When entering the financial services field, it becomes apparent rather quickly that strong network connections can help entry-level professionals advance their career. However, it’s not always clear how one should go about building their network. “Not all job opportunities are found online,” says Jesse Blumenau, a Senior Associate within The Execu|Search Group’s Financial Services division. “In many cases, knowing the right person can help you get your foot in the door, and you may learn about openings that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.”
When considering how you should go about building a strong network, Jesse explains that it often comes down to operating outside of your comfort zone. “You simply can’t create valuable network connections by staying in your lane,” he says. “Whether it’s reaching out to someone you don’t know on LinkedIn or attending a virtual or in-person networking event, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Practicing this not only helps you make more valuable connections, but it also helps you gain more confidence that can help you in the hiring process.
In order to step outside of your comfort zone and build a strong network, consider the following tips:
Attend networking events
Networking events, whether in-person or online, offer amazing opportunities for professional growth—not just because you can meet someone who could assist you in a job search. At any networking event, you have the opportunity to improve your communication skills, including conversing with someone you don’t know. “Professionals who attend more networking events often have more confidence when they interview,” explains Jesse. “Additionally, they’ve been able to practice their elevator pitch numerous times at events, so they are often great at selling themselves as the best candidate for the job.”
Build interpersonal relationships
More than just connecting and exchanging information, networking is always about quality over quantity. “Networking isn’t just about asking for favors—professional relationships should work like any other friendship,” says Jesse. “It takes time to build trust and respect.”
As a result, when you think about how you can nurture a relationship, consider how you may be able to help someone else before you think about how someone might be able to help you. “Take the time to ask thoughtful questions so you can get to know this person better,” says Jesse. “This will allow you to find new ways to offer assistance to them.
Put a face to your name
While many applications are online, you can still differentiate yourself from the crowd of resumes. “If you can’t seem to get anywhere from submitting online applications, try to reach out to someone at the organization another way,” explains Jesse. “You could find the hiring manager on LinkedIn, or you could even go straight to the CEO with your compelling pitch—it just might work.”
No matter your method, putting a face to your name will personalize your application and make you more memorable. This undoubtedly gives you a competitive edge over other candidates.