The first and I believe the most important secret of networking is to remember that networking is just making friends, an important lesson that I learned not too long ago. I learned this lesson right when I got to Georgetown.
When I first got to Georgetown I didn’t have a clear plan on what exactly I wanted to do yet (as you probably already know from reading previous blog posts). My approach was to just go for everything since I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet, and everything meant including banking. For those of you that might not know, recruiting for banking starts very early. Being that Georgetown is a pretty prestigious university a lot of companies and banks come directly to campus to recruit. They would have these recruiting events that were open to all students. The first recruiting event for the year was during the very first week of school and it was for Bank of Merrill Lynch. I know you all already know the story that I came from community college so I had absolutely no what to expect. I decided that I would go because most of the other students in my classes were going. I showed up in a button down shirt tucked into a pair of slacks and a pair of dress shoes, if any of you know what these events are like you would know that I was way underdressed. When I walked in and saw just a wave of people in navy and black suits my initial thought was maybe I should leave. After careful consideration, I realized that I should at least see what the event entailed since I was already there. It started with a short presentation, then all of the bankers scattered across the room based on what teams and groups they worked with. It was our jobs as students to go up to them and make conversation, this was even more nerve-wracking for me at first, simply because I had no real idea about their jobs or what they did, so what was I supposed to talk to them about? Making conversation was always easy for me but for some reason, I looked at this like it was different. I decided to watch for a bit before jumping into my own conversation, my thought process here was that maybe I could pick up some technical language that would help me. I watched on as this one kid excelled through the process, and the most interesting part was that he didn’t talk about anything banking besides showing his basic interest. He mostly looked for common interest. Then it hit me, he treated them like normal people, yes they were bankers and he wanted a job but in order to get them to like him for more conversation later, he tried befriending them. That was something that I always felt like I was good at, I knew I could definitely make new friends, so that’s what I did and before I knew it I was grabbing emails and business cards from analysts, associates, VPs, and even managing directors.
Always remember this lesson when approaching networking and there is no doubt in my mind that you will be successful.
One more very important secret about networking that I want to share is to make friends before you need them.
The best networker that I know is one of my mentors, Jimmy, he literally knows and is friends with everyone. When I first met him, before he was my mentor, I marveled at how many cool people that he knew. I thought to myself that I want to be like that, I want to be friends with some of the coolest people in the world, but how does he do it. I later got closer to him and he agreed to be my mentor and I still didn’t figure out until I told him about a startup that I was working on. After I did that he introduced me to anyone that he thought would help me along the way, and that was it right there. His ability to help anyone and everyone before they had anything to offer him in return. He did this expecting nothing back and that’s what made everyone love him.
Always keep that in mind as well and you’ll be a master networker, or should I say friend maker in no time.
Also, a great book to read on networking that I really enjoyed was “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi.