Friday 8 February 2013

Networking - How a casual conversion in a train can get you into IB

A friend recently pointed out to me that networking techniques are relevant not just for IB, but for every industry out there. While this is true, the reality that I have seen is that a very small percentage of youngsters who are just starting out resort to networking.

The reasons may differ from hesitation to simply a lack of awareness as to how to network. Therefore, as I promised earlier, this post will be dedicated solely to networking methods. Read on to find out the best methods for networking in India.

1)      Cold calls:

A cold call is when you haven’t met the person whom you’re calling. That is, all you know about the person comes from the organization’s website and that person doesn’t know you at all.

I am not sure how much the practice of cold calling is prevalent in India, but I believe it is restricted to low level jobs. I certainly have never heard of any CA’s or otherwise qualified people resorting to cold calling. We all upload resumes on job portals, use our “approaches” and as a last resort, call up our relatives who might be remotely in the same field as the one which we wanna work in.

Now I’m telling you to take it to the next level. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the core finance industry in India is extremely small and thus, the chances of you knowing someone in finance are small as well. Therefore, you have to resort to “non-traditional” methods to get to know people.

What non-traditional methods, you might ask. Here’s your answer – go to Google, search for “boutique investment banks/private equity firms (depending on which you are targeting) in [your target location]”. I’m suggesting boutiques because the chances of success in cold calling is significantly more at smaller places than bulge bracket banks.

Now that you have a huge list of banks/firms, just pick up the phone and start calling. No, seriously, that’s all it takes and it works. If you’re lucky, you’ll actually get the number of an entry level banker himself, which can turn out to be a treasure. The banker will probably be so surprised to get such a call in the first place that he’ll most likely agree to help you. All you need is a strong pitch and a polite, confident demeanour.

I’m trying to keep each post short and how to cold call is a huge topic in itself, so I’ll be dedicating a full post to cold calling later.

2)      Cold emails:

Similar to cold calling, this is another strategy that is almost never used in India. However, it is effective only when you have a banker’s own email and not the generic email ID of an office. Most such generic email ID’s are not even checked, so you can discard any hopes of getting a reply. But if you do get hold of the email ID of an IB/PE employee, it’s not much less of a treasure than their phone number.

As for what to do with the phone number, the strategy is the same. Practice your pitch, pick up the phone and make the call. More on “pitches” in the cold calling post.

3)      Alumni network:

If you are from a top level college, here’s where you have a huge advantage over others. The alumni network is a priceless treasure that most people fail to fully utilize. The reason as to why it is such an advantage is that it will provide you direct contact details of people working in finance and you don’t have to hunt around on Google. So even if you have a close friend or a relative in such a college, don’t hesitate to ask him for help and access to their alumni network.

Coming back to the assumption that you are in such a college, the method for contacting them is the same – cold calls and emails. But here the chance of success is much higher because an alumnus will be much more willing to help you than some random person.

4)      Linkedin:

This is one of the methods which I personally don’t like much, but it is still highly recommended by professional career advisors. The reason why I don’t like it is because in India, Linkedin is extremely overused and any person in a remotely successful position probably gets a huge amount of requests and messages from unknown persons. Thus, he is very likely to ignore your message no matter how good your pitch is.

But if you feel like giving it a try, of course there’s no harm. You might even get lucky and get a response. When you’re running out of options, it’s not a good idea to ignore any option, no matter how unlikely it is to work.

5)      Conferences, seminars, even the train:

Yup, even the train. What I mean is, don’t hesitate to talk to people. I’ve heard stories of people who networked their way into the industry while travelling in a metro, in a seminar, even via Facebook...

I’m not saying that you start grabbing people on the road to talk to them or send FB friend requests to MD’s at Goldman Sachs. The above examples are rare and just freakish good luck. The guy who met his boss in the metro saw the banker carrying a bulge bracket bank’s pitch book and initiated a casual conversation with him. At the end of the conversation, the guy told his background to the banker and that he was looking for a job in IB. The banker asked the guy to send his resume over to him and BAM! He landed an interview.

The intention of giving you these examples is to tell you that don’t be afraid to talk to people. If you’re smart and polite, you’ll find that most people will be willing to listen. Go to investment conferences and try talking to people and get their business cards. You can call or email them with your pitch later. There are innumerable success stories that confirm beyond a doubt that this works.

At the end, no matter what your method is, all you need is ONE contact to come through. I’ve heard of people who cold emailed literally thousands of people. I myself emailed hundreds of places when I was looking for a job. All you need is one guy to say, “Yes, we have a vacancy. When can you come for an interview?”

For your benefit, I’m giving you a link to a forum of Wall Street Oasis, called Success Stories. If you go through them, you’ll find that every single one of them recommends networking like crazy. So start building your network TODAY.

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