Don't Be That Guy/Girl When Reaching Out

Not too long ago, I was an undergrad. Reaching out to people that I have never met. Praying and hoping that they would perhaps read my Linkedin message and respond. In this process, I learned what rejection felt like but also met a ton of people across the different segments of finance and was lucky enough to find mentors & friends along the way. As a matter of fact, most of the top interviews that I landed were all a result of my relationships including the one that eventually helped me land a job.

I think now it's my turn to give something back to the community. Students both in undergrad and masters constantly reach out to me. I don't always get the chance to have a coffee but am very willing to at least have a phone call. If 20 mins of my time help someone make an informed decision, that is a success for me. However, despite my best intentions to help them, I constantly feel these people sabotage themselves. I will explain what they do and what you can do to improve if you fall under any of these categories.

1) The Arrogant Individuals:

These are probably good students, members of some finance clubs and will present themselves as the shit. I initially like the confidence they possess but the behavior becomes off-putting after a while. They will constantly brag about how great they are, how they killed it in their previous internships. One individual told me they ran a whole deal in his/her M&A internship at a boutique (yeah right). Sometimes they will have a sense of entitlement and will drop phrases such as "I deserve to work at your firm". Now I get it, you are young, ambitious and ready to take over the world and these are good things. I have been in your shoes and trust me I have made similar mistakes. Perhaps learn to tone down your entitlement and focus on building genuine relationships. People are more likely to help you if you are coachable and a team player.

2) The Lost Individuals:

I have seen a wide variance in personality traits for these people. Acceptable for freshmen and sophomores but not really after that. Instead of having a clear agenda, these people use the networking session as a therapy. "I don't know what to do with my life", "What should I do?", "I need to find myself" are all common phrases in the conversation. Not gonna lie, we all ask ourselves these questions from time to time in various segments of our life when we are going through introspection. However, this is not the right approach when you are reaching out to a professional. It is alright to be unsure. Hell, most people are but use the call as a tool to gather information and learn what you need to about the industry or the job. Also, take time to learn who you are as a person and what your values are (on your own time) and hopefully that will serve as a guideline to make better decisions.

3) The Clueless Enthusiasts:

"I want to join investment banking cause I love investing!". I used this phrase too when I was a freshman. And I sympathize with this group. The seniors, classmates, and professors keep on talking about investment banking and private equity so they feel this is what they should do without knowing what it is. It is fine to a certain extent, no one expects you to be a subject matter expert. However, in the age of Google, you should get at least a brief understanding of how investment banking or P.E works. But the weird subgroup within this group are people who have had internships, claim they know about IB, PE and did financial modeling but fumble when I ask them to walk me through a DCF. Talk about spreading comps, or talk about screening documents if that's what you did. Both of those tasks show a need for attention to detail and if you really feel like bullshitting then please know the mechanics of financial modeling.

To Summarize

Professionals want to help you cause we have all been there. However, remove the roadblocks for people who want to help you.

The Don'ts

1. Don't be arrogant
2. Don't use a meeting to rant
3. Don't be completely clueless

The Do's

1. Show that you are humble and enthusiastic
2. Have a clear agenda
3. Have a brief idea about the industry of the person you are talking to and be truthful
4. Humans are bound to make mistakes, use those mistakes as learning opportunities and improve
5. Use the opportunity to build a relationship

Good Luck
TATA

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Comments (39)

Feb 16, 2018

Best advice I have during any of these conversations is just let the person giving you advice talk. If you catch yourself interrupting, and it happens, apologize and ask the person to continue immediately. Especially true for the arrogant individuals (I would say I am prone to naturally falling in this category). If they are talking a lot that means they already like you most likely and if you can't listen to them it will only sway their opinion to the negative.

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Feb 17, 2018

OP, did you abbreviate your username and insert it in the end of the post because it serves as both a signature and another way to say "bye-bye?"

The arrogant people you described will probably learn the lesson pretty quickly once they get destroyed by someone they are talking to when they say they led an entire M&A deal. The sad thing is that many people can easily tell when someone is arrogant but they don't want to be rude and tell the person. Thus, the arrogant person goes through the recruiting cycle thinking he's the best and then wondering why he didn't get a job.

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Feb 20, 2018

That is exactly why I did it haha.

I think the best thing someone can do is show them where they are going wrong. I try to give feedback on how to improve if I know the kid is willing to learn. But I agree with you, everyone wants to be polite and the kids end up not getting the jobs they could have gotten otherwise.

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Feb 20, 2018

How do you tell someone who is arrogant but willing to learn (sounds a little contradictory, I know) to stop coming off as/being arrogant without being rude?

Feb 20, 2018

Good question. In this case, you will have to make a judgment call. Sometimes kids are arrogant cause they don't know better or think that that's how they should portray themselves. Usually, when I talk to them, I try to listen and get a better sense of where they are coming from. If I feel that the kid is misguided then I will try to give feedback even at the risk of coming across as rude. I don't really care how I come across in these interactions as long as it is value adding. I remember I had instances where people were direct and criticized me without thinking about my feelings, and those were the best learning opportunities for me. If I feel someone is a lost cause, I will just finish the call early without wasting my energy on improving them.

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Feb 17, 2018

Could you explain more about how you went from LinkedIn to phone calls. I've got a few phone calls but I'm feeling I'm not converting enough.

When I send an invitation to connect I give a short simple Introduction of why I'm reaching out. This has worked for me thus I end up having people as connection.

However when I send the next message thanking them and wanting to talk to know more about the industry many people just don't reply.

Is that normal?

Best Response
Feb 17, 2018

Delta, Try being more proactive. Instead of asking if you may speak to them further about the industry, if you get a response, your next response back could be something along the lines of: "First, I want to thank you for responding to my original email. I know you're very busy between closing deals, negotiating contracts,, blah blah blah." Then, after appealing to their vanity, ask them if they would have the opportunity for you to treat them to a lunch some time in the near future, or even just a cup of coffee before work, in order to pick their brains about some ideas you have.

Most times I've made this offer, the senior partner demanded he pay anyway, but it's the fact that you're offering that makes a difference. at least that has been my experience. Regardless, the point is to get your name into the head of the people with whom you want to spend some time with. It may not happen immediately, but persistence pays off. If you let someone know, in no uncertain terms, that you value their insights and just want some information, most people are very accommodating. Plus, without them saying it, having someone seek out your counsel typically strokes ones ego.

Feb 17, 2018

Ok. Gotcha. Guess I'll directly ask them for a coffee.

I usually thank them and ask my questions. Also, for good measure I state that if they would prefer we could even schedule a call for 20 min anytime next week when they are free. And though I've had some wonderful conversations with two or three people I want to increase my conversion rate.

Also, another factor is I'm not based out of US where I know networking is fairly common. But'll I'll get more direct with my approach. Thanks for the advice @dm100

Feb 20, 2018

You are more than welcome Delta. Sorry to hear that some of my suggestions will not work for you, considering you are not based in the US. Still, the world is getting very small these days. If nothing else, perhaps ask if the person whom you're seeking to be a Center Of Infuence would be willing to conduct a webex with you. Setting up one of these types of meetings are commonplace these days.

Best wishes. Being diligent will ensure your success. Just stay after it.

Feb 20, 2018

This is excellent advice. The minute I started following similar steps to the ones that @dm100 mentioned, I started building more solid relationships.

Conversion rates: My rates were 5 - 10% initially, after adjusting my approach it got bumped up to 20 - 25%.

Feb 18, 2018

Fantastic post -- definitely found myself cringing as I have fallen into every category at different times in my college career (the clueless freshman, the arrogant sh!thead).

I think the biggest lesson I've learned is that the most qualified and knowledgeable people are also most aware of how much they don't know, and as a result are the most humble.

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Feb 23, 2018

Thank you @Rumple4skin ! Haha completely agreed. I think we have all been in these categories at some point in our lives. Important thing is to recognize the mistakes and focus on an action plan to improve. I have had the good fortune of meeting some very successful people, and you can sense that they are incredibly warm and humble. I think it is a result of facing failure and learning that process matters and your track record does not count for anything. Successful people tend to have similar mindsets and principles, which include being respectful and courteous. Furthermore, the nicer someone is as a person, more likely people will be willing to collaborate. Business at the end of the day is a lot about relationships.

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Feb 20, 2018

Good list!

Feb 20, 2018

Thanks @TippyTop11 !

Feb 22, 2018

And jesus christ if you want to work in a job where you invest other people's money have some experience investing your own money no matter how small that amount may (or may not) be

Feb 23, 2018

You're right that these students should put their money where their mouth is, but a problem for these 22 year olds is at that age you don't have much time to really build a track record or experience much of an investing cycle. Money management experience comes over a period of years and these kids are too young to have developed much at all.

Feb 23, 2018

Right but it's not like kids are starting out as portfolio managers

Feb 23, 2018

Agreed with both George & Winston. I think it shows passion and willingness to learn rather than a track record of success.

Becoming a great investor takes years. You might beat the market by a big margin once, but beating the market consistently is the real deal.

Feb 23, 2018

Warren Buffett at that age??

Feb 24, 2018
George Kush:

And jesus christ if you want to work in a job where you invest other people's money have some experience investing your own money no matter how small that amount may (or may not) be

...lol.

Retail =\= institution.

Also didn't take a genius to make money these last 8 years. I think it's rather funny when someone whips out their Robinhood portfolio, shows their 3 month performance, and thinks they are a genius for beating the market.

Feb 23, 2018

How would this be different for networking out of school? I'm in a non-IB finance job in a second-tier city, so I've just been trying to build a network, hoping when an opening comes up somewhere someone will give me a shot at an interview. Great post.

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Feb 23, 2018

Thank you @JohnnyLlamma45. For your case, I would try to structure the reach out mechanism in the following way.

Level 1 connections: Family & Friends

Level 2 connections: Friends of friends, friends of family

Level 3 connections: Professionals that you don't know, connections of a professional connection

Do an analysis and make a list of people from each category. Keep it in excel and track your progress. From there on, make a new tab of people who have been warm to your approach and focus on these people more. I would structure these contacts by the firms and their positions.

Before executing networking this way, I would suggest you have a compelling story first. Do a SWOT analysis and sell yourself. If you anticipate concerns, address them proactively.

I can go deeper but this should be a good starting point. Feel free to message me.

Good luck!

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Feb 23, 2018

Great post mate!

Feb 23, 2018

Thanks mate!

Feb 23, 2018

Great advice! I would add though not to forget to follow up with an email/linked in message thanking the person for their time. Not only does this leave them with a great lasting impression, but it also gives them your name and contact info in their inbox should they ever have an opportunity for you.

Feb 23, 2018

Thanks @luv2speed. I have been guilty of not doing this. But I quickly realized that following up on a connection takes you closer to building a real relationship.

Feb 23, 2018

I blame much of these destructive attitudes of the students on the university leadership. When I was in finance school, the professors running the investment banking placement programs bombarded students with messages about how competitive the field is. University banking programs are loaded with a sentiment of competition vs collaboration. Students are sort of brainwashed into idolizing the banks, and I think such arrogance gets created as a psychological mechanism to prove self-worthiness. i.e. The students come off as arrogant because they believe they are showing confidence when in reality they are putting on a front of overconfidence. I think this psychology also stems from the fact that investing is a game with winners and losers, nobody wants to present as a loser, and students (especially the Millennials and younger) have yet to experience the humbling and positive life lessons that come with losing.

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Feb 23, 2018
Winston-Kotzan:

Students are sort of brainwashed into idolizing the banks, and I think such arrogance gets created as a psychological mechanism to prove self-worthiness. i.e. The students come off as arrogant because they believe they are showing confidence when in reality they are putting on a front of overconfidence. I think this psychology also stems from the fact that investing is a game with winners and losers, nobody wants to present as a loser, and students (especially the Millennials and younger) have yet to experience the humbling and positive life lessons that come with losing.

Exactly.... have fun on the sell side if you have this attitude, I saw this loser last night bragging about how people will "never understand the memes" of BB IBD if they work at a hedge fund. Ok... I guess the sweet perks you get like 120 work weeks and memes are way cooler than all the perks you get at a hedge fund. I won't brag about them here but I assure you they are superior. Best one of all is you don't have to deal with kids that have the attitude and misconceptions you just described.

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Feb 23, 2018

Lol

Feb 23, 2018

Do you even meme bruuh? In all seriousness, I think it is down to immaturity and having a lot of money at a relatively young age. Buyside guys tend to be way more composed and matured probably because they tend to be older or more thoughtful.

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Feb 23, 2018

Agreed

Feb 23, 2018
Winston-Kotzan:

I blame much of these destructive attitudes of the students on the university leadership. When I was in finance school, the professors running the investment banking placement programs bombarded students with messages about how competitive the field is. University banking programs are loaded with a sentiment of competition vs collaboration. Students are sort of brainwashed into idolizing the banks, and I think such arrogance gets created as a psychological mechanism to prove self-worthiness. i.e. The students come off as arrogant because they believe they are showing confidence when in reality they are putting on a front of overconfidence...

So true... I started working part-time job at IT/logistics corporation during my 1st year of university therefore I realised pretty quickly where my place is (in that company) and what it roughly takes and how long to make it to the project manager/head of department role.

After 1-2 years it happened few times I attanded lecture where the lecturer was actually bragging about the level of faculty/course and back-patting all students how they did good choice by choosing particular faculty/major field - those students who had NO work experience at the age of 22-23. No wonder I witnessed wisdom conversations during Management 101 such as "dude, I told you - this is the best major ever - you will just learn how to lead people/how to be the real boss without doing any work" etc.

I also agree students that experienced having some skin in the game might get attention more likely from recruiter/potential employer point of view.
On the other hand, young people around 22/23 are usually still dependant on parents, or working part-time, or heavilly indebted in case they attend expensive school.

So you don't have to be portfolio manager but any extracurricular activity which demands some effort, certain level of responsibility, stepping out of the comfort zone, facing failure situation and so on, will definitely help once looking for new contacts/new gig in the finance (or any other) field.

Feb 23, 2018

Really useful advice. I used to be a clueless enthusiast, along with many of my peers, while we were still in college and applying for jobs. A number of us wanted to become bankers just because we heard that it was the way to go.

Trust me when I say this, professionals can smell your bullshit from a mile away when they ask a question and it's just not the best idea to try and lie your way through an interview. Best case is that the interviewee rejects your application, but the worst case is when someone accidentally hires you, and you screw the up the job you're supposedly capable of handling and make a mess for everyone to clean up.

Feb 23, 2018

Nice story. My stance is that I'm not helping any complete newb. Fuck 'em. If they can't find a way in, then they don't deserve to be in.

Apr 8, 2018

You forgot the last type:

The Woman - If you're not trying to f*ck, then don't waste my time. Find a woman mentor instead of using your looks to lure us men in, then whining about being noticed for your looks.

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Feb 24, 2018

You ask people to walk you through a DCF when networking?

Feb 25, 2018

I go to a target and have older friends who have graduated/are going full time into a BB/elite boutique. Is there any protocol on how to network with my genuine friends? How can I ask them about their work/industry/to put me in contact with people? Is it too forward to mention I'm applying and ask for a referral?

Feb 26, 2018
Feb 26, 2018