While catching a break from Mr Market this period, I managed to put together some miscellaneous thoughts on Networking—these are stuff you have probably read about before, but recompiled and articulated in a different way. It’s like a singer’s compilation album of earlier albums to refresh everybody’s memory. Some of you may be wondering what has happened to my mailers since the success stories from my Equity Research Training Program in Sep last year. I have been swarmed with the flood of deals in Q4 and trying to defend my PnL after the two spectacular months of Sep and Oct; year end PnL was not too bad overall, though it could surely have been better.
I used to be a more regular face at CFA networking events; today I still live by “Continue Learning and Keep On Networking” (http://www.scholarsvillage.com/index.php/newssv/5-words-of-wisdom/25-continue-learning-and-keep-on-networking-21-dec-08 ) and I have clearly moved up the networking maturity curve. When I wrote some of my first few mailers on networking (e.g.http://www.scholarsvillage.com/index.php/newssv/5-words-of-wisdom/22-my-experience-with-networking-events-24-oct-2008 ) after the financial crisis broke out, some senior person shared with me that networking is not about collecting more business cards; it is about “deepening relationships”. His words did not really make much sense to me 2yrs ago, when I was just trying to get to know as many people as possible in the finance industry, but now that I have recently turned 4yrs old and have easily got at least 500 people on my personal mailing list, it makes perfect sense for me to focus on “deepening relationships”– build closer ties with those with a close working relationship with me, e.g. my core team of “student associates”, buy-side friends (whom I call my investment allies), close sell-side friends, and perhaps friends outside the industry. It is no longer as meaningful for me to jostle around at a crowded networking event trying to grab another 10-20 business cards.
As we move up the networking maturity curve, it becomes natural that we spend more time with our closer contacts and it becomes a “success breeds success” scenario. It is deeply satisfying to learn that people now approach us as they know we have a vast network to tap on, and examples include:
(1) Mr J was a former student from my Level 2 mock exam class and after being on my personal mailing list for the past 1yr plus, he has internalized my favourite slogan and thru his own proactive behaviour and self-learning effort, he recently moved from a private banking role to an investment analyst at a private equity firm. When he was leaving his former employer, he happened to learn about a fund management position the private bank was trying to fill and asked me if I was keen to apply or know anybody I could possibly recommend.
(2) A buy-side friend recently approached me to ask if I know of any CFA charterholder of ~5-6yrs experience to help an independent research house take up coverage of US listings of Chinese companies. I did not have anybody in mind then, which is why you saw an email blast from me few weeks ago on that opportunity.
(3) After I circulated that email blast, one very senior person from sell-side wrote to me and informed me of a hedge fund looking to hire a very senior quant fund manager and asked if I know of any suitable candidate(s).
The above is a list of requests from the supply side (i.e. employers), and needless to say, more requests are received from the demand side (i.e. job seekers). I have received countless email requests, share with you all some samples here:
(1) From a student in my Level 2 mock exam class: “I am thoroughly deflated now. I was an above average student from NUS, yet this is my third attempt at level 2 and I failed. I feel it is such a stain in my life. Do you think I should go on? I am working as a dealer in a brokerage, and I think the financial rewards from obtaining the CFA charter are far from certain. Do you have any career advice for me?”
(2) From somebody who attended a career seminar by Scholars Village in Feb 2010: “I am writing to ask you if your investment house offers any internship opportunities to MBA participants. Before I joined INSEAD, I used to work for a Korean asset management company as a Korean equities investment manager specializing in Energy, Petrochemicals, Internet, and Utilities sectors and as a fund manager for Chinese Equities fund.”
(3) An unsolicited email out of the blue: “I found this Equity Research Training Program quite interesting. I myself has currently passed three levels of CFA examinations and just submitted my thesis for my Ph.D in Computational and Systems Biology. Right now I am actively looking for job opportunities that would take someone like me with a bit knowledge of finance but coming from a different study background. I am wondering if you could help with this Training program in SpringBoard or perhaps you could give me some advice on job hunting?”
While I am usually quite open to offering advice to request type (1), I tend to be less receptive to request types (2) and (3). Those of you who know me well should understand perfectly well that I only do referral for people whom I know personally as our credibility is on the line when we make referral for somebody. This is one belief I have lived by all this while and have previously written a lengthy mailer to discuss this at great length: http://www.scholarsvillage.com/index.php/newssv/5-words-of-wisdom/26-why-networking-with-credibility-and-proper-mindset-is-impt-in-finance-industry-24-jan-09 . Request types (2) and (3) are what we would regard as the wrong approach to go about networking, as explained in a head-hunter’s article linked from my old mailer:http://www.scholarsvillage.com/index.php/newssv/5-words-of-wisdom/27-embracing-the-mindset-how-can-i-help-you-12-apr-09
I can now imagine that the longer and more senior a person is in the industry, the more likely they will get swarmed with more of such request types and the more selective they need to be to avoid getting pulled in all directions. It’s pretty much like on the dating scene: an attractive lady is being bombarded with requests from countless guys wanting to buy her gifts and/or have a meal with her. So how does she handle this flood of mails or messages? She will simply filter out those boring guys that can’t catch her attention and focus on a couple of those guys who triggers attraction in her; in a nutshell, it is a time management tool for her! That is why the notion of achieving focus on “deepening relationships” makes perfect sense; all of us don’t have sufficient bandwidth to handle flood of requests, esp when they come from people we hardly know or remember.
Last but not least, just a quick update on my Equity Research Training Program: I am down to the last few key “student associates”, who have also been active in their job-hunt. Pleased to mention that I have recently referred Mr K and Mr X to two different sell-side houses, to be trained as research assistant and sales assistant respectively, should they prove themselves at the current trial stage; both are still holding full time jobs btw. As I become increasingly self-sufficient with greater leverage on sell-side analysts and sales, it is no longer critical for me to continue roping in new “student associates”, unless I see bright and passionate sparks among some young and aspiring students. My Equity Research Training Program has fulfilled its objective in helping to shorten my learning curve and at the same time, help realize some success stories to varying degrees (http://www.scholarsvillage.com/index.php/newssv/5-words-of-wisdom/40-springboard-to-success-part-i andhttp://www.scholarsvillage.com/index.php/newssv/5-words-of-wisdom/42-springboard-to-success-part-ii ).
Chinese New Year is round the corner….may I take this opportunity to wish everybody a prosperous Year of the Rabbit!