Six dos and six don’ts of networking on Wall Street

Dec 16, 2016 | eFinancial Careers

Many of the most prestigious, best-paying jobs on Wall Street aren’t posted, making networking absolutely critical. Don’t just pick up the phone and start dialing, though – networking is a bit of an art form. Here are the six dos and six don’ts.

Do: Squeeze every drop out of every meeting

If you spend every networking opportunity asking about getting hired, you are selling yourself short. Look to these people as a sounding board for your search strategy, types and names of firms you are targeting, and new roles and directions you are considering, said Anne Crowley, managing director at Jay Gaines and Company. “Prepare for that conversation beyond asking ‘is your firm hiring?’ You don’t know where these discussions might lead.”

Don’t: Beat around the bush

Mention a mutual connection in the body of a message or in an initial conversation and be as specific as possible with what you are asking for, said Jesse Marrus, founder of Wall Street career search firm StreetID. “People are busy and even if they would like to help, you need to let them know what exactly you want from them.”

Do: Be bold, yet targeted

In today’s world, compared to 10 years ago, networking is even more acceptable than it used to be.

“I don’t care who you are – this gig may not last, and there might be a day I might need to find another job, get advice or something else,” said Jeanne Branthover, a managing partner at DHR International, a recruitment firm. “Networking is so important today because there are very few people who are closed-minded to talking to you and helping you.

“Learn to network correctly, wisely in a targeted, smart way,” she said.

Don’t: Try to go to every industry conference under the sun

There are many conferences, and you can’t go to all of them, so the first thing to ask yourself: Is it a worthwhile conference given the time and expense required to attend?

“You have to research each conference,” Branthover said. “Find out who is going to be there and decide whether it’s somewhere you should be spending my time and money to be at – what is it going to do for me?

“It’s about networking – if the right people aren’t there, why would you want to network with people who are wrong for you?” she said. “Before the conference, you should know who is going to be there, and you want to make sure you’ll meet before you leave there.”

Do: Embrace social media

Social media outlets like allow you to efficiently catch up with colleagues and associates who you’ve lost touch with. “Expand your knowledge and use of these sites and tools,” said Crowley. But…

Don’t: Overestimate their power

Don’t expect someone to help you just because you are connected on LinkedIn – networking is a process of making deposits before you can take credit, said Peter Laughter, chief executive at New York-based Wall Street Services. Tools like LinkedIn can supplement traditional networking, not replace it.

“Endeavor to help them by making connections and providing information,” he said. “That way, when you need something your network will be primed to give back.”

Do: Tap into your alumni network

This is particularly helpful for less experienced professionals who may need a mentor to assist in the networking process, said Marrus. Most alumni love to help their own. Even if you don’t hold much of a connection to your school, others likely do.

Don’t: Be afraid to be old-school

With all the technology available today, candidates often forget that putting in a little extra effort can make a big difference. A hiring manager at Barclays’ investment bank believes that sending a hard copy cover letter via snail mail can be beneficial when networking.

He and his colleagues have mailed signed cover letters to smaller companies – newly launch hedge funds or private equity firms – to stay on their radar, he said. “Do some research, tell them you’re interested in what they’re doing and toss in a business card.”

“Everyone opens snail mail because no one gets it anymore,” says Jane Cranston, a New York-based career coach who works with Wall Street executives.

Do: Show your industry knowledge

Whether connecting online, over the phone or in person, try to drop some industry knowledge to subtly show that, while looking for work, you’re actively engaged in the market. “For example, if the person you met works at private equity firm and you saw the firm made a recent acquisition mention that in your follow up,” said Marrus.

Don’t: Cold call

Unless you know the person intimately, cold calling their office should be avoided. “If that person is not prepared for your phone call, they may shoot you down immediately,” said Roy Cohen, a finance-focused career coach and author of The Wall Street Professionals’ Survival Guide. Give them advanced notice; tell them in your letter or email that you’ll follow up with a phone call at a specific time, he said.

Do: Your homework

Before attending an industry networking meeting, try to contact the organizer of the event, said Marrus. “Give him/her a little background on what you hope to accomplish through the event and they can make some introductions for you.”

Don’t: Embellish your connections

If you are going to name-drop or reference a mutual contact, make sure you are being 100% accurate and do so in a subtle way, said Marrus. If you pretend to be best friends with the CEO of a company, but aren’t really, then you’ll lose all credibility.