13 Networking Tips and Tricks

MJK's picture
Rank: Senior Orangutan | 495

Networking, like anything else, is a process. I've made plenty of mistakes throughout networking (over 1500 e-mails, over 200 calls, 3-5 networking trips prior to FT recruiting). Now that I've been on both sides of the table (although I'm far more experienced as the cold-caller) I wanted to share some takeaways. As always, this is only reflective of my experience. Take all of my advice with a grain of salt. Let me know what you think!

1. Use e-mail templates.
Yes, a personalized e-mail is nice, but if you're cold e-mailing, it's about quantity not quality. Most people will answer based on predisposition and timing NOT on what your e-mail says.

2. Keep e-mails short.
You should absolutely never have more than 8 sentences. Preferably, your e-mails should be five sentences or fewer. Just get to the point.

3. Keep your subject lines on topic.
If you're asking for an informational interview "informational interview Request" is a perfectly legitimate e-mail subject. No need to be cute.

4. Default to calling the person.
Honestly, it's effort for the person you're interviewing to remember they need to take a break from their work and talk to you. By calling the other person, you increase the chances of the call actually happening. Obviously, occasionally, they'll want to call you for various reasons (e.g. they're not sure exactly when they'll be free) but usually you should call them.

5. Send specific times.
I know it seems like you're being flexible when you say "I'm free throughout the evening" but it means that the other person has to make a more difficult decision. If you ask "are you free at 7:00 pm" they can just check yes or no. If you say you're free throughout the evening they have to decide what the best meeting time is, how busy are they really etc.. It sounds dumb, but anything you can do to make it easier for them.

6. Be the flexible one.
It's a huge turn-off for me when I feel like the other person is expecting me to move my schedule around to make time for them. Doesn't happen very often but I don't like it when it does.

7. Send a thank you e-mail.
I'll admit that I'm often guilty of not doing this, but it takes 10 seconds, and they'll appreciate it. I rarely respond to thank-you's but I always remember them.

8. Follow up frequently.
Once every month or two is appropriate if you're recruiting within the next few months. Whenever you have an update is fine otherwise. Remember that following up shows interest. Also remember that you're not the only person networking with a person so following up is helpful to differentiate yourself.

9. Don't wait to start.
In almost (note: I said almost) the best practice for networking is networking. Don't wait for the perfect moment. Times always ticking and someone else is making moves.

10. Show genuine interest.
My favorite conversations from both sides of the table have been when I've really related to someone's story. Whether it's because we both did debate, worked for the same tiny firm, or whatever. For example, this one guy loved the moves I was making networking because he did the same and ultimately ended up being one of my key mentors. Speaking of which...

11. Find mentors not contacts.
A long list of contacts is great. It will get you interviews. But once you land the interviews you will need mentors to help you prepare and do mock interviews if you're not from a target school (usually). I had three guys take me through multiple mock interviews each and I was much more prepared for it.

12. You'll need more than one cold contact at each firm.
You're not the only person networking so talking to multiple people helps in two ways. First it increases the chance that someone will refer you by simple math. Second if I hear that you've talked to four other analysts in the class I'm much more likely to take you seriously.

13. Always ask for more contacts.
It took me a while to get used to this but a simple "is there anyone else I should talk to?" can help expand your network greatly. This is probably the most important tip on here: I rarely see it and it helped my greatly.

Thanks for your time! Anything people think I've got wrong here? Anything I've missed?

Comments (43)

Aug 2, 2014

Should I send them BOTH an email and phone call?

If I do both, what should I do first?

Aug 2, 2014

Based on having read many networking threads on this site, sending an email would be a great start before the call. If you don't get a response within a week or two, follow-up with a phone call and you'll already have a point of reference with the email you sent.

I've also had some success following up by email a few weeks after the first. Timing is key.

Aug 3, 2014

You should e-mail first in my opinion. Some people have had luck phone calling, but I've generally found it time inefficient because 1. you can't prepare one at any time. You must do it when people are generally free 2. people like to be able to schedule their calls and getting thirty minutes of nothing dropped on their lap isn't always fun

edit: Send e-mails around 9-11 am in the time zone the person is working in. Can't believe I didn't remember to include that.

Aug 2, 2014

Awesome list. As you said "the best practice for networking is networking", and this is definitely a list based on lots of experience.

Aug 2, 2014

Quick question: if an md was on vacation when I sent a follow-up, should I send it again or just craft another version?

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Aug 3, 2014

I usually modified it very slightly by cjanging the first sentence to something like "I reached out while you were on vacation and..." I dount it matters too much though. As I said most people will answer based on their own circumstance not your content so most things like this dont matter too much. Remember there isnt a "right" answer for every little thing. Too many people don't network enough because thru think they always need to be perfect.

Aug 2, 2014

Thanks, I'll send out a modified version and see how it goes. Tuesdays from 9-11 am usually work best for me in getting a response

Aug 4, 2014

thanks for the post, just added to frontpage

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Aug 4, 2014

On No. 5, one thing I've used is
"I am free throughout the evening, but as a suggestion 4PM or 5PM works best for me. Let me know if either of these times suit you." or something along those lines !

    • 1
Aug 4, 2014

Great list man. I can definitely vouch that these are all effective strategies. If you take time up front to set up templates and find people to email, it'll make life easier in the future.

Aug 4, 2014

On the one hand I like helping people, but on the other hand threads like these make me more cynical about cold emails.

These days I try to look for some sort of personal touch in a cold email before responding. As in, this email could not have just been written to 200 other people. Sometimes I also compare notes with other people (EG in my grad school program, on WSO, etc). I want to see that some effort was made in your attempt to contact me before I spend effort on helping you. Otherwise I begin to wonder if I should move this to my spam folder.

Yes, you don't need to carefully rewrite everything for every letter, but smart people can usually tell what parts of the notes/PMs/emails are forms and which required some care, and we tend to focus on those parts.

People will either help you or they won't, and a lot of it depends on mood, but my mood about helping people depends partly on whether I've gotten a generic form letter (perhaps in all caps and from PRESIDENT THABO MBEKI with a HUGE INHERITANCE, or a generic PM stating that they really appreciate my contributions on the forum and wanted some advice for becoming an IBD analyst and following my footsteps when I'm clearly a quant and five other friends got the same note) or something that took a little more care.

So have a form to save time but make sure a few sentences are custom written, and don't send an "I want to be a trader like you email" to someone in IBD.

    • 1
Aug 4, 2014

this, but don't force it. if you went to Ohio State and the recipient went to a random liberal arts college and you have nothing common that's publicly available (fraternity, hometown, sports, linkedin group), don't try to fake a common interest, just say how you found the person in a non-stalkerish way.

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Aug 3, 2014

To your point, I had four formats that I cycled between, in order to include some personal touch. I also only targeted IBD so I would have customized a bit further if I was looking at other fields. Basically, the different templates referred to what, if anything, I had in common to the other person (non-target, non-IBD internship, from my state--if it was something else than I customized it) etc. It's not that there shouldn't be any customization. It's just that many people have told me to ALWAYS write e-mails from scratch and I think that's not worth the time.

Aug 4, 2014

Just got my first response one hour ago from an alumni who is a director at a BB in NYC who wants to set up an informational interview.I go to a completely non-target, so it seems alumni are even better allies as they know the struggle.

Aug 4, 2014
MJK:

1. Use e-mail templates.

Yes, a personalized e-mail is nice, but if you're cold e-mailing, it's about quantity not quality. Most people will answer based on predisposition and timing NOT on what your e-mail says.

Probably fine if you're playing a numbers game. I generally don't believe in cold emailing. We all have social capital (school connections, associations, mentors, professors, etc.) that can be used to find a path to warm introductions. Your conversion rate will improve exponentially. Get your timing right. Plenty of resources available showing best time to reach out to people.

MJK:

2. Keep e-mails short.

You should absolutely never have more than 8 sentences. Preferably, your e-mails should be five sentences or fewer. Just get to the point.

Short is good.

MJK:

3. Keep your subject lines on topic.

If you're asking for an informational interview "informational interview Request" is a perfectly legitimate e-mail subject. No need to be cute.

Adding "referred by [someone we mutually know]" or something else that shows common connection will help your open and response rate.

MJK:

4. Default to calling the person.

Honestly, it's effort for the person you're interviewing to remember they need to take a break from their work and talk to you. By calling the other person, you increase the chances of the call actually happening. Obviously, occasionally, they'll want to call you for various reasons (e.g. they're not sure exactly when they'll be free) but usually you should call them.

This should be obvious. Never tell someone you're networking with to call you. It's a pet peeve for most folks. If someone is taking the time to help you, make it as easy as possible for them. Which means you calling them.

MJK:

5. Send specific times.

I know it seems like you're being flexible when you say "I'm free throughout the evening" but it means that the other person has to make a more difficult decision. If you ask "are you free at 7:00 pm" they can just check yes or no. If you say you're free throughout the evening they have to decide what the best meeting time is, how busy are they really etc.. It sounds dumb, but anything you can do to make it easier for them.

Bracket and provide a target. "My schedule is flexible in the evening. Does 7:00pm work for you?" They can accept or shift to a new meet up time.

MJK:

6. Be the flexible one.

It's a huge turn-off for me when I feel like the other person is expecting me to move my schedule around to make time for them. Doesn't happen very often but I don't like it when it does.

Yes.

MJK:

7. Send a thank you e-mail.

I'll admit that I'm often guilty of not doing this, but it takes 10 seconds, and they'll appreciate it. I rarely respond to thank-you's but I always remember them.

Thank you emails also serve as a good way to follow up on any requests or feedback you received during the meeting/call. Maybe you asked for a referral or recommendation. This would be a good opportunity to get that information.

MJK:

8. Follow up frequently.

Once every month or two is appropriate if you're recruiting within the next few months. Whenever you have an update is fine otherwise. Remember that following up shows interest. Also remember that you're not the only person networking with a person so following up is helpful to differentiate yourself.

Yes but always make sure to keep it relevant. People love to see you make progress based on the advice or referral they give you, and will help you more.

MJK:

9. Don't wait to start.

In almost (note: I said almost) the best practice for networking is networking. Don't wait for the perfect moment. Times always ticking and someone else is making moves.

Which is why I generally don't believe in cold emails. If you're proactive you'll find a warm intro/referral at most banks.

MJK:

10. Show genuine interest.

My favorite conversations from both sides of the table have been when I've really related to someone's story. Whether it's because we both did debate, worked for the same tiny firm, or whatever. For example, this one guy loved the moves I was making networking because he did the same and ultimately ended up being one of my key mentors.

Hustlers love hustlers. People like helping those that they can identify with. Every organization has someone who genuinely will pay it forward if they find someone worth their time (they believe the person will actually listen to or apply their feedback).

MJK:

11. Find mentors not contacts.

A long list of contacts is great. It will get you interviews. But once you land the interviews you will need mentors to help you prepare and do mock interviews if you're not from a target school (usually). I had three guys take me through multiple mock interviews each and I was much more prepared for it.

People are especially helpful if you show a track record of making things happen and you are asking for feedback built on top of previous recommendations/feedback.

MJK:

12. You'll need more than one cold contact at each firm.

You're not the only person networking so talking to multiple people helps in two ways. First it increases the chance that someone will refer you by simple math. Second if I hear that you've talked to four other analysts in the class I'm much more likely to take you seriously.

Helps to have multiple champions in a firm but I've seen a networker's overeagerness backfire as well. It's a balance.

MJK:

13. Always ask for more contacts.

It took me a while to get used to this but a simple "is there anyone else I should talk to?" can help expand your network greatly. This is probably the most important tip on here: I rarely see it and it helped my greatly.

This should be higher up in the list.

Aug 3, 2014

Thanks for the feedback and I agree with many of your points (in fact I incorporated many of your points in my own networking). The one thing I'll have to stay fairly adamant about is that I think cold e-mailing is good. The reason why is that I did not have "social capital." Professors at my school were not well connected, my friends were not either, etc. etc. Building my network via cold e-mailing has helped put me in a position where now, I mostly rely on referrals. At the beginning, however, that would have been an extremely inefficient way to begin to construct my network. Even if I did have warm connections, I think cold e-mailing can supplement them.

I agree that if you have them, use your existing contacts.

Aug 10, 2014

Definitely agree with the concept of warm intros. Never had any luck with cold e-mails, but I've had nothing but good experiences with warm intros

Aug 3, 2014

Warm introductions are vastly more efficient. However, you cannot as consistently be networking with warm introductions, where as you can put in three hours a day on cold networking, which is the advantage. I'll probably do another post on how to make sure it's a real network as opposed to just some people you talk to.

Aug 5, 2014

Thirteen is key! Almost everyone is willing to put you in touch with someone else. You don't have to cold-email other people in the firm, instead you usually get additional contacts, build your network there and when you do talk to the these people, there is already a commonality between the two of you (the person who put you in touch)

Aug 6, 2014

Great advice. I'd also add to try and schedule coffee or a lunch with the person after the call. It's always easier to be remembered if you meet someone in person, plus, I've found conversations are able to flow a little more easily.

Aug 7, 2014

Great information in this thread. I do pretty much all of this now but wish I knew it as an undergrad.

Here's an interesting situation I think I've been running in to: while networking as a professional, I use my personal e-mail rather than business e-mail for obvious reasons. However, after noticing I wasn't getting many replies, I decided to test it by e-mailing my own work address and saw that it went straight to the junk folder in outlook.

Anyone ever experience this? Think LinkedIn messages are the way to go for networking to avoid this? Have tried my college alumni e-mail account as well but that does the same (it's also hosted by g-mail).

Aug 3, 2014

I didn't know this. I'll have to think about how to work around it.

Aug 8, 2014

I've never had this problem. I usually use my school email address. What are you putting in the subject lines of these emails? I

Aug 4, 2014

I had a director at a BB bank who said he will call me on Tuesday but never did. He also hasn't emailed afterwards saying why he wasn't able to call. When should I re email him and what should I say?

Aug 3, 2014

Asap and just ask him to reschedule.

Aug 4, 2014

How should I word the email? I don't want to come off as a dick or anything

Aug 7, 2014

1) How do you follow up with them with an update? I can always do the initial and thank you emails, but never know what to write in like a follow up email 1 - 2 months later.

2) If someone doesnt email you back after you've met them, do you assume they are busy and re-email them again? How many times before it turns into ....harassment I guess

Aug 3, 2014

1. Usually on the back of an event. If recruiting is coming up, internship ended, you got a job, want interview advice etc.

2. I'd follow up once to three times but not rapid fire. Give it time each time. In the meantime reach out to others

Aug 10, 2014

Regarding point #13, when is a good time to ask for more contacts? Ask the question in the initial cold email, or later in the process after the person has responded?

Aug 3, 2014

After you have a conversation. When everything is winding down, just ask something like: "before I go, is there anyone else who would be good to talk to for XYZ?"

Aug 4, 2014

I usually ask for referrals to other contacts after 2-3 conversations. Hence why it's key to start networking early. Just my two cents though.

Aug 3, 2014

To add to VB, I'm always networking because while I'll ask the first time I speak to someone, they aren't necessarily going to forward me until we've talked multiple times. They're more likely to send me along, however, if I'm not explicitly looking for anything (another reason it's important to start early--people are more helpful).

Aug 11, 2014

While I think cold-emailing could work potenially, it is a much better idea to write a personalized email to someone. Quality over quantity.

If I receive an email from a template, no matter how qualified the applicant could be - almost 100% chance I'm ignoring it. However, if I receive an email that is clearly personalized (without being creepy) you will certainly get a response from me. I'm not going to give you my time (which is far more valuable than yours) if you can't sacrifice a few minutes to write me an actual email.

Aug 3, 2014

What cues would show that it's a template? If I'm writing to you I've probably sent the exact same email literally 100 times: noticed we were both non-targets, saw we came from same state, etc. If we really have more in common than average I'll write a new email. In my case I'd write a new one for every alum.

Also, your time is vastly more valuable but the backend work you're suggesting is huge. Back of napkin math: I sent over 1500 emails during networking. That means 125 hours is I spend five minutes per email versus 12 hours if I'm just adjusting a template. That's not including the time it takes to actually make the calls and find the contacts. Because of that I'd make the opposite argument: quantity over quality. Most people won't respond even if you send them the most personalized email in the world.

Aug 11, 2014

Nice post! Currently trying to find an internship position in cf / ib. Any advice on contacting alumni from study associations which are currently working in high positions (MD / VP)? Is it ok to use to the same approach (email template etc.)? Thanks in advance!

Aug 11, 2014

Are these networking emails mainly for getting internships? Or just to ask someone questions about your respective subject? I am confused as to what would be the content of the email regarding getting an internship?

Aug 3, 2014

You should be doing informational interviews and building contacts. Later on you'll ask about the internship process. There are many threads about that. I would start with valuebanker14's approach. You should never be saying "hi I want an internship"

    • 1
Aug 12, 2014

#13 has definitely been the one that I've missed out the most on.

I'm trying to network from a non-target for an internship for next summer and the people who respond usually are only impressed that I'm starting early but don't take me very seriously. what method did you use to find the people you were reaching out to? what kinds of things did you say/send when you followed up after the initial talk?

Aug 3, 2014
Comment
May 30, 2019