Networking for a Job

Many of the emails I receive are from students or professionals lacking the network required to get the job they desire. Unfortunately there is no easy work around, you have to find ways to network and get noticed. The best example I have is that of a good friend of mine that went through this process. He attended a top-tier university, but did not get lucky with career services or the job selection process right out of college. It’s not to say that he had no luck, he ended up with a job at an investment banking boutique, but it was not what he had hoped for.

His goal was to work for a hedge fund, and to make the transition he developed the following strategy: He used access to data resources available at the bank to identify hedge funds across the US that matched his criteria (primarily scale related). He would then identify all of the team members, and research their backgrounds. Any team member that attended his university received a one page typed letter with his signature, and he would follow up with a letter to the senior partner as well. Each letter detailed his eagerness to work hard and details on his strengths / what he could contribute (nothing about investment ideas). He emphasized that long letters did not work: “You have to get their attention in the first couple sentences.” That was how he got the interviews.

He ended up landing a job with a very successful hedge fund. So successful, in fact, that after several years the founders decided to unwind the fund and manage their own capital. At that time my friend left to launch a hedge fund, and today has a very successful business of his own.

The process I went through to secure my first job was not much different. I wanted to find a way to work in South America after an internship between my junior and senior years of college exposed me to an investment process in Argentina. I returned to college and started reaching out to people that might have connections in Latin America. I spent the next six months following up on leads and developing relationships over the phone and via email. It was not a straight path to identifying an opportunity in financial services. My first phone interview was with a Coca Cola bottler, and one of my final interviews was with the CFO of a large lumber exporter in Chile. To land the job with JP Morgan I actually interviewed in three cities. My first interview was in Dallas, TX, then New York City, and the final interview was in Santiago, Chile. By the time I flew down to Chile for my final round interviews (I had set up three), one of the interviewers started the meeting by exclaiming “so you’re the Peter Lynch that has been emailing me for three months!” At the very least, I had managed to convince them I was serious about moving for the job before we got started.

When I am reaching out to someone with a cold email, I like to remind myself that what may be the most important email I write that day is likely the least important email to land in the addressee’s inbox. Without a credible source, it doesn’t matter how valuable the information is. If you don’t have a warm introduction, or a common bond, you have to be persistent and follow up. There are too many qualified individuals for the top tier of jobs available. Standing out requires persistence and some luck.