One of the major ways to differentiate between those who do well in the City and those who don't is the strength of one's university alumni network.
Some networks are very good - hosting regular drinks, which people make time to go to no matter how busy they are. They also foster the idea during one's degree that everyone should make time to help out recent graduates. This can open doors which would otherwise have remained closed.
Others are frankly awful - churning out young people who seem convinced that the key to success is keeping their heads down, working hard and waiting to get recognition for their dedication to the bank's return on equity targets.
My experience suggests that graduates of elite universities such as the French Grandes Ecoles, Oxbridge and the US Ivy League, are far better at participating in alumni networks than graduates of lesser-known institutions. Equally, people who've read arts or social sciences are often more diligent players of the alumni game than scientists.
Graduates of Imperial College (my alma mater) is a good example of this. Its graduates (scientists, engineers) are in high demand in the financial sector because they're numerate & hard working. However they're not naturally outgoing & sociable.
Interestingly, the opposite applies to the French engineering schools (Centrale, Polytechnique etc). From what I've seen, these institutions produce incredibly smart and technical people who don't settle for the middle and back office roles that most Imperial alumni end up in, but go straight for the very analytical front office trading roles. They are also extremely entrepreneurial, with no fear of moving their entire teams to another bank or even spinning out and setting up on their own if the opportunity to make money is good enough.
In contrast, in the UK it is the Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduates from Oxford who seem to have an almost Mafia-like grip over some areas of the City. This includes both of my bosses. And it's not even a rigorous degree.
So, next time someone contacts you hoping to leverage the university connection, take the call. Everybody needs a break from time to time, and offering a short piece of advice won't kill
The author works in the financial sector in London