Even though we’re pretty relentless about the idea that landing a great job should be all about what you know and your capacity to learn what you don’t, and less about who you know, networking is never a bad idea. Students interested in breaking into the world of finance often wonder what’s the best way to do it in this candidate saturated industry, where everyone you’ll likely be reaching out to already works long hours on tight deadlines with a lot of pressure and why would they want to do you any favors anyway!? Throughout our collective years of experience, we’ve discovered that as it turns out, people generally like helping other people — even bankers.
To that end, we put together a guide dedicated specifically to effective networking in the financial industry. We recommend doing these things early and often throughout your time at school.
Reach out to upperclassmen who have already secured an internship
One of the easiest ways to gain some insight into what the summer analyst experience is like is to talk to someone who just went through it. You can use LinkedIn to do this — type in “Summer Analyst” into the search bar and filter by your school. Look at those profiles that have it as their “current” role or those who say they are an “Incoming Summer Analyst.” If you have a school database of classmates, you can find their email addresses there. Feel free to reach out in more informal ways too, such as Instagram or Facebook.
Then do the same thing with alumni
You can use the same method above to determine which alumni work in the field. You can look at those who have an analyst position as one of their “past” roles, or you can see which ones are currently employed as associates, directors, or VPs, though you may have more traction with folks who are more junior.
To narrow it down, you can filter by industry based on the area you are interested in: Banking, Investment Banking, Investment Management, Capital Markets or Financial Services (unfortunately that’s as granular as it gets on LinkedIn right now). Note that your tone here should be more professionally elevated than the conversations you have with upperclassmen. This is also a great way to learn about different firms you may not have heard of before. If you can afford it, reaching out to them with an in-mail on LinkedIn may be effective, but you can also try figuring out the particular formula that firm uses for email addresses and plug in their first and last names to fit the combination.
Talk to your professors (in the same way you would talk to any other professional)
Professors teaching at a business school often have years of experience in the business world, which is why it’s important to treat them like you would any other professional relationship. Ask them for their advice on getting connected to someone who has gone through this process before, or see if they have any industry relationships that they think may be helpful and ask for an introduction.
Send cold emails and send them well
This is the big one. In the world of finance, it is commonplace to receive cold emails from students looking to get connected and learn more. But because bankers get inundated with these emails every year, it’s important that you do your best to stand out in their inbox. Here are the things we suggest you do and don’t do:
- Reach out to those professionals with whom you can envision an actual conversation - did they also go to a non-target school? Does their LinkedIn profile hint at any similar interests? You should mention these similarities in the body of the email.
- Let your character and genuine interest for the work come through. Make enough of a case for yourself so that this person will not consider you an arbitrary stranger by the end of the email.
- It’s our belief that you should always include your resume in a cold email. A resume is your professional I.D. card and it will be difficult for someone to identify you without it.
- Include something specific about the firm they work for (which means you should do research on the firm before you reach out). You can check out Vault to see some positive ranking or characteristics about the firm. We would avoid mentioning specific deals you know the firm has worked on, as you can’t be sure if they are apart of the group that got the deal done.
- Explicitly ask for an in-person meeting or a phone call (if you are not geographically close). Tell them you are just looking for 15 minutes of their time for an informational interview.
- Keep it short!
- Offer up specific times you’re free, and be as flexible as possible
- Do not ask about specific job opportunities. This is a networking opportunity that should be purely exploratory. Your goal is to secure a 15 minute informational interview (discussed in detail below).
- Don’t copy and paste an obvious cold email template. And if you do, or if you copy and paste some elements from another email you sent, make sure all the text is the same size and font. To be safe, send a test email to yourself to make sure it all looks okay. And for goodness sakes, check that you changed the name of the firm referenced in the body of the email. You would be surprised how many times this happens.
Secure informational interviews
No matter how casual a coffee or call meeting may feel, you should still consider it an informational interview. These types of meetings will allow bankers to evaluate your soft skills in a low-pressure environment, so you should feel free to be yourself and demonstrate your personality in a way that is still professional. To be safe, assume they will come with no prepared questions for you, so you should show up ready to engage them and steer the conversation. Here are some things we recommend asking and not asking:
- How did they get their start in investment banking? Research their LinkedIn and make this question specific to their personal story.
- What types of deals do they work on? Research their firm’s general practice and focus areas and make sure you work it in.
- What are the team dynamics like? How big are the deal teams?
- To what extent is their role industry-focused vs. product-focused?
- Why did they choose to work for this firm? How is it different than other firms?
- Does your firm have any programs focused on diversity?
- What type of training programs does their firm offer?
- Do not ask about exit opportunities. You should be focused on life as an analyst, not on the next thing that being an analyst could lead to.
- Do not ask about compensation.
- Do not ask about the hours.
- Do not ask them what their typical day is like. Simply put, this is an annoyingly vague question that puts all the burden on the banker to come up with answers that should be discovered through other, more thoughtful questions.
First, send them an email after and say thanks. Later, you should follow up with a specific ask within the next 3-6 months. If you apply for a role, ask if there is anything you can do to stand out and get noticed. This will prompt your new connection to do something IF they feel motivated enough. If you decide their firm isn’t the best fit, follow up and ask a specific question as to not be forgotten. If you get a job elsewhere, let them know how it’s going.