So you have a 3.9 grade point average, are president of 3 campus organizations, captain of your varsity team and you want that investment-banking job at Goldman Sachs. Turns out, you’re not the only one with the same credentials.
There’s a sea of applicants with the same grade point average that are also president of three or more clubs on their campus—just like you! And if this doesn’t discourage you enough, you’ll be surprised to learn that some of these applicants are probably Fulbright Scholars, National Merit Finalists, and founders of non-profits and start-ups.
If this sounds like you, the time has come to separate yourself from the pack. You may have heard the saying “it’s not what you know but who you know that matters.” The phrase cannot ring any more true in our current job market. Having a network is essentially building your social capital while casting your ‘safety’ net—that is, a solid network can help you not only get that first job but switch jobs when need be.
Below are 5 ways to build your network
Networking is a marathon. Not a sprint.
It is off-putting to recruiters to try and rush the entire process by competing with everyone looking to apply for the same kind of job you are, especially those with prior experience. It is important to realize that by starting late you put yourself at a disadvantage simply because others have had a head start (that includes those with offers). But it is not hopeless.
You can make breaking into your desired field a long-term effort that you will come closer to each day by building relationships with alumni, friends, and acquaintances. The alternative, which is cold-calling companies until you get lucky may not be so much fun. What you need to do is consistently reach out to as many people who have any sort of an in with potential employers as possible.
It is important to keep in mind that maintaining a strong relationship with an alumni or recruiter matters a lot in networking because most of the time it boils down to what you and the person you’re trying to get in touch with share in common.
If there is a list of alums to reach out to form your school, narrow down the list to people who may have joined the same clubs you did, or played the same sport you played, or studied the same major. It helps to break the ice in the initial conversation.
Offer a Quid pro quo
We’re all networking to get something. One of the most underrated and overlooked strategy in networking is giving before receiving—and we’re not talking about taking the person you’re reaching out to a five-star restaurant for dinner.
Networking is a two-way street. The key here is to build the relationship rather than using the person. You can simply share with them an article, a book, or something you find interesting about their company. If you’re willing to go a small step further, it doesn’t hurt to offer to pay for that cup of coffee or lunch when you two have finally met.
Have a story
This may strike you as common sense but you would be surprised as to how many people get in contact with alumni but aren’t prepared to sell themselves. It is important to fully understand why you want to work for that company, the specific position, and why you’ve decided to reach out to that contact. Having a good story not only makes it easier to relate to the person you’re reaching out to but reduces the awkwardness of the conversation.
Be consistent and focus on quality
3 strong relationships with recruiters or alumni are always better than 6 acquaintances that lack consistency. Follow up with connections you have made by maintaining those relationships. This can be as simple as emailing, making phone calls or setting up meetings. It is hard to do so with 15 or more people so it is wiser to choose people who you’ve made a significant connection with.
Caveat: Never discount networking with an analyst. They can offer valuable insight on the recruiting process and getting your foot in the door.
Peter Elliott | Elite.