Is networking overrated?

I'm graduating in a few weeks from college. I've done two internships, one at GS and one in corporate finance. I've been able to network effectively, but it almost seems pointless. I was able to secure a job at a well known IM firm, but it did not come from networking. Even though I received great feedback from my managers and was well-liked, I just didn't have the experience they needed to offer me a meaningful job. They basically told me, get some more experience, go back to school, and chances are we'll have something for you in the future. My question is, for a college student with no meaningful experience, is networking overrated? I can definitely see it being valuable for someone with experience and a real skill set, but aside from a great attitude and willingness to learn, what does anyone fresh out of college have to add to any team? Maybe I just networked with people too far up the ladder, but I would say the ability to interview is much more important for college students than the ability to network.

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Comments (32)

May 1, 2010 - 5:19pm

First, networking leads to interviews and they are very much connected. You must go to a target because no non-target would ever ask this question. Networking gets you interviews and then being a good interviewer gets you offers.

"Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA."
May 1, 2010 - 5:22pm

Networking being overrated? Jesus dude, networking is the life blood of this business. You are going after position which you are not qualified, no wonder why your not getting positions. Networking gets you interviews, it gets you contacts within the firm, helps you find the inside line on what they are looking for, what the interviews will be like, gets your resume selected from a huge stack of equally qualified resumes.

May 1, 2010 - 6:36pm
AnthonyD1982:
Networking being overrated? Jesus dude, networking is the life blood of this business. You are going after position which you are not qualified, no wonder why your not getting positions. Networking gets you interviews, it gets you contacts within the firm, helps you find the inside line on what they are looking for, what the interviews will be like, gets your resume selected from a huge stack of equally qualified resumes.

Let me reiterate. I think networking is overrated for college students with no real experience. For experienced people I think it's extremely important; most of the people I know that have great jobs got them after they had been working for a few years and knew someone that got them in. I had no contacts at the companies where I interned, but I landed them after submitting my resume and doing well in the interviews. My whole point here is that for all the BS emphasis that colleges place on networking, they should really focus on basic professional skills like interviewing and resume-building.

And as for my "being connected" or going to a target: no on both accounts. My parents never went to college and struggle to be working middle-class and my school is hardly a target.

"Give me guys that are poor, smart, and hungry. And no feelings." - Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street"
May 1, 2010 - 5:25pm

I've noticed that some of my friends have gotten interviews at most places simply because they had good resumes (high GPA, hard classes, some prior internships, leadership positions etc). They networked too, but you couldn't possibly network with people from every single BB, every single boutique etc. They did get interviews from the BBs they networked with, but they also got interviews from several other BBs with which they didn't network at all, simply because they had strong resumes. I won't say networking is overrated, but realistically, i don't think you could form meaningful relationships with people from EVERY SINGLE BB and have them hand out interviews to you simply because you networked.

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May 1, 2010 - 5:59pm

As a student, I think networking is kind of pointless. You have zero value to a bank. I went to a target though and got recruited through OCR. Even as an SA, competitors would learn about you somehow and contact you directly if they wanted to poach you.

Then again, if you have zero exposure to OCR, I suppose networking is the way to go.

May 1, 2010 - 6:04pm

In the Investment field I'm sure networking is very critical, but in the general business world, I think it is a little overrated.

Networking can get you an interview, but it can't make you the right candidate for the job. Over the past 10 years, I've met dozens of people that tried to hook me up, but every job I got was through campus recruiting, internet, and professional recruiters.

I think the best thing is to use networking as a supplement to your career search. Even if you're well connected, you still want to go through the traditional outlets, because you want to give yourself the best chance of finding the right opportunity. Applying to a job online may seem like a waste of time, but you might be exactly the person they're looking for.

May 1, 2010 - 6:24pm

1) Networking is critical not just in landing your 1st job, but in life in general
2) Networking will not get you a VP position at Goldman Sachs right out of undergrad, you need to apply for positions which you are qualified
3) This discussion is only relevant to people who did not go to a top 10 school. Putting Wharton on your resume is enough to get a job anywhere.

It might appear real hard to network and make friend at firms, but it is simple as can be. Use alumni contacts, people who are friends of friends, whatever you need to do. Not everyone will get you an interview, but if you talk to someone a couple times when you are a junior and then follow up with them as you get closer to graduation then you will already have a commonality.

I guess it really boils down to personality. Contacting "strangers" is easy for some, hard for others. I personally feel that a persons career and life in general will be a lot better if they are comfortable approaching people and asking for help.

May 1, 2010 - 6:40pm

No shit it is you're, I am doing a coupe things and type real fast. I am glad to see my efforts in trying to help someone who is asking a question and giving my inputs as someone who has networked and worked for a while were met with a spelling correction.

Obviously you need to nail the interview and prepare properly, but you could be the most prepared person on earth, but if you cannot get an interview then you are screwed. Considering that you are so upset with networking I must infer that you simply cannot do it. I am very happy that you have landed interviews by being a passive little sheep.

PS. Just because you are a college kid does not mean alumni will not help, that you have nothing to offer, etc.

May 1, 2010 - 7:14pm

No, networking is not overrated. Network effectively and you will land interviews, regardless of experience.

__________________________ if you ain't first, you last
May 1, 2010 - 7:21pm

Freemarketer,

You are wrong. Networking is most important for those without experience. How else are you supposed to land an interview? Experience matters during the interview, not in getting it.

__________________________ if you ain't first, you last
May 1, 2010 - 7:27pm

I agree with everyone else that's been opposed to your opinion. Coming from a non-target, the only way I got my interviews was through cold-calling and networking (I have no prior internship experience) and no my resume/gpa/courses were not good enough to get me interviews.

Besides from networking being able to potentially land you interviews, it also gives you other views on other jobs and how things are there (if you decided that you were unhappy in your career path and wanted a different scene).

May 1, 2010 - 7:27pm

Too much of this thread focuses on networking to get a job; what exactly do you think you do once you have that job? Sure, you spend a few years as an excel monkey, but after that almost any field is going to be 90% about relationships; do you think someone would rather help, or work with, or give the deal to, someone they met 6 months ago at a corporate reception, or someone they've known for 10 years, since they were a 20 year old college student? If you focus on networking as a short-term, "if I don't get a job out of this meeting, I've wasted my time" endeavor, you've missed the point. Finance isn't a very big field; the guy who couldn't offer you a job now might be the guy who's choosing your bonus in ten years.

May 1, 2010 - 7:50pm

One thing that is true, it's something I learned the hard way, is that networking IS overrated in Europe, at least for graduates looking to break into finance. In fact, unless you have some kind of legitimate friendship or relationship it is practically useless, as is "OCR" which is non-existent. As an American, this was a big shock to my system because networking will get you far in the USA.

May 1, 2010 - 8:55pm
rebelcross:
One thing that is true, it's something I learned the hard way, is that networking IS overrated in Europe, at least for graduates looking to break into finance. In fact, unless you have some kind of legitimate friendship or relationship it is practically useless, as is "OCR" which is non-existent. As an American, this was a big shock to my system because networking will get you far in the USA.

This might be an unrelated question, but how can one from the States land on a temporal/full-time position in Europe, if it's not about OCR or networking? Do people really look into the online applications in the UK and the rest of Europe?

May 2, 2010 - 7:59am
bluecoat:
rebelcross:
One thing that is true, it's something I learned the hard way, is that networking IS overrated in Europe, at least for graduates looking to break into finance. In fact, unless you have some kind of legitimate friendship or relationship it is practically useless, as is "OCR" which is non-existent. As an American, this was a big shock to my system because networking will get you far in the USA.

This might be an unrelated question, but how can one from the States land on a temporal/full-time position in Europe, if it's not about OCR or networking? Do people really look into the online applications in the UK and the rest of Europe?

In Europe, at least in London from my experience, EVERYTHING goes through the online applications and the online tests. It doesn't matter who you contact or what you do before that. They system is so rigid that even if people want to help you there is really not much they can do because everybody goes through the same gate, (except if they really go above and beyond for you, which only happens in the case of having a real relationship with the person, i.e. how most people were hired at BBs during the height of the crisis).

This makes for a very random selection process where I've seen several very talented and squared away people wind up with no interviews and some mind-boggling choices wind up with interviews (all top targets, by the way). It's much more of a crapshoot than the US, you'll often see anomalies like people not getting an interview with HSBC but getting one with Goldman Sachs. Or getting an interview at nowhere except for MS., or top targets getting no interviews at all. Just random is the best way to put it.

The only "OCR" that takes place at top targets is that companies will come to the school and give presentations, but there is no such thing as a resume drop or on campus interviews. You can speak with them and such, but they don't have as strong a concept as our typical idea of "networking", i.e. they're often not speaking to you as somebody they are going to keep in mind to help get your resume through, even if you continue to stay in touch (and, like I said above, oftentimes they have no way to help you). Occasionally a small shop that comes to campus might ask for a resume, sometimes prop trading shops do this, but this is the rare exception.

May 1, 2010 - 7:53pm

Drexel is spot on. Think past the immediate and think about building the relationship.

I don't know, when I hear networking I just think making friends/ getting dates. I mean every friend I have was a stranger to me at one point.

May 1, 2010 - 9:14pm

I am at a non-target and I cannot stress enough the value of networking. It's of immense value as you can either land an interview or be referred to someone else who can help you out. I wish I had started in my freshman or sophomore year.

May 2, 2010 - 11:11am

i think networking is overrated if you don't know how to network..

i have had my fair share of networking, but most of the times we expect too much from the dude/lady to land us interviews/jobs.. to the pt that we rely on them entirely..

May 2, 2010 - 11:58am

Networking isn't overrated.

First of all - networking with alumni contacts, especially junior ones are extremely helpful for interview prep. Shadowing them in the bullpen or on the trading floor (depending on where you're interested in) gives you a much better understanding of the job. It will show whether you sort-of understand what the job intails, or you're making stuff up completely.

Secondly - even at Wharton, there is some sort of cherry-picking for interviews. At every major BB, the recruiting process is pretty similar. The school collects a ton of resumes, and the recruiting team (usually juniors have time to go through the entire stack) selects who should be interviewed. If you make a favorable impression, it increases your odds. I've rejected a 4.0 at various ivy league schools because someone with a 3.8 or 3.9 seemed to be a great fit in person and had a great story to tell.

Thirdly - it can get you an interview for smaller firms that don't have active campus recruiting. I was looking at a small IM firm in college and they had a few interesting positions, but no budget for campus recruiting. At the same time, I was buying a car and it so happens that the kid i bought the car from, her mom worked at this IM firm. The mom helped out with the paper work, we chatted and I got the interview.

It's a competitive environment and dismissing a powerful tool like networking isn't prudent.

May 2, 2010 - 1:22pm

Can't base your conclusions on a sample size of one. The fact that we all know of cases where individuals are able to separate themselves from the pack and land more opportunities than individuals of equal qualification suggest that the existence of the effectiveness of networking. How overrated it is varies based on the expectations one holds on the extent to which networking will help.

- Child Please.
May 2, 2010 - 1:32pm
OchoCinco:
Can't base your conclusions on a sample size of one. The fact that we all know of cases where individuals are able to separate themselves from the pack and land more opportunities than individuals of equal qualification suggest that the existence of the effectiveness of networking. How overrated it is varies based on the expectations one holds on the extent to which networking will help.

Networking is only overrated if someone thinks by sending an email then will bypass the interview process and just get the job. I personally think people who bitch about networking do no understand how to do it. Networking is about making friends and building relationships. Maybe it gets you an interview, maybe it gives you insight or an internship, maybe you just talk and two years down the road you run into that person and have a existing bond.

Everything in this business is about relationships. Networking is not overrated.

May 2, 2010 - 3:58pm

Fair enough, I suppose networking as an undergrad is valuable once one begins to work.

"Give me guys that are poor, smart, and hungry. And no feelings." - Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street"
May 3, 2010 - 2:58am

I go to a non-target (top 40). We have no OCR. I have absolutely zero family connections, or any others for that matter. My resume is objectively very strong - 3.8 GPA (3.9 major), ECs, leadership, the whole nine yards.

When I was looking for internships and then FT jobs, I submitted dozens and dozens of online applications and never heard a peep. Luckily, I also networked, and followed up with people, and stayed in touch with anyone that I could who was possibly related to the world of finance. I can unequivocally say that the only way I got that first interview for the FT jobs I will be starting this summer was through networking - one alum connected me to a colleague, who gave me the name of a colleague in Europe, who looked up someone's number on the company directory so that I could cold-call them. Hours and hours of work. But it paid off with an interview, the proverbial foot in the door, and the rest was history.

So no, even as a completely inexperienced undergrad, with 'no value to add to the firm', networking is not overrated. It might be the most valuable thing you can do.

May 3, 2010 - 2:59am

Networking Overrated? (Originally Posted: 12/07/2017)

I go to a super non target and I've been networking continuously (BB's to boutiques) for the last year with no interviews to show for it. On the other hand, I landed a handful of interviews with BB's(Barclays/UBS/CS/etc) and large AM's (BlackRock/Fidelity/PIMCO/etc) this recruiting season (no offers unfortunately) without the assistance of SEO, MLT, well connected family, etc. I'd like to think that my network is pretty good for having almost no alumni from my school on the street, but it's been useless for me so far. Am I just waisting my time?

May 3, 2010 - 3:00am

No, not everyone you networked with is going to help out.

Seems to me for every 10-15 ppl I networked with, around 3-4 will forward my resume, out of the 3-4, 1-2 will actually get you a first round interview, and between that 1-2, 1 will really push for you. And mind you these were all alumni for me too.

And when I say network, I'm talking about contacting at least 2 times and at least through the phone. So when you look at it that way if you sent out 400 emails that should lead to about (10% response rate), which is about 40 people...you could do the math.

On a side note, most if not all BB's/EBs are done so I would focus on MM/Boutiques.

May 3, 2010 - 3:01am

Half the point of networking is to learn a lot too. You pick things up such that by the time you interview (even if it's with another firm) you nail motivational questions as well as industry trend questions.

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