13 Networking Tips and Tricks

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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?

Region

Comments (48)

 
Aug 2, 2014 - 10:01pm

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 - 9:03am

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 3, 2014 - 11:48pm

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 4, 2014 - 1:54pm

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.

 
Aug 4, 2014 - 5:54pm

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.

 
Aug 4, 2014 - 2:45pm

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 - 4:54pm

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 interviewinformational 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 4, 2014 - 5:13pm

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 - 1:41pm

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 - 8:47am

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)

The error of confirmation: we confirm our knowledge and scorn our ignorance.
 
Aug 7, 2014 - 8:00am

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 7, 2014 - 4:33pm

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 11, 2014 - 12:55am

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 11, 2014 - 8:15am

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 12, 2014 - 2:50pm

#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 13, 2014 - 1:36am

I sent updates and or straight up asked what I should be doing to get into their recruiting process. Usually they offered to send my resume along. I found people initially on linkedin and then moved on to relying on being referred after I built up a large enough netwprk where that was more efficient.

What do you mean when you say they don't take you seriously?

 
Dec 26, 2019 - 2:30am

The most ideal approach to arrange is to use your characteristic qualities. A great many people tragically force themselves to organize. Or then again they claim to be active to make new associations.

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