Basic Networking Guide For Business Students

Last week I had the privilege to attend Forté’s Rising Star Conference in New York City, hosted by one of the top investment banking firms, Credit Suisse.

Coming from a business school, we all know the importance of networking in order to thrive in the industry. After two years at Babson College, I’ve had multiple experiences in approaching alumni and leveraging other networking resources and have realized the best way to expand my connection. Here’s a list of tips that I want to share with you, particularly with those who might find networking an awkward act.

Many of us find networking as a way to ask people in the industry favors, but here I want to share a few different perspectives:

1. Learning instead of trying to land a job from them

Instead of seeing networking as asking something from recruiters or potential employers, try to position it as a way to learn more about that person’s journey in navigating the industry, his or her experience, and the company’s dynamic. Ask good questions, and build a relationship that way.

This way you also feel much more comfortable to interact with them and less stressed out. It’s easy to forget that these employers are normal human beings, and they were in our shoes at one point.


2. Know your purpose and have a tangible goal in mind

Even though you shouldn’t expect to land a job or an internship from these networking events, these occasions offer a lot of opportunities to open that door.

Are you trying to break into the investment banking world or are you trying to learn more about the different divisions in the finance world? Set goals for yourself, such as acquiring at least three contacts in the related field that you are interested in.

Are you starting a business in fashion and want to expand your network, say in the handcraft community in Boston area? In this case, you might want to get pointed to resources that allow you to find out more about these communities.


3. Do your research prior to the networking event

Say you’re a finance major and desire a career in equity research. Find out the list of attendees at the event and do some research about their expertise and prior experiences. A bit of preparation work will prepare you to maximize the resources.  Use this information you know about them to start a deeper and more engaging conversation.

If you are more of an introvert and tend to be scared away by the crowd around the employer you try to network with, send an email to that person prior to the event. In the email, you could warmly welcome the person to this event and ask for an opportunity to talk to them during the break in between panels/ discussion/ conference.

On that note, quality is more important than quantity. It is always much more valuable to network with a few people and have strong connections than attempting to talk to everyone in the room.

Several resources such as LinkedIn and Handshake are great ways to obtain information about the people you want to network with.


4. Follow up and send a thank you note

These people are busy and don’t have to take time out of their lives to be there; it’s important to appreciate their presence and engagement. When you send a follow-up note, this is a great way to start. Depending on your purpose to this networking event, draft your email accordingly.

For students at career-building events, you might want to start building a stronger connection and learning more by asking for informational interviews. You could do that by requesting a coffee chat or a phone call. Always keep in mind that by giving him/her options to choose from, it provides flexibility and increases the chance that they get back to you.

Be specific in terms of what you want to learn from the people you networked with. Be personal, casual but professional. Also, it is best to send out messages that are concise, specific, and relatable. Do your research about the person that you want to reach out to. Do you have commonalities with that person? LinkedIn is a great place to start your research.

Outside of networking events, if you’re reaching out to these people, your best bet would be starting with  “Warm emails.” Instead of cold emailing people that fall outside of your network and not hearing from them at all, try to leverage your existing network, for instance, an alumni or someone you have some sort of mutual connection with.

In summary, be prepared, do your research, and network like how you’d meet new friends, but in a more professional way!