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.
Professionals want to help you cause we have all been there. However, remove the roadblocks for people who want to help you.
- Don't be arrogant
- Don't use a meeting to rant
- Don't be completely clueless
- Show that you are humble and enthusiastic
- Have a clear agenda
- Have a brief idea about the industry of the person you are talking to and be truthful
- Humans are bound to make mistakes, use those mistakes as learning opportunities and improve
- Use the opportunity to build a relationship