“How can I get noticed when I’m contacting alumni?”
“They just keep ignoring my emails! What should I do?”
“Won’t I sound desperate if I keep emailing the same person over and over again?”
Those are some of the most common questions I get.
So today, I’m going to show you how 3 separate individuals all got noticed when networking – without becoming nuisances.
I don’t mean that they necessarily won offers or interviews – but they did get responses in situations where they would have otherwise been ignored.
And getting those responses – and a chance to develop the relationships – means that they are far more likely to succeed in the future.
Case 1: The Friend of a Friend Method for Contacting Busy People
This one happened to me 2 weeks ago when I was in the middle of the Breaking Into Wall Street launch and working about 18 hours per day putting everything together, answering questions, and ensuring that the sky did not fall.
Here’s the exact email I received:
A university student (we’ll call him “Chris” to make this anonymous) whom I had never met before remembered that one of his friends (who had graduated a few years ago) mentioned “knowing the guy behind Mergers & Inquisitions.”
Some would sit on this information – but Chris was not one of them.
In the midst of recruiting, he was in discussions with one firm and needed advice on a specific strategy he wanted to use to boost his chances of getting an offer – so he emailed me a few days before I received the message above.
Since I was incredibly busy with another project at the time, I couldn’t respond immediately and planned to get back to him by the end of the week.
He probably thought I was ignoring him, so he “supplemented” his approach with a smart strategy: he contacted a mutual friend who happened to know us both (in real life):
He got lucky in one respect: the girl he emailed happened to be a good friend rather than just an acquaintance – so I was much more inclined to respond.
However, I still would have been more likely to respond quickly to an acquaintance rather than to someone I had never met before.
And sure enough, I responded to his “time-sensitive” question in time even though I only had a few minutes to spare that entire week.
How to Apply This Strategy in Your Recruiting Efforts: When you’re reaching out to different firms and building connections, don’t just stop at 1 person – if you can get 3-4 or more guys in one office and one firm talking about you, you build a buzz and are far more likely to receive interviews and ultimately offers.
To an MD deciding whether to give someone an offer, there’s nothing more convincing than everyone else on his team saying, “Yes, we should.”
And, of course, if you can go through family friends or anyone who already has a relationship with the banker you stand a much better chance of getting noticed.
Case 2: Working Your Way Up the Totem Pole
This one doesn’t come from personal experience, but rather from one reader (“John”) who successfully broke into investment banking this past year.
Coming from an unknown school, he got into a bulge bracket bank because he started his recruiting efforts early - months before summer recruiting began, he started reaching out to alumni and friends and lining up informational interviews.
That helped, of course, and the relationships he developed from his networking efforts led to multiple offers and then signing on full-time with one of the few remaining bulge brackets.
But what helped him most was his approach to making the initial contact. I get questions all the time on “who is best to contact” at a bank – should you go for the more senior guys, or stick to Analysts and Associates at first?
My own view: MDs and higher-ups have a lot more pull and can therefore help you out more, but are often more hesitant to help you much at first or go out of their way to help you unless you have a killer connection or some other type of relationship first.
John’s solution to this was simple: he contacted Analysts first (since they were closest in age and experience). Then, after getting to know enough Analysts at a particular firm/office, he got referrals to Associates, and then moved his way up getting to know people at each level until he finally reached the top… and landed a ton of interviews.
How to Apply This Strategy: See above. One reason that a firm will often ignore you is because they don’t know who you are.
That may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen students and professionals alike get surprised when no one responds to their cold emails.
But if you can say, “Inquiry – Referral from [NAME OF PERSON AT YOUR FIRM HERE]” in your subject (or even better yet, have the other person introduce you directly), your chances of getting a response immediately go up.
Case 3: Go to the Gym
Everyone knows you should be emailing alumni and going to informational sessions to network, right?
Well, maybe not.
Traditional ways of finding industry contacts can still work, but you maximize your chances and have a much better shot at getting noticed if you consider all your options.
One problem with conventional tactics is that everyone else is using them too, and the barrier to entry is low. You’ve seen it first-hand if you’ve ever gone to an information session and seen 20 people crowding around a single banker, all trying to get noticed.
Why not get around it entirely by starting your networking efforts elsewhere?
One reader (“Tom”) purchased several gym memberships this past year at an upscale area of his city.
His city was not a major finance center – we’re not talking about New York or London here – and before I heard from him I wasn’t even aware that there were banks in his area.
By joining gyms in nice areas of major cities, you’re bound to run into financiers – and that’s just what he did, meeting investment bankers, consultants, and even PE partners.
Through the connections he built at gyms, he got an internship at a boutique for the summer – which he was planning to start shortly.
Due to the poor economy, the offer went away and he had to pursue other alternatives. But then he used the connections he built at the gym once again, and he found another finance-related (though not banking) internship at the last minute.
How to Apply This Strategy: It’s difficult to “get through” to bankers via email and even the phone because they have their guard up most of the time.
If they get an email or call from a stranger asking about the industry or their own careers, they know that you are networking and ultimately trying to leverage the relationship to break in.
But if you can meet them informally – via the gym, for example – your chances of getting a good response go way up because they don’t assume that you are just trying to use them.
And it doesn’t have to be the gym – think about other sports or activities where you’re likely to meet bankers (golf is probably the next best example) and your chances will go way up if you approach it as if you’re making friends rather than looking for a job.
Not Getting Noticed?
Tell us all about it. Ask a question or leave a comment below, and get some ideas on how to boost your own response rate.