If you’ve got an internship in banking , then you probably already know that you’re going to have to network. You probably also know that you’ll need to network strategically: Many times interns get placed in groups that they aren’t interested in.
But you also need to be aware how to network. Senior bankers are busy people: They want to help you, but only if you have the right approach.
Don’t waste their time
When it comes to building a network and finding mentors, there isn’t a reason to fret. It can be tough to go out of your way to talk to someone new. Luckily investment bankers like to help each other. The idea that bankers are highly competitive and don’t give a hoot about others only goes so far. To succeed most bankers need to work well with others and probably had to network and build relationships to get where they are.
During the internship, many senior-level bankers enjoying talking to interns because they want to retain the best talent. Interns should never worry that a senior banker will not take well to be being asked to grab lunch or to take a few minutes to talk.
The important thing to remember is that time is valuable. No one likes to have their time wasted, so never reach out to someone and just talk meanderingly. Know what you want to ask and go in with a plan. Approach senior bankers by simply popping into their office and asking to schedule a meeting or shooting them an email. If you are already working on a team with a senior banker, then a good way to build a better relationship is to ask them a question about the pitch, client or subject that you are working on.
For example, if you are on a deal for a new blockchain fintech play, then ask your senior banker if they wouldn’t mind talking you through some of what makes using blockchain tech in financial services valuable compared to the current market structure.
Don’t waste your time
You need to choose who you network with. Not all groups will have jobs, and some groups you might not want to work in anyway. Try to establish where your time will be most valuable.
If you’re in a “generalist” group, you’ll have to network particularly smartly. Most investment banks give generalist offers, and full-time analysts may not know where they have been placed until they are at training. In this situation, you want to maximize your chances of being where you want to be and this comes down to establishing the people you want to work with and who want to work with you, as well as you becoming invaluable to the bank.
Remember: groups want to bring in the best talent, but they also want to bring in the people who are interested in working with them.
Don’t become the “empty networker”
However hard you network, don’t neglect your work ethic in the group you are in. Nothing is more important than letting your work speak for you. Your biggest point of leverage is your talent, followed by how much a group likes you. Networking should be a secondary aspect to doing your job.
Don’t disclose that you’re networking with bankers in other groups
If the desk you’re on or the group you’re with likes you, it’s not going to like it when it finds the feeling’s not reciprocated.
For this reason, you should not make it well known among your group that you would like to move. Sometimes this can be taken as disloyal, or poaching. The best way to navigate this is saying that you are looking to build your network. Never say you want to be in another group nor should you express any dissatisfaction with the group you are in.
And don’t spend too much time networking outside your group
You also don’t need to make it a priority to spend a lot of time networking with another group. Simply meet with a few people from that group 2-3 times during the summer and say hi, and it also doesn’t need to be formal. If you are in the TMT group but are interested in the M&A team chat with some of the analysts about what they are working on at their cubes, and stop in and ask the staffer to talk and express that you want to learn and have an interest.
Once again, I’ll reiterate that your biggest selling point is your work product. If you do excellent work, then you’ll likely get the offer you’re hoping for. If you are someone that the bank wants to do whatever they can to keep, they will sometimes preemptively guarantee another group as a sweetener for you to sign the offer. It all comes down to making yourself invaluable.
Anish Patel is a former investment banking analyst at BMO Capital Markets and corporate development consultant at Madison Wells Media. He created Valuation University, a resource for undergraduates interested in investment banking that provides career-development advice, insights into life at the desk, and financial modeling and valuation guides. Patel is the founder of a sparkling wine cocktail startup, Tinto Amorio.