The Secret Art of Networking and Outreach
A Guide to Actually Networking Well (and not coming off as a pretentious, insufferable, and/or clueless clown)
There is much talk about networking being the holy grail of breaking into Finance careers. If you’re like most students, the supposed importance of networking has probably been beaten into your brain by your clueless classmates, many of whom know next to nothing about the recruiting process yet choose to confidently opine on how to break in (what's new?)
In this article, our goal is to dispel rumors about what networking actually is, and suggest how you can forge <meaningful connections> with others at your level and those who are more senior.
Wait, why is networking important again?
Networking is a crucial element of breaking into Finance (or any other highly sought-after role) as it helps you stand out from the pack instead of being just another resume in the pile. Hopefully this isn’t news to anyone, but you won’t be selected for internships purely based on academic merit or how hard of a worker you are. Investment Banking is a people’s business at the end of the day, and ensuring that you are liked by the right people (!) is paramount if you want to make the cut.
So we know that we need to be well-known and liked, but how can we possibly accomplish that without having any connections on the inside? And where can we possibly find these connections (i.e. other bankers) to turn them into our own personal allies?
Your biggest focus when attempting to build out your personal network needs to be on personalizing your outreach and in turn, making genuine connections that will lead to your contacts helping push your resume and open doors for you. The primary tool you will be using to find professionals to have conversations with will be LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding bankers as you can use their search filters to only show people that work at a certain bank, went to a certain university (or high school), who are connections of certain people, and so forth. Let's dive in.
To get the most out of your outreach time, you should focus your search on contacts that have something in common with you. The easy ones here are alumni from your university, people from your hometown, and people who were in the same fraternity or school club as you were. Ideally, you should prepare 3-5 points of commonality that can be casually dropped in your introductory email or LinkedIn outreach message. Here is a sample structure detailing how we would recommend you set up your search filters to get the best results:
Core Parameters: Notice that we selected the banks we are interested in reaching out to and marked NY as our sole destination (not our recommendation, just an example). We also put quotation marks around “Investment Banking Analyst,” which makes LinkedIn only return people who have that exact phrase in their tagline or work history. You will certainly be networking with bankers at each level (from Analyst all the way up to MD) if you do what you are supposed to, but maybe you want to have your first conversation with someone closer to your age. You can also search for bankers in your particular industry (TMT, healthcare, and so forth).
If you are just learning how to optimize your search results, you have been missing out on a lot! You can use this same trick when googling information. If you wanted to search for an article on WallStreetOasis that includes commentary on comparing compensation between certain Elite Boutique banks, you could simply use the plus feature while searching. For instance, "PJT" + "Centerview" + "Compensation" site: "www.thebankersbible.com". This search feature will only show you The Banker's Bible articles that mention both Evercore, PJT, and compensation.
Now that we know how to optimize our search results, what do we do after we find the LinkedIn profiles of 10 bankers that we hope to speak with one day? Hint: The answer is not to send them a LinkedIn connection with your life story, asking them to get on the phone with you!
Even if your communication is concise and convincing, your response rates will be significantly lower than if you had emailed them the exact same message. One of our analysts personally had 100+ phone calls with bankers in the lead-up to his recruiting season, which meant he sent out hundreds of emails, and also some LinkedIn messages for potential email bounce backs.
The result? Response rates were roughly twice as high via email compared to LinkedIn, so don't waste your time messaging when you could be emailing. Remember: Banking is still a dinosaur of an industry, clinging to formality and "prestige", so email will help you come off as "more professional".
But how do I figure out what their email address is if they don’t have it listed in their LinkedIn profile?
Emails are very rarely going to be displayed on professionals’ LinkedIn profiles, but we can still figure out what it is if we know their name and which bank they work at. There are a few different ways to figure out the email addresses.
You could use services like Snov.io, Hunter.io, and RocketReach to find a person’s professional email. If you have access to a subscription service like Zoom Info or Pitchbook, this is an even better option (though most students won't have access to these services). The RocketReach Chrome extension was one of our personal favorites. Another reliable option is to google “Bank X email format WSO” to pull up results from WallStreetOasis, the premier banking forum on the web. If you don’t know, now you know.
You can also take an educated guess. If you know that a firm’s typical email format is “first letter of first name + last name @ company.com”, and you’re trying to reach Brett Stephens at Boutique X, it would make sense to send emails to “email@example.com”. You can also try a few other variants. What’s the harm? The wrong ones will simply not get delivered and you’ll get an error message.
What should I say in the email?
Ah, we've arrived at the most important part. You've identified your target outreach contacts. You have their emails. What do you actually say?
It seems simple enough, but we cannot tell you how many pretentious, awful, confusing, and plain clueless emails we have received from prospective candidates over the years. Here are some 4 best practices for cold emails:
When you send a request to connect, keep your message
1) Polite, kind, and respectful
2) Mindful of the other person’s time
3) Succinct and Clear
4) Relevant (include at least 1-2 points of commonality between you and the individual you are contacting)
Do not send long, eloquent messages professing your love for the job. This doesn’t fly professionally. Be sure to also triple-check your spelling and punctuation, and send emails in a professional font like Times New Roman or Garamond. Always have a signature line below with your email, direct number for contact, and any other links (such as a website you may have if relevant). Attach your resume as well, and quadruple-check your resume to make sure it is clear, easy to understand, and free of spelling/punctuation/grammar errors. Why? People (especially bankers, if you can count them as people) are shallow creatures.
If you spell something wrong, depending on the person reading your message, this may significantly ding your chances. You can even have a text transcription app read out messages on your laptop so you can "hear and catch" mistakes that might have not been obvious when you error-checked visually.
Sample Networking Email:
I'm a Sophomore at the University of Virginia majoring in healthcare economics. I have a strong interest in pursuing a career at the intersection of finance and healthcare and currently serve as the Vice-Treasurer of UVA's Student Investment Fund (USIF).
I saw that you followed a similar path to breaking into the industry, pursuing a neuroeconomics degree while also being a part of USIF. As such, I felt it would be very helpful to get your perspective on the interview process and life as a healthcare banker.
I'd greatly appreciate the chance to connect for a few minutes to learn a bit more about Greenhill. If you are busy with work at the moment, I completely understand and do not feel obligated!
Remember, bankers are already spending the bulk of their waking hours working, miserable, and frustrated, so you need to keep your message short and sweet. Don't write a lengthy essay. Or even worse, don't be pretentious. One prospect reached out to us claiming he had uniquely irreplaceable skills and that it was in "our best interest" to take a coffee chat with him.
Dude. We run a bunch of excel models that could be fine-tuned by chimps. Put the ego aside, and keep it short, sweet, and humble.
If you would like to learn more about how to cultivate and leverage relationships with bankers, how to navigate office politics, and how to ultimately land an Investment Banking offer of your own, there's no better resource than The Banker’s Bible. No BS, No Fluff. Just real, actionable, non-mainstream tips and insights from real Wall Street professionals.
Feel free to leave any questions in the comments, or reach out to us via Twitter or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Banker's Bible Team