How to Network for Investment Banking Jobs

Networking is one of the most underrated skills when it comes to hunting for finance jobs. As a fresh graduate, what can you do to make sure you’re being social enough?
The gradsingapore Team

Some people might think that networking is just an American thing and that it won’t work in Singapore. That’s where they’re wrong! The local finance industry – and the investment sector in particular – is a surprisingly small world where who you know can make a big difference.

It’s never too early to start networking for opportunities in investment banking and management, whether for full-time graduate jobs or internships! Here’s what you should be doing to get your foot in the door.

Get your priorities right

It may seem that all recruitment events are worth going to, especially if they’re hosted by the bigger investment banks. However, given the sheer scope of events out there, it’s important to prioritise in order to avoid wasting your time.

If you have specialised skills, it’s better to go to a recruitment event that is looking for those specific skills. Examples of such skills include risk management and compliance expertise, which are particularly in demand in 2014 due to increased regulation by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

If your skills aren’t so specialist, don’t limit yourself to networking locally. Keep an eye out for contacts across the region as well. After all, plenty of investment graduate schemes will have you rotated across different countries too.

Use any opportunity

If you’re in a place where you have easy access to the people you need to be talking to, such as being on campus, then you have a massive advantage.

There are plenty of recruiters from banks or investment firms who drop by campus on recruitment drives, so take the opportunity to meet them and listen to what they have to say.

It’s not just about recruitment events, too. If an industry professional has just given an academic lecture at your university, hang back and ask them some intelligent questions about what they’ve been talking about (make sure you’re genuinely curious, though).

Once you’ve both finished talking, ask for their business card to keep in touch. Don’t be afraid – the worst they can do is say “no”.

Be brave at networking events

Going into a room full of people can be daunting – especially if most of them are strangers. It is tempting to just retreat into a corner to “check your e-mails”, but remember that talking to as many people as possible is invaluable!

Here are some ways to make your life easier:

  • Always look for a crowd with an odd number of people. Networking events are noisy, so it’s very difficult to hold a three-way conversation. Someone will automatically gravitate towards you if you join the mix.
  • Step up to a circle of people who are talking. Listen to them intently, and as soon as you get a chance, put your hand out and introduce yourself. Social niceties dictate that people will always shake your hand, and will most probably start asking you questions. This helps if you can’t muster up the courage to break the ice on your own.

Follow up on new contacts

So you’ve hit it off with a potential contact and gotten their business card. That should be enough to stand you in good stead if you do apply to their company, right?

Well... no.

It’s not enough just to get someone’s contact details – you have to follow up immediately. Tell them you’ll call or e-mail to ask some questions. Or, if you’re feeling bold, set up a casual meeting and then keep it.

Once again, make sure your curiosity is genuine! No one likes hanging around a pretentious person who’s quite obviously got an ulterior motive.

Keep track of everyone you meet

If you’re networking properly, you should have quite a few people to keep track of. Take extensive notes in any meetings you have with contacts, and log them into a file in your computer or planner afterwards.

It’s good to know as much as you can about your connections (without venturing into stalker territory!). This will help you build relationships with them. Also, remember to follow up on old contacts regularly – you should also be keeping previous associations useful and relevant.

If you want to get a bit more creative, try setting up a Google News alert for every contact you meet. Not only will you be kept up-to-date on what they’re doing, you can also send them a congratulatory e-mail if they close a big deal.

It’s a small touch that your contacts will appreciate, and will cost you no time at all.

Do your research

If you have a meeting or interview at a firm where you don’t know anybody, see if you can find out the names of those you’ll be talking to beforehand. Then, try searching for them on LinkedIn.

If you’re a “second-degree connection” (i.e. you were introduced by someone else), you should talk to your mutual contact in advance to find out what to expect. Personal connections are great short cuts, and can be really helpful when you want to impress a potential contact.

At the end of a meeting, it’s often a good idea to ask if there’s anyone else they think you should meet. This could be as simple as being introduced to an intern with a similar background to yours.

Approach the people you know

If you see someone you know at a job fair, recruitment event, or employer talk, use it to your advantage even if you don’t know them that well. Walk up, say “hi”, and make a brief attempt to catch up.

You don’t have to be too familiar with some someone to ask them questions – you just need to be credible. Keep empty chit-chat to a minimum, and ask intelligent questions, not “What’s it like to be an investment banker?”

Don’t forget their assistants

If you’re rude or dismissive to a contact’s assistant, do you really think your phone calls are going to get through? Be polite and professional, no matter who you happen to be speaking with.

Get a life!

Nobody thinks about work 100% of the time! Try using common interests outside of finance as a conversation starter, or as a bonding opportunity. Pay attention when someone mentions hobbies, or if they are fans of a specific sports team.

The investment banking industry is very demanding, so don’t be afraid to talk about non-finance things alongside work topics. Some people may even be willing to come out of the office with you for a coffee break if they have time, so that they can take their mind off the job for a while.

If anyone tells you to stop calling or simply says “no”, then cross them off your list. There are loads of other people you can ask or network with, and it’s not worth getting on anyone’s bad side.