I'll bet you have a cute little folder with your school's name embossed on it, filled with copies of your resume and some business cards you collected from a few information sessions that never yielded any fruit.
I'll also bet you've got a nice Men's Warehouse suit picked out with some conservative black dress shoes that are just pointy enough for bankers to not make fun of you for wearing for those "corporate networking and information events" that you continue to go to, despite the fact they clutter your inbox since you're on every finance-related listserv in the entire school.
And lastly, I bet you think this is the right strategy to "looking the part" and not making an ass of yourself while possibly getting noticed for asking one of your amazingly unique pre-planned questions such as "what's the culture like at your firm?" or "how are the hours?"
Well guess what, not only do you look and sound like an asshole, nobody is going to remember you afterwards.
Finance Networking Events Advice and Tips
I've unfortunately been to my fair share of information sessions and networking events while on the hunt for a job, but fortunately I've learned where I could diverge from the normally boring (for the employees and for you) mannerisms, make myself stand out, and even have a little fun along the way. So for any of the college kids out there going through the full-time recruitment process or starting to network for summer jobs, here's my tips to actually being remembered at a networking event, and increasing your chances of having that otherwise dull resume picked from the pile...
Networking Event Dress Code
Unless specified as a formal event, leave the suit at home and keep it business casual.
These networking events suck enough for the analysts as it is - they have to look at a ton of people wearing the same shit and asking the same stupid questions all night, while staying on their toes enough not to say anything too stupid or damaging to the firm along the way. I can only imagine what a painfully boring process this must be for them. I digress - chances are every other finance robot out there will be wearing a suit for no apparent reason, so sticking with something casual will help you stand out and more importantly look much more like this isn't your first rodeo. I always go with dress pants or khakis and a french blue button down, I never wear a tie, and usually I keep an extra button undone at the top (but that's just me). Leave something to the imagination for the interview when a suit is actually called for.
Do Your Research Before the Event
Know something unique about the company and try to have a discussion about it. For buy-side this would mean a core holding and for banking it might mean a recent deal.
Coming in and asking standard questions like an idiot makes you seem like you know nothing about the business. Instead, search through the firm's 13-F and see what they invest in, or for banking check out DealJournal or something and see what they've been working on lately. Having a dialogue about these things, picking the analyst's brain, and offering your own opinions as well is a great way to come across as polished and ahead of the curve. I always stayed on top of a fund's major holdings and liked talking about the rationale behind the investment decision with analysts, and it's something they would much rather talk about than what their training program is like. They got into this industry to spend time thinking about businesses, not to ease your worried little mind about how cutthroat the work environment might be. Try to remember that and not only will the analyst like you, but the circle of 5-6 finance robots swarming you both will be too confused by your lack of ignorance to interrupt.
Be Memorable by Sharing Something About Yourself
Don't expect them to remember your name. Instead, make them remember a unique piece of your resume.
I'm awful with names, so I never expect anyone to remember mine either. However, if you've followed #1 and #2, the analyst probably likes you by now but it's still likely he doesn't remember your name or didn't care to listen when you introduced yourself. However, hit him with a unique fact about yourself that's on your resume or make sure you tell him where you worked, and when it's time to sort through the resumes the next day, seeing that fact on your resume will remind him how sharp you were in person. So if you're a juggler, casually mention it at some point. If you worked at a unique firm, perhaps they'll remember you because of that. Just make sure you casually get it across. Plant the seed and it'll pay off when they're reviewing your resume.
Don't Be Afraid to Drink At Networking Events
Get a goddamn beer.
This won't apply to everyone, since information sessions tend to be in conference halls or an environment that isn't beverage-friendly, and some of you won't be 21. But for those invited to networking events at a lounge, restaurant, bar, or hotel, grab yourself a drink and try and appear at least halfway natural. Everyone at these events is going to be too afraid to have a drink for the most part, so step out of your comfort zone and be the guy who does. You'll have a little more fun, stop being so uptight, and will have done yet another thing to make the analysts like (and remember) you. Chances are they want to drink too, but if every kid is getting a water they're probably much less likely to get a double Absolut martini, even if they wanted one. So again, be fun, get a drink, and don't be a baby.
If you loosen up a bit, stop acting like an annoying student, and start sounding more like an analyst, you'll be remembered and will come across as a lot more interesting. And remember, networking is not supposed to be a terribly formal event, so don't treat it like one. The whole point is to get to know the people... and that's true on both ends - theirs and yours.
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