My advice to students is to reach out and network with peers and alumni. In my opinion, people really like helping and talking about what they do. If someone is busy, they will tell you that right now isn’t a good time. The job of the “asker” is to be humble and receptive to whatever the asked person is able to give. One of the objections that I get from friends is that it is uncomfortable to reach out to someone that you might not know well and what if they say no? My belief is that everyone has gotten to their career point through someone else helping along the way.
I developed my perspective on the importance of networking started my sophomore year at Hamilton. I entered Hamilton knowing I wanted to go into finance but had no concept of how broad the field of finance is and how many different jobs it entails. During a dorm room presentation, Kino Ruth from the career center commented that we were already behind on our job search. Myself, like many of my peers figured we had plenty of time to figure out what we wanted to do in life and internships were something to worry about in May of our junior year. This 30-minute presentation opened my eyes to the importance of informational interviews and networking to the advancement of your career growth. I spent most of my sophomore and junior year taking Amtrak down to NYC to perform informational interviews with Hamilton alumni in the banking industry. Through these interviews, I learned the difference between being a trader, a sell-side research analyst, an investment banker, and private wealth manager. My eyes were opened to the large difference in daily tasks for professions, where prior I had grouped them all under “finance” category. I am grateful for how open the Hamilton alumni community was in giving me their time and wealth of knowledge as I started my career. What I wish I had done better was an evaluation on the required skill sets for the profession to my strengths and interests. I got so starry eyed with my perceived importance of investment bankers that I didn’t analyze whether the job description was somewhere I would thrive. As fate had it, I ended up in the final rounds at 4 investment banks but no job.
I found myself in January of my senior year with no job offer and no idea where to go. I started leaning on my family’s network to job search. I learned the lesson that a network can open the door for a job interview but you must earn the job yourself. Most often, one’s network can get your resume into the right hands and a closer look than going through the normal channels.
When I look back on my career, the large turning points have come through networking in the most unexpected way. My pivotal career as a research analyst came from sitting outside my condo in Boston asking one of my neighbors if they knew any job openings that would match. It turned out her husband was looking for someone and gave me an interview in his firm. Never would I have thought that Halloween and 4th of July parties would have led to a large career advancement. Another example is six years ago, my firm had a patented investment strategy, pairing a life insurance policy with an annuity to create a synthetic bond, but no investor. Our first client introduction came from two unlikely sources: a board member who sat on a board with our CEO and a friend that our CEO met while going to a University of Washington versus Notre Dame football game. The first person helped get us the introduction to the pension and the second one gave us credibility.
Here are my key recommendations for networking:
- Be professional and courteous to everyone you meet. You never know when that person is going to be the missing link. Your professional reputation is one of the hardest things to build and easiest item to lose.
- Ask for 30-minute informational interviews
- Be respectful of the person’s time: show up on time, offer to buy the coffee/tea, at the end of the 30 minutes acknowledge that you have used up the time and let the other person extend the time.
- Be prepared: have specific goals and questions for the meeting. It is even better if you have shared that with the person you are interviewing so they can come prepared.
- Write a thank you note, email is fine, within 24 hours.
- If they connect you to people in their network, make sure you follow up and loop them back in with the fact the meeting happened and how it went.
Hamilton has a long history of connecting students with alumni and parents whose advice, expertise, and resources help talented young people achieve success for themselves and in their communities.
- Some of my best employees have come from recommendations of people who reached out for informational interviews with me. Networking goes both ways.
- Don’t just network when you are job searching or need something.
- Join boards and professional organizations and get involved.
Amy (Kosmos) Bautista graduated from Hamilton in 2003 with a degree in economics. She currently is President and Chief Investment Officer of Kosmos Management, an investment management firm that oversees a patented insurance synthetic bond strategy for large institutions.