by Brian DeChesare Comments (131)

How to Get Noticed When Networking – Without Becoming a Nuisance: 3 Real-Life Success Stories

“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.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Shashank

    Hi, I have a query regarding the second approach mentioned above. I will be applying for PE internships.
    1. I’m from India & the culture here is a bit different. People here would be a bit hesitant to refer another unknown person & success rate would be very low. How should I deal with such a situation? What more can I ask that you feel will make the communication more friendly yet professional?
    2. Also regarding an email made to the MD & Partners, what should be the content? Should I directly discuss my intent to work there? Shall I mention my positive views on a deal they made recently? What more can I add?
    3. What should be the subject of the email given I don’t find anyone to refer to? I always get stumped there.
    Thanks for taking the questions.

    1. Shashank

      Would like to add something here. My GPA (studied in the US) is 2.9 in a technical subject but my other qualifications are strong. In such a case, shall I still write my GPA in my resume or don’t. I fear that I could get rejected for my low GPA when they read my email & see my resume. What is your view here?

      1. M&I - Nicole

        Some banks request your GPA so you may have to list it. Otherwise I’d list it blank.

    2. M&I - Nicole

      1. I’d refer to this article here: http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-india/ By being persistent, to the point, but *not* desperate is the answer to your second question. So follow-up in a few days, versus following up every day, a few times a day (this is called pestering).
      2 & 3. Please refer to http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-email-template/

      1. Shashank

        Thanks Nicole. Keep up the good work!

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Anytime.

  2. Thanks for all the adive. I’m finding that my biggest problem is that individuals I meet with who voluntarily vocalize that they will put me in touch with people don’t actually come through even after I send a follow-up email thanking them for their time. How can I overcome this? Should I directly ask to be put in touch with someone via email if they told me they would? Any other ideas? Thanks

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes I’d directly and politely ask for that if they said they would. If they, however, don’t keep their “promise” I’ll move on because you can’t “force” someone to give you a contact. Better to cast your net wide and find people who are willing to help

  3. Hey Brian, Great article. Really enjoy this one and all the other ones you have up here. I have a question – I have been networking all summer at the IB subsidiary of the bank that I am currently interning at, trying to gain connections and insight for a Summer Analyst position next summer. I have been able to meet an SVP and an Associate Trader through a few connections, which went well and have kept in contact with them. I then got forwarded contact for an MD in DCM, and set up a meeting with him on the trading floor. When I met, he brought me into his office, looked over my resume, and started asking me several high level questions about my goals in IB and what I know about it – that’s when I tanked. Because my previous informational interviews had been less formal, I wasn’t prepared for the types of questions the MD asked me..I wasn’t even sure what DCM was (which is how I found your site the next day, doing some research to get better prepared). However, he left the room and told me he was going to send a couple of associates in. In the interim, I relaxed and gathered myself, and performed much better in those discussions. It went well with them – they let me shadow a new analyst and I think they liked me. Now here’s my question – I have contact for the three members of DCM. I followed up and thanked the MD for the visit, but don’t know how to approach future contact with him or his team. I have learned a lot since that visit but feel like my poor first impression won’t wear off. What should I do to reach back out? Or should I not bother?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes I’d reach out again. I wouldn’t worry too much about that meeting. The MD probably figured you were young and nervous. Just send a short email to follow up and express your interest

  4. I was thinking about getting personal business cards made to help in my networking efforts. I am a recent college grad and am doing an internship with a boutique investment firm. My goal in my networking is to get an analyst offer. What would be some good info to have on my business cards other than the obvious like my name and contact info?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think a business card is necessary, but you can also include your school name there

  5. Hi,

    I’m completing my CA articles at a bank (which stretches 3 years) I’m currently starting my second year, which means that I’ll be rolling of into a permanent position within 2 years. I have access to everyone’s email addresses, from heads of IBD – Heads of Corp fin – Heads of the different structured lending focus groups…… all the way down to analysts.

    Here are my questions: With 2 years to go on my accounting (CA) internship, is it too early to start reaching out to the higher ranked people to sell myself (bearing in mind this communication will be unnatural of nature) and if so, when do I begin? Also how should I go about this considering I have no professional interaction with these guys.

    Thanks,
    Alex

    1. 1. I would start maybe 1 year in advance instead. 2. Try to get a referral from someone else to one of those groups… just say you’re interested in learning more and then name-drop that person’s name in your email to those groups. An upcoming interview will cover how another reader did this to win a CF position at a F500 company.

      1. I walk past these guys and have lunch in the same canteen. In a years time, do you not Reckon I should speak to some of the Heads directly as opposed to email?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Yes of course. I’d probably start now.

  6. How would you feel about calling the owner/boss of the entire company?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’m ok with that. I think it takes guts though some may actually be very nice and personable. I’ve done that before.

  7. Hi Brian, I’m currently expanding my professional network through a means of referrals and cold-calling, and I have come into a predicament with one banker in particular.
    After a coffee meeting which I thought went well, I asked him if he knew of anyone he could refer me to, that could provide some more insight about the industry. He seemed a little thrown off by it, but he told me he would contact me with some names. 2 weeks went by, sent a follow up e-mail, and that very day, I bumped into him on the street and asked if he had thought of any references yet. He obliged then, but responded later that week and connected me with another student at my school… Then a few days later, another student. I knew that he understood that I was looking for banking contacts, but he seems somewhat reluctant to put me in touch with any. How can I politely ask him for contact information of bankers specifically, because student contact information does not help me at all. Is there a way that I can prove to him that I’m competent enough for him to endorse me within the industry? Do you have any advice regarding the situation?

    Thanks in advanced,

    Sean

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d just forget about this contact and move onto the next one. It doesn’t seem like he wants to introduce you to his contacts, so I wouldn’t force it. Don’t worry about proving yourself etc. Start cold calling and meet more people to cast your net wide.

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