Since it is recruitment season, I thought I would write this post.
For all those currently undergoing On Campus Recruitment, being a great network-ER is key. First impressions last and you need to make a great impression on the bankers.
But after being to my fair share of networking events, I have noticed that many aspiring students come to the info sessions, but fail to network effectively. Some students manage to hold some of the most awkward conversations I have ever seen and ask the weirdest of questions.
But it's understandable: Putting yourself out there and meeting new people is not a walk in the park.
So, in order to help out anyone who is willing to listen, I am going to list out some networking "moves" that have worked for me:
1) Be Confident
Look, you know your stuff. Never underestimate yourself and lower yourself just because you think these guys are bankers.
When you approach the Analysts, Associates and bankers of all designations, walk in confidently, smile, and hold a firm handshake with the bankers.
Keep an open stance. Do not cross your arms or wrap your hands around your school's resume Binder or place it closely to your chest. Keep your hands in your pockets or by yourself and make sure the only thing covering your torso is your shirt, tie and jacket (if you prefer to wear one).
By keeping an open stance, you are signaling that you are comfortable in your own shoes and are confident.
2) The Queue
However, before you go in and talk, you have to physically position yourself so that you can effectively communicate with the banker.
If say, an Associate, is talking to a group of students, try to make your way into the front of the group. When the time is right, that is when he/she is done talking and you know that it now the time of the students to ask additional questions, introduce yourself and ask a question. Your introduction can be as simple as "Hi, my name is (insert name here). Pleasure to meet you".
Or on the other hand, if you are going to a banker who say is an Analyst and is not as surrounded by students as say the MD, the approach should be similar but adjusted with a few tweaks. Instead of just waiting to talk, go in confidently, deliver a firm hand-shake, introduce yourself (when the time is right, of course) and start to have a genuine conversation.
3) The Content
Going back to the first scenario, where a banker is addressing a small group of students, if you are going to ask a question, ask a good one.
Bankers always get questions about a firm's culture, their motivations to enter banking and so on.
However, you have to be smarter. Therefore, you should ask questions that others are not likely to ask.
For example, if you are talking to a banker from the M&A group of Morgan Stanley, talk about the high activity of M&A this year and so on. You get the point.
This will allow you to stand out and make you more memorable to the analyst. And, for heaven's sake, do it for the poor analyst. He/She must be exhausted getting the same "culture" questions all the time.
Which is not to say, however, that you should definitely not ask questions about culture and so on. In fact, they are key in determining if the company/group will be right for you. But you should progress from the basic, banal questions, to more sophisticated and complex ones.
You should use a similar strategy when going to a banker, who is not extremely occupied and you can have a good one-on-one conversation with.
While doing all of this, it is important to be casual. No need to be stuck-up, nervous, agitated or confused. Just be natural and appropriate.
These bankers are also humans, and odds a good proportion of them also graduated from your school a couple of years ago, so they know the causal lingo. No need to use the forty vocab words you remember from giving the SATs.
4) The Exterior
While having a conversation, intently listen to the answers of the banker, smile and be genuinely interested in the conversation.
Be sure to add to the conversation as well. Add about your past finance experiences that, you think make you a great candidate. Or if the conversation steers to sports, talk about that. Just go with the flow.
Do what you need to do to have a lively conversation. Use your judgement to determine the personality of the banker, and play upon it. If the banker is laid back and cursing, use a laid-back conversational tone. If the analyst is uptight and a roaming Wikipedia, be sure to employ your mannerisms and etiquette.
When I say to have a lively conversation, I don't mean that you should have a half-an-hour conversation with him/her.
Have a long-enough conversation to make a good impression.
After you think the conversation has been going well, politely ask if you could, somehow, stay in touch with the analysts/associate/whatever, and get his/her business card. If he/she did not have a bad experience, odds are 9 times out of 10 you will get their business card.
Once you do so, thank the analyst for their advice and time. Deliver a firm hand-shake and move on.
This is seriously important.
However, there are two ways you can play this depending upon your position.
If you're a freshman or sophomore, wait. Do not send a follow-up email ASAP, because every junior trying to do On Campus Recruiting will be inundating the Analyst/Associate with emails. What you should do is send emails off-season during the Spring semester. This way, the odds are higher that you will receive a follow-up.
If you're a junior or senior, hustle. Send emails to the banker and do a follow-up if they do not get back to you. This isn't to say you should follow-up with them every day, but wait a week and send a follow-up email politely asking something like if they had time to look at your email.
In a nutshell, just be sure to be in contact with the Analyst/Associate etc as it will only help you in the recruitment process.
7) The close
Honestly, networking is pretty darn simple. There isn't a formula to being an effective networker. Just be confident and things will automatically fall into place.
And, honestly, that's really it.
I hope you guys find my two cents helpful.
Good luck to all going through the recruitment process right now!