Networking your way to job and internship recruiting success as an international student
As international students, we have all at some point faced the odds stacked against us and the insurmountable task of mastering the dance of “recruiting”. Recruiting is essentially speed dating, wherein one interacts with multiple companies and hopefully gets out of the ordeal with an offer (albeit after a number of trip-ups and falls). However, more than the goal of an offer, recruiting has personally taught me the intricacies of networking—the experience allowed me to further develop the interpersonal and communication skills required to succeed in a dynamic professional environment. My foray into investment banking, a cutthroat industry dominated by Type-A personalities, was an exercise in commitment. By the end of my recruiting, I had talked to more than 50 bankers and finance professionals and logged almost 20 hours of cold calls (and approximately 100 emails sent)—the effort, more than the successful offer, was worth it. I have been able to apply the networking skills I learned to pursue business opportunities for the startups I am involved with and to build my own personal connections. For me, finance recruiting was a fitting test of networking prowess, which includes organization, preparedness, and poise. Here are a few tidbits of advice and best practices that my friends and I have found to be very helpful. At the end of the day, the formula is quite simple: you must prove you want it more than the next guy.
Networking is more than just a bunch of cold calls.
Networking requires you to come prepared, confident, and organized to succeed. One best practice is to have a spreadsheet with the name of the person and company, as well as dates and times for the call. This spreadsheet will help keep your appointments and track those who you have already called and the outcome, if any. I have also found it helpful to check out the Linkedin or online profiles of those I will be speaking to provide some initial context in the discussion. Coming prepared to discuss a variety of experiences and information allows you to further and deepen the conversation—it also shows that you “did your research”. The same can be said about researching a company’s business lines, products, and news. The strategy also naturally lends itself to easy answers to common interview questions, such as “why bank X?” For instance, if you uncovered that a senior banker had worked in another bank, you could ask why he switched and what the culture was like in both banks, banking group differences, work/life balance, and the like. Have a little notebook with bullet points of what you would like to ask and some salient points of your story that you would like to highlight. These preparations will allow you to get into the call with confidence and an effective, efficient game plan.
Be nice to everyone.
Common courtesy to the people you meet can lead to opportunities and future references. Do not forget about the recruiter, as they have access to the people who will eventually review your resume. They can also forward your information to other bankers who you can network with. A thank you via email or in person after information sessions will suffice, along with follow-up requests to connect with other bankers.
See the silver lining.
Recruiting and networking may seem repetitive, but the entire process has allowed me to learn more about different people, their companies, and their day-to-day jobs. On a personal level, I have found my conversations with various investment bankers and finance professionals to be highly informative and valuable as I expanded my knowledge of the industry. For instance, I had the opportunity to talk to bankers who had gone through the 2008 financial crisis and experienced the restructuring and hectic turnover of the banking industry. Their insights provided color to the not-so-glamorous side of banking. Moreover, each conversation also allows you to practice giving your pitch and reveal the less smooth parts of your story for refinement. The networking process hones key skills, such as being able to talk intelligently about financial news, and presents an opportunity to practice interview questions like “walk me through your resume” or “why investment banking”.
Be relentless and persistent!
Recruiting requires persistence and drive to achieve results. As an international student, you will be rejected many times, and many times due to factors beyond your control. However, you must keep pushing and maintain your motivation for the dream job. By being aggressive (but not email spamming or ridiculous aggressive), you are showing to recruiters and to those you network with that you are passionate about the job and willing to go extra lengths to pursue your goals—networking is a signaling mechanism and can identify those students who want the opportunity more. So, do not be shy when clicking that “send” button—emails are cheap (except poorly written ones, so make sure to read those emails before sending them lest you misspell the name of a bank).
Little things also matter, like sending a quick greeting during the holidays and knowing time zone differences when scheduling calls. Also, a word to the wise—don’t bother the investment banking analyst with monthly updates of random financial news articles. That just gets annoying after the first month.
Getting offers and hearing back through email can take a while but the replies and results can be truly exhilarating and satisfying. Good luck with your recruiting, and remember that effective recruiting comes from sound networking!