steps that you go through
in each of them. In terms of how, I think there’s really a five-step formula that you
can apply to your networking efforts regardless of whether you’re cold calling or you’re conducting
informational interviews, and trying to develop relationships. Step number one, getting your
stories straight. Now, you might have overlooked this one before and thought that it’s the
same as telling your story in an interview. It’s not. It’s actually different and you
have to think about what you’re going to say and approach this one a bit differently. The
second one here is making your list. You have to figure out who you’re going to contact
and prioritize them and figure out who you’re going to contact first. Is it going to be
alumni? Is it going to be senior people? Junior people? You have to figure all those out first.
Third, once you’ve figured out who you are going to contact, you have to actually set
up the calls or meetings and then go through them, make a good impression on the people
or if you’re cold calling, just directly ask for what you’re looking for. Fourth, you need
to follow up and this is different depending on whether you’re going for relationships
or you’re simply cold calling to ask about jobs, but follow up is extremely important
in either case. It doesn’t necessarily need to be often, it doesn’t need to be on a fixed
schedule, but what you say and how you say it are both extremely important with followup.
Fifth, you need to actually make your ask. Now, with cold calling, steps 3, 4 and 5 here
are sort of combined. Because you’re going to be making you ask even in the beginning
when you make your initial call, but with relationship development, this one’s going
to be in a bit different, and you’ll see that they are kind of stages to this. Where you
ask for smaller things in the beginning and then you position yourself to ask for bigger
things near the end. Let’s go through each of these in more detail now. Step number one,
getting your story straight. The number one mistake that you’re probably making with this,
is that you’re probably trying to tell a story that’s just way too long. You’re trying to
tell a proverbial stack of books, which is going to have the same effect as if you try
to read that same stack of books at the library, it’s going to put you to sleep, and it’s going
to have this effect on anyone that you speak to when you’re networking. They’re just not
going to pay attention. What you need to do when telling your story with networking that’s
different from what you do when you’re telling your story in an interview, is you really
need to focus on the highlights here. You cannot go on for two to three minutes. You
can go on for maybe two to three sentences. So you need to focus on three things. First,
you need to tell them who you are. Second, you need to tell them what you’ve done before.
Third, you need to tell them what you’re looking for now. You might say that you’re a student
at such and such university, you’ve done wealth management internships before at large banks
and now you’re looking to get into investment banking. Or you might tell them that you’re
an MBA student, you’ve worked in healthcare policy before and now you’re looking to make
a move into healthcare investment banking. Your story needs to be very concise and hit
on the main points. Name any impressive names if you have them and then say specifically
what you’re looking to do and how this person can help you do that. Second, in terms of
making your list here, it doesn’t need to be an extremely long list. You don’t need
to have dozens or hundreds or thousands of names or anything like that, but you do need
to have a list. Unless you have a list, you’re not going to be able to properly track your
networking efforts. You’re not going to be able to keep track of your relationships with
all these people. It’s important to have some type of list here, even when you’re first
starting out. In terms of where to get the names from, well, I would start with conventional
sources, alumni, friends, information sessions, bankers you meet there, professional referrals.
Now, in some cases, you’re just not going to be able to get enough names like this,
particularly if you’re not in school or you don’t go to a target school. In that case,
you need to expand your reach. You need to be more creative. Think about professional
organizations, talking to professors, talking to co-workers, former co-workers, going through
other groups outside of work, and you have to be more creative. You have to look at online
sources like Capital IQ and Facet to find names of some of these places. In terms of
prioritization here, I would say that you want to prioritize people based on how close
they are to you, how much of a connection you share with them. If it’s an alumnus from
your school, they’ve been in the same club that you were, they were the same major as
you. That’s a really good connection. If it’s someone you just randomly found online, and
they don’t really have anything in common with you, that should be lower on your priority
list. Another question that comes up is do you start with senior people or do you start
with more junior people at a bank? I think it’s generally better if you can to contact
senior people, because they’re going to have more decision-making power. They’ll be able
to get your results more quickly, but you may not always be able to get in touch with
them, they can be less responsive than more junior people. If that happens, then you want
to go to the junior people instead. Also, keep in mind that even if this happens, it’s
not necessarily a one-way street. Even if you start out with more junior people, they
can often refer you to more senior people later on. Next, once you have your list, then
you need to actually go about placing your calls or conducting your informational interviews,
your meetings. I would try to set up your meetings through email. Obviously, if you’re
cold calling, then it’s pointless to email to ask to speak on the phone. Just call them.
That’s the whole point of cold calling. But if you’re trying to go for relationships,
I would start with email. If they’re not responsive, go to the phone, and you want to be targeting
in-person meetings here. If it’s not possible, if you’re not local, then just do it over
the phone, that’s fine. Once your meeting is actually confirmed, then spend maybe 10
to 15 minutes doing some background research on the person. Wait until the meeting is actually
confirmed, so you’re not doing research on something that’s never going to happen here.
Now, once your meeting, a 30-minute meeting in person I would suggest, or maybe a 10-
to 15-minute call if you’re doing it over the phone, once the meeting actually begins,
you want to focus on three key things. Point number one, you want to ask about their background.
Focus on their personal history. Stay away from questions like what do you think the
market is going to be like, where you think the industry is heading? All that stuff is
too impersonal. You want to stay strictly focused on their own history and their personal
background. Second, you want to stay in question mode the whole time. How do you become a good
conversationalist? Well, you ask questions. Instead of talking about yourself the whole
time, you spend 75% of your time or more, just asking questions about their background
instead. It’s the same with informational interviews. Third, you want to be looking
for common and/or interesting points about the person. If you have something in common,
you want to focus on that, hone in on that and focus on that. If they’ve something interesting
or unconventional, also focus on that, because that’s what will get them to remember you
versus everyone else that tries to contact them. You may get tested and this is fine.
Just be prepared for it. They may ask you basic questions about finance, financial news.
If that happens, be prepared to answer. Never bring it upon yourself. Never preempt this
by walking in and trying to sound impressive. Just wait for it and if it happens, then respond
appropriately, but never try to preempt it by acting too smart. Now, as your informational
interview progresses, what you want to do is keep track of the time. Then at the end,
when you only have a few minutes left, that’s when you want to make your mini ask. By mini
ask, I’m referring to you asking for referrals, asking for advice on a specific question you
have, asking for help with something else, asking about their recruiting process, mentioning
a weekend trip and asking if they could possibly meet you in the future. The reason that’s
important to do this is because networking is sort of like training pets, training dogs.
If you go into an informational interview with someone or you meet someone for the first
time, you don’t make a request and you keep talking to them never making a request, it’s
going to seem really unusual when you finally do make your request. But if you effectively
give them dog treats over time and you’ve trained them to expect a request from you,
then they’re going to be much more obedient, they’re going to be much more helpful to you
later on, when you have to actually request an actual interview from them. With cold calls,
the process is a bit different. You basically just want to call and give your elevator pitch.
Actually, not even really an elevator pitch, more like the two-to three-sentence story
pitch, that we went through before. Then directly ask them, “I want to find out how I could
best position myself for a summer internship with your firm,” and just be very direct with
your questioning. Now, you still don’t want to say, “I need a job.” You still want to
say something like, “I wanna figure out how I can best position myself to get an internship
with your firm,” or something like that. Stay one step away from directly asking for a job
here, but you cannot afford to beat around the bush at all when you’re cold calling.
The two main difficulties you’ll run into when cold calling are getting through to the
right people, and then also actually getting a person live as opposed to getting a voice
mail. Now, there are a lot of strategies for dealing with this. But two quick ones that
you can immediately use are instead of just calling the main line and asking for a banker,
go to their website, look up a banker’s name and make up a story. Tell the receptionist
or secretary a story and say, “I’m supposed to speak with such and such today about this
topic,” and that’s going to get you much better results. Now, if you get directed to their
voice mail, I would suggest hanging up, calling back, telling the receptionist or secretary
that you got disconnected and then asking for the person’s real number. This sounds
very stupid, but it actually works very well, because a lot of times they’re not even aware
of what you’re doing. Now, the fourth step here is follow up. Once you’ve conducted your
cold calls, your informational interviews, you need to follow up. There are a lot of
misconceptions about how to do this. Probably the biggest one is that you should just follow
up every so often or every week or every few weeks and send them something, even if you
have no reason to actually contact them. I think it’s a big mistake. You should always
have a reason why when following up. Three good reasons why to use when following up
after an informational interview are if you want to get referrals to other people, if
you want to get advice about a specific situation or if you want to make the ask directly and
directly ask them, “How can I position myself for an interview with your firm?” As I said
before, you don’t need to do it every week or every few weeks. I would say try to do
it at least once every two to three months though, so they at least remember who you
are. When you’re cold calling, it’s a bit different. What you want to do here is when
a firm gives you a weak or tepid response, then you want to follow up basically every
week, maybe even every few days until you actually hear back from them and get a solid
response. Now, if you’ve done this a bunch of times, say, 10 or more times and you still
haven’t gotten anything, well, still continue with following up, but don’t do it every week.
Put the firm lower on your priority list and move it to maybe once every few weeks instead.
Once you’ve done all that, now you need to make your ask. And with cold calling, this
is easy because you’re making your ask from day 1 when you’re calling the firm. With informational
interviews, it’s a bit different and there’s kind of a myth here that you need to do sort
of a meeting ritual and that you need to stay in touch with them over years or months before
you actually ask for anything. I would suggest being more direct though. Now, of course,
you don’t want to say, “I need a job right now or an internship,” but what you can say
is, “I want to find out how I could best position myself for an internship or a job with your
firm.” It’s nice to have a longstanding relationship with the person, but you don’t really need
it in order to make your ask like this. All you really need to have done is make a good
impression on them, a very strong first impression. Where it seems like you know what you’re talking
about, it seems like you’re personable and a cool person to be around. If you make that
kind of impression, you’ll be able to overcome the fact that you don’t have a longstanding
relationship with them. Now that you know the five steps in this process and more about
the details of what to do at each stage of the process, you might be wondering what do
you do next. The short answer is practice. What you need to do is go through each of
these steps and figure out how to apply them to your own situation. Right now, sit down
and think about the story that you’re telling interviewers and now figure out how to abbreviate
it to two to three sentences instead so you can hit on the highlights, who you are, what
you’ve done and what you’re looking for. Second, make your list. Start out with maybe 10 to
20 people. Look at conventional sources first like alumni, bankers you met at information
sessions, and then expand beyond that if you have to. Prioritize it based on who is closest
to you and who you think will be most helpful. Next, you need to place your calls. If you’re
cold calling, this is fairly easy because you just need to place your calls and get
through to the right person. If you’re conducting informational interviews, email to set it
up first, and try to meet in person if you can. If not, just do it over the phone. Follow
everything that I talked about before. Focus on their background and then make your mini
ask, your mini request at the end then you need to follow up and with this one, it kind
of depends on your time frame and how much time you have left before recruiting begins,
but always have a reason why. Either ask for advice, ask for referrals or ask directly
for an interview. Finally, you need to make your ask and steps four and five here are
often combined depending on your time frame, but when you make your ask, just be very direct
and say, “I want to figure out how I could best position myself for an interview with
your firm.” If you follow these five steps successful, you’ll be able to start landing
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Author: Kevin Mason

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