Making Connections & Building Your Network
Regardless of the industry, networking can be the catalyst that brings your resume to the top of the pile. It allows you to make a personal connection with someone who may have the final say on whether or not you are hired. Networking is also the first step in creating your reputation amongst your peers and the business community at large. As a result networking is without a doubt one of the most important skills to learn in order to have a successful career.
Where can I make connections?
Family, Friends, Alumni and Faculty. These are great places to start when it comes to networking. Everybody knows somebody and that introduction might be extremely valuable to you in your job search. You can also leverage social networks like LinkedIn to reach out to individuals you are interested in speaking to. Another great opportunity comes from utilizing and taking advantage of your university's resources. This includes attending networking events, registering for mentorship programs, and any other relevant programs offered by your university.
Making the connection is the hard part. Once you have done this, leveraging your network becomes exponentially easier as one connection can lead to others within their firm or industry. Whenever you meet someone ask for their business card and remember to follow up via email in order to keep the meeting fresh in their mind.
Networking events are extremely useful when making industry connections and gathering information about a company or profession. They also offer firms the opportunity to see how potential candidates behave, communicate and connect with existing employees so it is extremely important that you put your best foot forward.
While networking at organized events it is important that you be as memorable as possible due to the fact that the professional you're speaking with will be speaking to many other students throughout the event. Be creative with your conversation and try to differentiate yourself by talking about things outside of work such as common interests that you may have with the professional. Finding a common interest or a unique conversation topic through LinkedIn or other social networks prior to the event can be a great way to prepare.
At the Event
During the conversation, try not to be shy and ask follow up questions that move the conversation forward. Make sure you are asking thoughtful questions that can’t be answered with a simple internet search. Always be mindful of balancing the appropriate amount of listening and speaking. The industry representative should ideally be speaking the majority of the time however don’t be afraid to speak and make thoughtful points in order to maintain a natural conversation.
When attending a networking event try to stay appropriate and somewhat conservative in your dress. It is important that what you wear is consistent with what those who work in the industry would wear on a daily basis. A unique pocket square for men or a subtle yet unique piece of jewelry for women is a great way to differentiate yourself without being obnoxious or deviating from the dress code.
Be conscious of your body language and use it to your advantage. It conveys as much information if not more than your words. Remember to maintain eye contact with the individual who is speaking and limit fidgeting by holding your hands in front of you. Be courteous in your conversation and give others the chance to speak without cutting them off or interrupting. Phones should always be put away during networking events and on mute.
If provided, the consumption of alcohol is acceptable. However, always be mindful of your consumption and know your limit: one or two drinks throughout an evening is a good baseline. Remember that you are networking to build connections with a potential future employer, drinks and food should not be your first priority.
Always remember to follow up with those with whom you spoke at the event. This will allow the interaction to stay fresh in their mind and potentially lead to opportunities in the future. Keep in mind what you discussed at the event in order to reference these in further discussions.
Informational interviews are one of the most valuable resources available to students and unfortunately they are often underutilized. The large majority of those in the industry are happy to share their story and help in whatever way they can because they have been in your shoes. Make sure you prepare several questions prior to the interview
How do I ask for an informational interview?
Asking someone to take time out of their day with no clear benefit offered to them can be difficult. Whenever you ask, ensure that you accommodate as much as possible and focus on them and their story. Keep requests short, concise and genuine.
During the Informational Interview
The most important thing to remember when meeting a potential connection is that you are there to listen and learn. Focus on absorbing as much as possible and share only what you must. Some important topics to cover in an informational interview include their education, early career and favorite aspects of the industry. If there is time, feel free to ask about hobbies and interests outside of work. Try to ask questions with answers that you can't find online.
Following an informational interview, be sure to take some time to thank them for the time they took out of their day to speak with you via email. This will show that you truly appreciated the conversation and will open the door to future communication.
There are many common myths that students ascribe to with regards to networking. Below are a few examples of these and some clarifications.
“It’s too early to start”
Thousands of students will be applying to the same positions when they graduate. Building relationships through networking events can help get your resume to the top of the pile.
“I’m too shy for networking”
If socializing is not your strong suite, focus on quality over quantity of interactions. Being the most talkative person in the room does not guarantee you success; to the contrary, intelligent conversation with well-articulated questions will get you far.
“Why attend company information events when there is so much information available online”
Leveraging online resources is great, however, information sessions give you the ability to hear testimonies from employees and they offer you the chance to ask any questions you might have to someone directly involved with the company.
“The more business cards I collected the more successful I was at the event.”
Meeting people is just the first step. It is important that you continue to follow up with the professionals you meet and develop the relationship by meeting in person or exchanging emails every few months.
“I will not attend an event because the list of attendees does not include anyone who has followed my intended career path”
Oftentimes, candidate recommendations come from professionals holding a different position inside the firm. The business community and the different industries within are often times very tightly knit. If well executed, networking is never a waste of time as it enlarges your contact repertory and potential career advancement opportunities.
Job Interview Tips
Job interviews are the culmination of the entire networking process. There are an amazing number of resources available to students looking to learn interview skills. Below are some tips from Mackenzie employees and recruiters.
Gianna Di Sabato: Manager, Inside Sales
What is the best way a student can reach out if they are not personally or professionally connected to you?
“The best way to reach me personally would be through LinkedIn. A simple, articulated message can be highly effective. If asked properly, I would absolutely go out for a coffee with a student. When networking I would recommend asking what the best way to follow up would be.”
What is the best skill someone could have during an interview?
“Confidence is extremely important when interviewing. Be confident and proud of what you have achieved and who you are. Being able to communicate well with people from all walks of life is also very important.”
Rob Izsak: Manager, Inside Sales
What is your number one tip for interviewing well?
“Come prepared. By this I mean make sure that you understand the position you are applying for, be prepared to answer questions about yourself, do some research to find out specific details about the company and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask employees about the industry and about the company in question.”
What makes a good question at the end of the interview?
“A good question is one that really engages or challenges the hiring manager. As a potential employee, you need to realize that you’re interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you so don’t be afraid to ask tough questions.”
What makes a candidate standout from the rest?
“I feel that presence, preparedness and confidence can make a candidate stand out from the rest. Make sure that you have done your research on the company; be prepared to answer specific interview questions, and be mentally prepared to enter the interview.”
What are some tips you can share with regards to body language and etiquette in an interview?
“Body language and etiquette are extremely important and can be a red flag if they aren’t executed properly. Sit up, sit forward, keep eye contact and make sure that you do not have a closed body position. A Business professional attitude should be executed appropriately as well. Being cordial goes a long way.
Brittany Grant: Human Resources Associate
How often are candidates interviewed via referral (network)?
“We do get quite a few interviews with candidates who are referred by previous students. We view our previous students as Brand Ambassadors – as they will share their experience with Mackenzie and recommend colleagues or friends to apply with us.”
What are some tips you would give to students in preparation for their interviews?
“I would recommend that they get to know the company well, it’s great when candidates have done their research, and know a lot about us and the role they are applying to. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions – interviewers appreciate it when candidates have taken the time to think of some meaningful questions they can ask. Moreover, all previous skills are transferable, whether that is from school or part-time jobs – don’t be afraid to pitch these.”
Mackenzie Investments is an independent Canadian asset manager with 68 billion in AUM, established 1967. We’re a holistic asset-management partner for thousands of Canadian financial advisors and the millions investors they support across the country. Our commitment to them is to help investors achieve financial success and feel confident about the future.
What do we look for in candidates?
- Relevant University degree
- An entrepreneurial spirit, the desire to drive results, focused and energetic, strong communication skills – both verbal and written
- A passion for capital markets and how they relate to the mutual fund industry
- In progress or successful completion of a financial services industry program course (i.e. CSC, IFIC, CFA, CFP, CIM, etc)
What we offer?
- Great compensation (competitive base and commission) and benefits package (some examples include: Share Purchase Plan, Health and Dental coverage, Education/Career support and a paid Volunteer Day each year)
- Travel to Toronto twice a year for the National Sales Conference as well as sales training (opportunity to network with colleagues across the country)
- Ongoing training to develop market, product and sales skill knowledge
- Opportunity to attend multiple client events throughout the year
- Opportunity to participate in our Wholesaler Development Program (training and development to become a wholesaler)