How to succeed at networking in financial services

networking in financial services

This is the fourth part in a series on how to get a job in sales, trading and finance. Read part 1, what is sales and trading, here, and part 2, what working in sales and trading is really like, here and part 3 on how to get an internship in financial services here.

With financial services being an industry that hinges on successful relationships, having perfect grades are not always going to guarantee you success. First impressions are critical and your personal presentation is something employers definitely consider. If you get the job, you will be representing your firm to existing and prospective clients as part of your career – so they need to know that you present well. Here are some presentation tips to take note of when heading to networking events. They are also applicable when attending interviews and cocktail functions that are part of the interview process.

Dress

Banks may invite you to attend networking events and cocktail functions at their offices, or you may attend networking events on your university campus.

When attending an event at the bank itself, HR generally advises strict business attire, and you should adhere to this. I recommend wearing something highly professional and plain, either a black pencil skirt or black suit pants with a white or plain coloured business shirt, complete with a black blazer, stockings or pantyhose, and plain coloured shoes with a modest heel height.

Do not feel pressured to spend a fortune on business attire. Many factory outlets offer durable and high quality garments at great prices. If you are coming from university, I recommend having your laptop and other study materials in a plain tote bag for the cloakroom.

If HR advises you to dress casually, I recommend following their advice, as this may be a reflection of the particular organisation’s culture (or it might be casual Friday!) I recommend wearing casual clothes that still present you in a professional light. That means skipping the Havaianas and denim cut-offs and opting for something like jeans (non-ripped) or a skirt (knee-length) with a t-shirt (slogan-free) that covers your shoulders.

On-campus networking and presentations are assumed to be casual dress code unless stated otherwise. There is no expectation to dress in business attire, as you are likely attending classes on the day, although you can dress in business attire if you wish to (I always did).

Body Language and Conversation

Always employ open body language, maintain eye contact and smile. Never underestimate the power of these simple behaviours. Always have one hand available to shake hands, with the other hand available to hold a drink or finger food with a napkin.

Keep the content of conversations and questions professional and career-related. If someone wishes to join the circle, briefly turn your head, smile and make space for them to join. Ensure you never speak over other people, whether it be a representative of the firm or another student. Always encourage equity in who asks questions and speaks.

You may feel nervous, but try not to let nerves get the better of you. Remember, the more networking events you attend and actively participate in, the more comfortable you will begin to feel.

Business Card Etiquette

If you have spoken with someone at a networking event and you ask them for a business card, or if they offer one to you, ensure you smile and look them in the eye and thank them. Never fold the business card and make sure you follow up with them via email within 3 business days to thank them for their insights. If you intend on applying at the bank and have any questions, you could always ask them if they are available for coffee for you to ask your questions.

I also recommend having your own business cards stating your contact details, LinkedIn details and your status as a student of a given degree. There are plenty of business card templates on Microsoft Office and the like for you to use.  You can have them printed at an affordable price at Officeworks. This makes it much easier for people you meet at networking events to easily reach out to you in the future.

Leaving a favourable and long-lasting impression on personnel at potential employer firms can thoroughly assist you in getting an interview and potentially being successful in the multi-stage interview process.

Deadlines also typically fall in late July for the upcoming summer. I highly recommend submitting your application well before this deadline.

So what’s next? After the application deadline, HR phones you to come in for an interview. Congratulations! Click here to read our interview tips.

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