How do you actually get your foot in the door when networking?

Associate 1 in CorpDev

I'm trying to give my little brother some advice on moving into his "dream" company and am at a loss for what to tell him.

He's been targeting a certain BB for the last 3 years and says that he's had tons of people pass on his resume for different roles. He's stuck on this one company for god knows what reason (I think it's prestige) and hasn't had much luck. He says that all his contacts there are someone's child or relative or are somehow closely "connected" to who runs the company.

I think that he should cut his losses and find a place where he'll be well-paid and wanted, but he keeps responding back with the fact that it's his "lack of strong connections" that hurts him.

So my question is, HOW do you build these supposedly "strong" connections with people to get your foot in the door for good?

As I see it, even the shittiest of shit companies like to hire their friends and relatives, so he can't keep relying on that excuse.

Comments (14)

May 7, 2020

If he's been trying hard for three years to get a job there, he's probably not going to have too much luck in the near future. Does he have any job experience yet?

  • Associate 1 in CorpDev
May 7, 2020

He does! Good to hear from an RE guy, since that's his space. He's been at a medium-sized shop since graduating from college 3 years ago. His internship experience was a smattering of everything.

May 8, 2020

Well that's good he's got some experience.

I would tell him that the timing probably just isn't right with the dream one and that he can always go there eventually, if he can get a job at a direct competitor, he will be a lot more valuable after a couple years to his dream firm.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
May 7, 2020

I was alway told by alumni and mentors to go with the flow and wherever you end up at be grateful and work as hard as possible to stand out in a good way. In fact this advice of never trying too hard or being overly obsessed with a specific outcome is beneficial from picking up women to networking.

I'll use Goldman Sachs as an example. Wanting to work for GS is great but if you ignore BAML or Citi because of ego or pride then you're actually reducing your chance to make it while if you decided on day 1 to be the best banker Citi or BAML has ever seen, be a great guy to hang out with and have a killer work ethic that increases your value you could actually switch to GS with greater ease.

So tell your bro to stop simping and start making moves that will benefit his firm, his career and build a reputation that the BB would desire.

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  • Associate 1 in CorpDev
May 7, 2020

Agreed 100%. I tried telling him today that either he doesn't have the direct experience they're looking for, there's already someone else in mind for the job, or that it's not his time to be at that company right now.

I don't think it's a networking issue -- he networked into his current job through LinkedIn, ironically enough. Go where you're wanted and bloom where you're planted; think strategically about what you want and look for experiences that can help you get there. No use in chasing a name that doesn't want you back.

May 8, 2020

The blunt reality is - he has no connections at the firm he's going for. Period. If he actually had one - he'd at the very least be given some 'idea' of why he isn't a fit, what the challenges are or something.

More importantly, I would recommend you simply stop engaging him on it. He starts on it - hang up. Tell him this bluntly and put it to rest before it spirals further. Don't coddle him, don't make excuses for him.

Delusional focus on one firm, or role, is just that - delusional. If he really wants to 'break in' to that company - kill it where he is at currently, use his networking skills to go after other firms of similar nature. If he is literally just chasing the name - blindly - I can't help you or him.

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Most Helpful
May 8, 2020

Getting your foot in the door, 2020:
kramer door

But seriously, unless you have an actual senior connection (and you'll know if you do), what most people don't appreciate about "networking" is that it's a bottom-up exercise and not a top down exercise.

The wrong impression:
Most people think of networking like this: I email the MD and we go out for a coffee chat, he refers me to the company and I'm sure to get hired! He will "put in a good word for me" and "shortlist me." Nah, son.

The reality:
MD will email the junior team and ask if anyone's spoken with this person. If not and the MD doesn't love you, you're dinged. Otherwise the MD may ask a junior person to phone screen you, at which point you're still at the mercy of the junior person's impression. The difference being that the junior person is now ordered to talk to you and wondering why you are trying to one-up the process.

How you should approach networking / a bottom's-up exercise:
Follow this guide:

  • You should aim to build a swell of momentum at each firm from the bottom level, through a series of short informational chats.
  • If you're a student, start by doing informationals with other students (e.g. upperclassmen that have already interned there, or have a full time offer).
  • In your brother's case, he should try to make connections with other Analysts or low level people doing the job he wants and mention he saw a job opening and would like to have a quick 10 minutes of their time. In this way, he can discuss and learn about the actual role, how the person got here in their career, what a day-to-day is like, what skills the company is looking for (and are actually useful in reality), what the toughest part of the job is, what leadership and teamwork mean, etc.
  • After each informational and he should thank the interviewee, express his sincere interest and excitement about the company. This is situational, but it's often a good idea to ask if they might have another person on the team that he can speak to in order to gain more perspective.
  • If he is getting passed around to multiple people and making connections, THEN if he eventually interviews there, he can bust out all of the specific knowledge and insight he has gained.

How to utilize the bottoms-up informationals in your actual interviews

  • For example, he can tie his resume discussion to the skills needed on the job ("I had the chance to have a conversation with Johnny on your development team, and he mentioned one of the challenging parts of the job is dealing with underwriters and the need to produce and explain cash flow models with scenarios. I [learned about this / work on exactly this type of thing in my current job / etc.].)
  • Also can simply bust out at any point something like, "I am really passionate about the industry so naturally was attracted to learning more about your company. I had the chance to talk with Johnny, Susie, and James on your team, and they all highlighted how much they love the culture here and what a great learning opportunity this job was. Learning about the job first-hand from your team has made me really excited and that's why you are my top choice of employer."
  • Insights gained can of course be used at competitor firms as well ("I've talked with some junior people at some of your competitors and they mention that one of the toughest parts of the job is [XYZ]. What are your thoughts and how does your team approach solving this issue?")
  • If I am a mid-level or senior person getting referred to you by a junior member of my own team, that is so much more effective (pre-vetted) than if I speak to you cold. Just a fact of life.

See how much better that stuff is than, e.g. skipping directly to the MD and asking, "Tell me about your firm culture" and then repeating what the MD said to you, when interviewing with the Analyst on the team?

Lots of people get this consistently wrong, enough for me to take time out and post my rant here. Hopefully doesn't get lost in the Oasis. At the end of the day, there are a lot of ways to network, none of which are 100% "wrong" per se, but if you're coming in fresh to an industry, lateraling from a smaller company, or come from a non-target, consider this "life hack" to make networking much more effective.

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May 8, 2020

this was extremely useful and im surprised its a comment, not the reason for a thread. i agree with everything you say and I'll actually switch up my approach next time!

  • Associate 1 in CorpDev
May 8, 2020

This is seriously helpful! Thank you so much for posting.

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  • Intern in IB-M&A
May 8, 2020
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