The Truth About Networking

Mod Note (Andy): #TBT Throwback Thursday - this was originally posted on 1/24/13. To see all of our top content from the past, click here.

From observing the general population in America, I've come to the conclusion that most people are awful at networking. The vast majority of people in this country, especially those who are students or newly entering the workforce, simply don't understand how important one's network of contacts is for their careers. And furthermore, if they do realize its importance, they do nothing about it!

I see this all the time at my college. Most people carry a very traditional mindset: work hard, get good grades, graduate, and the rest will fall into place. Not in this day and age, and certainly not in this economy.

So then you have the folks who have read Never Eat Alone, or have a better understanding of how the world really works, and then proceed to "network." But even then, most of them fail miserably. Usually, they fail because of two reasons...

How I Get Top Grades in UG

Full disclosure: I'm currently a senior about to graduate in May, and unless I flunk every class this semester, I will leave with a 3.9 and summa cum laude honors from a public university. I see a lot of people on Wall Street Oasis who I feel are much smarter than me-- at least brainpower-wise--, but simply can't get good grades. I figure that I may as well share what's worked for me and what hasn't during my four years of college.

I can already predict what the critics will say. If I had gone to an ivy league school, I probably wouldn't even be able to muster up a 3.0. If I had majored in a S.T.E.M. field, my grades would be nowhere near as good. This might be true, as I did not attend a top school nor underwent a S.T.E.M. major, but please note that I worked part time, 15-30 hours a week every single semester after my first and that I double majored, had a separate minor, was on an honors track, and held leadership positions in my fraternity and random organizations on campus.

I achieved the above through a combination of smart time management skills, being intensely honest with myself about behavior I was prone to, and having a unique outlook on schoolwork. Let's jump into it:

Lose Weight... and Profit? Maybe Not?

This new article by Leslie Kwoh of WSJ states that there's a correlation in perception between a slightly larger waistline and one's ability to perform in a leadershop position. Researchers have shown that people in general believe that being overweight is linked with inability to do one's job, a lack of physical (and mental) stamina, and a higher risk of getting sick/not showing up. Additionally, there's the obvious issue of lessened confidence, creating issues socially-- and all of these factors hurt one's chances of reaching the corner office.

To Be Good in Finance, You Have to...

I was recently invited to attend a presentation at a well-known middle market bank, where one of the managing directors gave a speech about the state of the finance industry. There were a few things mentioned which have been echoed numerous times on WSO: the industry and its compensation may never reach its peak again, technology and quants are playing a role in cutting jobs, and that things will get better, but slowly.

Are You "IBD or Bust"?

As much as I love Wall Street Oasis, I can't help but raise an eyebrow at how narrow some of the mindsets on this website are. I'm specifically talking about in regards to careers; obviously, this is a finance community-targeted website, but it seems unbelievable how many students go beyond "IBD or bust." There's literally been folks who've talked about becoming psychologically depressed or even near suicidal because they didn't get a callback or subsequent offer from some target banks. Others are willing to make extremely illogical moves (like racking up six figure debt to go to a tiny business school in an attempt to gain entrance into the finance world instead of simply networking) to reach "their goals."

Stories That Make Us Grateful

I read a book review in the Wall Street Journal this morning that really made me rethink my priorities. The book being profiled, entitled "Bend, Not Break" was written by Ping Fu, the Chinese-born chief executive of the high tech company Geomagic. Geomagic is a 3D-imaging company which enables innovations like customized prosthetic limbs and orthodontic braces. It uses 3D capture to create 3D models that can be used for engineering, product design, art, archaeology, medical procedures, and archival purposes.

The relevance to finance? The book is an autobiography, and boy, is her story inspiring. Ms. Fu grew up during the Cultural Revolution, and was just eight years old when Red Guards took her away from her caretakers. Until the Revolution ended, she worked as a child soldier, and was physically and sexually abused by the Red Guards. She also witnessed shocking events beyond our wildest nightmares-- Guards throwing a teacher head first into a well, a boy beaten to death for insulting Mao, etc.

When Huge Returns Aren't What They Seem

In the WSJ article "How Huge Returns Mess With Your Mind," written by Jason Zweig, the author explains a major issue that investors face during great weeks like the one we just had. After the White House and Congress agreed on a new tax-and-spending package to avoid the fiscal cliff, huge gains were seen in all major markets: the S&P jumped 2.5%, the Russell 2000 index surpassed its all time high, and markets in China, Egypt and Finland rose by over 4%.

However, Zweig warns investors that they shouldn't extrapolate these gains, and to avoid further taking irregularly high risks in the pursuit of yield. He attributes this to a psychological flaw of the human mind in understanding compounding interest.

Are You the Right Smart for Business?

I once interned at an office with two other students. One of them was my age, hardworking, and extremely passionate. She told me she took on the internship in order to improve her chances at graduate school, to make connections, and because she was actually really interested in the assignments we worked on. She ended up becoming very close to our supervisor (same alma mater) and is currently on the road to accomplishing her goals. I would call her intelligent by all definitions of the world.

20's: Career vs. Relationships

I'm going to be undergoing a massive shift in lifestyle in about half a year; the cause: college graduation. The last 3.5 years have been a lovely roller coaster of papers, exams, drinking, and chasing tail. As I look forward, I realize that I'm going to actually have to adjust to being an "adult."

Stressed? Join the Club!

Finals week is awful for anybody in college. For most of us, weeks of procrastination and sleeping in class culminate in a chaotic 7-14 day period of angst and distress. Whether it's reading a 400 page physics textbook in 2 days or writing a 20 page research paper in an afternoon, I've seen my fellow classmates use their fear of failure to accomplish superhuman intellectual feats.


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