*The law firms’ names have been omitted for political reasons*
I can confidently say that at least 90% of the opportunities that I have been given, were the outcome of a connection that I made. However, this was not always the case. Before finding out about the benefits of networking, I was completely clueless about how to enter my chosen career field. I mean, I would get a rejections every day. So I quickly realised that applications were not always my strong point and I had to somehow show that I had MORE.
In addition, as a black female, state school educated, part of the first generation in my family to go to University and so on, I was essentially at a disadvantage in the job market and I pretty much nearly ticked every minority box.
I therefore wish someone would have told me earlier that whilst there is no magic potion for getting a job, there are back doors and secret alleyways that only a few make use of. Don’t get me wrong, getting your foot in the door is HARD WORK, but most importantly it’s SMART WORK. I am therefore writing this post to hopefully inspire you to invest more time into building your social capital and to tell you about the smartest decision I ever made: learning how to network.
CHINESE WHISPERS – BLOOMBERG
I remember when I had somehow how fumbled my way unto a summer bootcamp at Bloomberg. I was 19, a politics and international relations undergrad working at a finance and technology company with no knowledge of what a business was, let alone a bank. So I figured out early on that I had to somehow make my mark in order to gain the golden ticket: the summer internship. I spent the whole two weeks of the scheme talking to as many people as I could and before I knew it, someone that I had spoken to had related my name to graduate recruitment. That greatly increased my likelihood of passing the interview stage. Yes, I had to fill in an application, but it was the extra mile that I went to, that really impressed the recruitment team. You could literally do the same thing by attending an open day or by taking part in an online webinar. Making a good impression outside of the standard application process will make them remember you. This for me, was the first time that I realised that by getting myself out there, I could make a good impression in advance, make up for some of my weaknesses and learn from the people that I wanted to hire me. So yes, I got the summer internship in the end and the graduate scheme offer!
USING MY LEVERAGE – GOLDMAN SACHS
I had connected with a recruiter and a banker at an open day with every intention to secure a place on the Investment Banking Division Summer Internship. I tried my best to stay in contact with them through awkward emails and occasional seasonal greetings. So once I had obtained my summer internship offer from Bloomberg, I did all that I could to use those connections. I emailed the recruiter to let her know that I had an exploding offer and that if I was not called for an interview I would have to withdraw my application. I also dropped the banker’s name on my application like it was hot.
I consequently received an invitation for an interview on the same day!
In the end, I didn’t get the internship because I totally messed up the final interview, but I am pretty sure that I would have never been called in for an interview in the first place if I had not previously connected with the recruiter, the employee and had used my leverage. My point is this: we all have something that we can use to improve our profile, whether it is a previous experience or a second language. But firstly, we need to find it and secondly communicate it and the best way to do that is through networking.
IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU WON’T GET- LAW FIRMS
After doing work experience at Bloomberg, I settled on pursuing a career in law. The reasons why are beyond the scope of this post, but I will make sure that I write a specific post on law in the future!
So here I am looking to train as a solicitor and in search of a vacation scheme. I had my eye on a few firms that I was interested in, but at the time I did not feel confident that I could write a successfully application and usually in law, you can only apply once a year. So I ended up delaying and missing the deadline for a magic circle law firm. However, I had previously attended a random career event where one of the recruiters was a speaker. I had kept in contact with her, so when I realised that I literally had no options left, I sent her an email. She consequently allowed me to apply 6 months after the deadline had passed for non-law students, which after passing the assessment centre, led to my training contract offer. I have to drop a Hallelujah here because the way it happened was honestly out of this world. But if I had never asked, the possibility would not have even been there in the first place.
I had a similar experience with the US law firm where I ended up accepting a training contract offer. I was at the interview stage and remained completely speechless at one of the questions and I looked BAD. The minute I got home I found the details of the interviewers and emailed them the answer (with many apologies of course). This was a big risk to take, but honestly and once again it paid off.
So don’t just make connections, actually use them and who knows your next job offer or venture might just be a connection away.
These are just some of the experiences that I have had with networking so far and I hope that they have showed how much networking can really benefit you. Not only with job applications, but really with anything that you are trying to progress on.
Next week I will be writing about my top tips for networking!