Careers advice: How to network to support your job search

29 April 2021

WBS Careers Coach, Peter Burnham, who oversees careers support on the Global Central Banking & Financial Regulation programme, discusses how to go about networking in order to secure the role you want.

Networking during your job search – How to Get Started

The primary goals of networking are to build and share knowledge whilst developing long-lasting connections. It is an opportunity to speak with like-minded people who are interested in the same topics that you are.  
Who should I speak with?

Speak with people who have the job title you want and preferably work in the kind of company that you want to work in. For your first few meetings, target people who broadly meet your criteria, but are not your 'ideal contact'. You want to have a couple of meetings to practice your approach first without endangering your chances of securing a job with your preferred employers. 

Searching for people with shared characteristics and connections can increase the likelihood they will respond. Warwick Business School (WBS) alumni are a good group to begin with as it already gives you an immediate shared characteristic as a discussion point. Other shared characteristics to consider include people who have worked in the same place as you, same company as you, studied the same subject as you, played the same sport as you, etc. 

This demonstrates stronger rationale for you wanting to speak with them and hear their experiences specifically – e.g. in how they translated their WBS experience into a job offer, or their change from working in one country (you have also worked in) to another (you are interested in), or one job role to another. In other words, it makes your approach more personal and considered, making it more likely that they will respond to you in turn. 

How do I find these people?

Searching for WBS alumni on LinkedIn is a good place to start because it is a live database in which you can search by company, location of work, and any keyword searches such as job titles: https://www.linkedin.com/school/warwick-business-school/people/ 

To begin with, you will want to gather a list of around 10 people with who you would like to have a meeting. The probability of any single person responding to you is approximately 10 - 20% (based on you contacting relevant people, with a strong reason for contacting them, sending them a good message, as well as organised follow-up). 

How do I reach out to them?

Use two or three different channels to contact people. For example:

Email
Email them and if you do not receive a reply then follow-up with them seven days after your initial message to politely remind them. If you have access to Bloomberg terminals,  as do many people who work in finance, you can usually find their email address through this. Alternatively, most companies have a straightforward formula for their email addresses – e.g. firstname.surname@company.com so try this. Failing this, you can usually find the formula for the company’s email address on their website. 

LinkedIn 
Sending them a message via LinkedIn is another option – you’ll need to connect with them first, however, generally LinkedIn isn’t designed to cold contact people in this way (unless you pay for LinkedIn Premium).

Phone
Email inboxes are very busy places and it is a challenge to get your message the attention it deserves from a busy executive. Phoning them will increase your chances of getting their attention. 

  • Phone the organisation switchboard, ask for the contact by name, you are following up on an email if switchboard asks the reason. 
  • Phone them before 08:30am. This will mean their PA isn’t in the office yet and you have more chance of going directly through to your target contact (this tip is credited to Paul McCormick a finance career coach from OpeningCityDoors (https://openingcitydoors.co.uk/) who works closely with WBS.
  • Be ready to leave a voicemail or speak with a PA. Always be polite and friendly to reception/admin staff as they are the gatekeepers.  
What do I write in my email?

When inviting someone to meet with you, keep the message as short as possible, with enough key points to attract their attention. 

  • Summarise yourself in a sentence, giving a couple of your key most relevant or transferable experiences. Not in a way of selling yourself to be hired, but to put yourself in context. 
  • Reference two or three topics you want to discuss with them. Broadly covering questions/discussion around their role, background, company/team, industry and commercial awareness are all good. Use at least one point which is personal to them – for example, they might have worked in two companies you are interested in and you would like to hear how their experiences at these companies compare and contrast. Having a personal touch to your message is important. 
  • Bring something to the discussion. You don’t want the meeting to be like you interviewing them the whole time. Show your proactivity by referencing a topic of discussion you have been reading/researching or have experience of (anything from industry trends to investment ideas, depending on who you are speaking with). Your assignments and dissertation topics from WBS modules are great examples of things you could talk about. This is a good way to practice talking about key themes in the industry. By incorporating the various insights from different discussions into your own opinion, you will begin to sound like someone who works in the industry and increase your chances of being hired. 
  • State two or three dates/times that you are available, keeping these as broad as you can. For example, “…if you could find 30 minutes in your diary to share your thoughts and experiences around these points with me I would really appreciate it. Would you be free anytime on Wednesday morning or Thursday afternoon next week?”
Final words of advice in getting started networking

Keep organised with an Excel spreadsheet to track all the people that you send messages to and speak with, keeping careful notes of what was discussed. Always remember to follow-up on your first message if you do not receive a response. Polite persistence will demonstrate your organisation and genuine interest. Good luck! 
 

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