London Investor

Investment Banking
Jan 8, 2016
Are you a female who's trying to make it in the male-dominated finance industry?

I know, it's a battle field. It's especially harder for younger women.

A lot of the time women are focused on doing a really good job. Yes, it's very important to be good at what you're doing. However, you also need to make sure that people know how awesome you are.

This is where the gap begins - women don't network enough.

Networking is the tool to both get you into finance, and help you climb the career ladder. And it's not cheating. How do you think these guys are doing it? There's nothing wrong with using your contacts and connections.

So get yourself out there. Break into the boys' club.

If you need help getting started, here're some tips to help women like you network your way into finance without the need to arm yourself (or getting hit on!).

1. Make initial outreach

Write down a list of people who could introduce you to analysts and associates. Start sending emails to them. Keep it clear and concise. Even ask for a phone call, or a 15-minute meeting.

What starts as a phone call or meeting can lead to some amazing opportunities. Your networking goal shouldn't be all about business. It should be about building long-lasting relationships.

2. Don't wear anything bad

So the day of the meeting has arrived and you’re wondering what to wear.

Let me reiterate - don’t wear anything bad.

This doesn't mean you need to revamp your wardrobe, buy some new fancy clothes or learn about fashion. It simple means stay professional. Always.

You want to look presentable and put-together. Stylish is good, but definitely not sloppy or sultry. If you're in doubt, stick with a more conservative option.

3. Mind the time and location

Meeting at a coffee shop before or after work is OK. Investment bankers are notoriously known to be busy. But if possible, try to schedule a meeting at their office during the workday.
Avoid meeting bankers, especially male bankers for the first time on a weekend. Remember, you want to stay professional, and weekend doesn't equal professionalism. Use your precious weekends to meet people with whom you've already established a relationship.

4. Always keep the conversation focused on them

Show them that you've done your homework. Don't overthink this. Just do enough research to properly frame your questions.

Treat your contacts with respect. Appreciate their time and consideration. Tell them you'd like to learn about their companies, their professions and career paths. Show your enthusiasm and passion for the industry.

Next, if allowed, ask them for feedback on your resume, skills and experience.

As your conversation is drawing to a close, ask them if it's OK to follow up with any additional questions you have, and suggest meeting in the future. Do not ask for a job!

5. It's a non-alcoholic meeting

Ever heard people suggesting going to bankers bar for networking? Well, please think twice.

As a woman, you're probably aware of the fact that networking over alcohol with someone, particularly your opposite sex would send seriously mixed signals. It violates the utmost rule of professionalism.

6. Follow up only if you actually have something to say

Don't feel pressured to stay in touch with everyone all the time, especially if you found that someone wasn't helpful, or if you have better contacts. Quality triumphs quantity. You only need that one person.

Touch base with your contact, requests for referral, ask for advice about job opportunities, or news of some upcoming events mentioned during the meeting.

7. Finally, ask for what you want

Once you've had your initial conversation and followed-up at least a few times, you can start making your 'real ask'.

Be aggressive, but appropriate with your networking. Have a sense of urgency. If you've made a good first impression and they like you, they'll be more inclined to help you.

However, if they can’t offer you what you want, don’t dwell on it. Move on and focus on building relationships with people who are most helpful.
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