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?