Learning how to network effectively is critical for university students seeking internships and summer opportunities. Job search websites today give students access to many options when it comes to deciding where they would like to apply for internships within the finance industry. However, this is a double-edged sword as competition for these coveted finance positions has risen exponentially.
While numerous interview preparation resources and articles can be found online, it is often getting to the interview room (or Zoom meeting) that students find most challenging. Below, we will provide you with some ideas to start developing your network and will explain how you can put yourself in a better position to break into the finance industry.
Competition for Internships
Popular financial services firms receive thousands of applications for internship positions every year. For example, Morgan Stanley’s investment banking division attracted about 8,000 applications for slightly more than 100 spots in 2014 (CNBC.com).
Consequently, large, and middle-sized firms frequently employ ATS software (applicant tracking systems), responsible for filtering applicants’ resumes before a recruiting department begins looking at applications. While students can tailor their resumes using keywords and other methods to boost their chances of being caught by the algorithm, this is by no means a guarantee.
As a result, it is important for students to reach out to companies they are interested in beforehand, both to demonstrate their interest and to make valuable connections with potential co-workers.
Put simply, networking is about forming relationships with others. Though a student may begin with the sole intent of getting an internship or co-op position, it is unproductive to view networking as solely a means to an end. A 2016 study by LinkedIn revealed that over 85% of jobs are filled through personal networks and having a wider network may open many doors in the future.
While students are encouraged to meet people in person, either at information sessions or through organic means. This is not the only way for students to make valuable connections. With that said, there is absolutely a preferred way to go about introducing yourself to those working in the industry so that you appear professional and courteous.
Below are the steps students should take to introduce themselves to industry professionals, starting with using their own personal network.
How Do I Start Networking?
Often the hardest part of networking for university students is getting started, especially when they do not know anyone working in the industry. To start, students should explore their school’s career center and different program offerings, and events run by companies.
There will often be people in these organizations who are well connected with alumni working in a variety of different roles, eager to assist students in their search. Beyond this, students can use LinkedIn to find school alumni working at firms they are interested in pursuing internship opportunities.
How to Inquire about Internships during Covid-19
Probably, one of the most overlooked components of networking as a student is reaching out to prospective firms and their employees. Covid-19 has drastically changed how students meet with firms and professionals in the industry, accelerating the shift from in-person to online. As a result, it is more important than ever that students reach out in a professional manner.
Ensure that your message is concise, making your intentions clear to whoever is reading it. Finance professionals value their time and are unlikely to read lengthy emails with irrelevant information. See this CFI article for more information on how to write professional cold emails for informational interviews.
Writing Cold Emails
Below are the three main points to focus on within your email or message:
Be clear and concise.
Show your interest in the role/firm.
Be written in a professional register.
It should go without saying that emails should be free of any typos or strange formatting that may indicate a lack of attention to detail. Employees at popular banks and financial institutions receive numerous messages from students and have little patience for someone unwilling to proofread their own work. Tools such as Grammarly or ProWritingAid are effective for catching grammatical errors within your work.
Cold Email Checklist for Networking
Below is a checklist student should reference for all the things they should include in a cold email:
All names are spelled correctly.
You have listed relevant personal information (school, major, year)
There are no typos in the email.
The email indicates your goal (video chat, phone call).
There is a specific reference to the firm or role.
Networking is a key skill that you can utilize in university and beyond to develop your career. As a student, reaching out to alumni or any professional working at a particular institution may give you a distinct advantage in the highly competitive recruiting process that students face today when searching for internships.