The words “what the f*ck do I do?” ringing in my head at every single info-session I attended in my second year of university.
Contrary to popular belief, an info-session is not just to learn about a company. Some may think it presents a great opportunity to build important connections. The truth is, those are the bare minimum of what you can attain from attending one of these.
The true goal we should aim for when attending an info-session is to GET A JOB. If you ask me, attending info-sessions with any other intention is not worth your time. Of course, if free merchandise is always worth your time, then, by all means, go ahead.
Here is an overview of my five-step process to help you convert an info-session into a possible job opportunity.
- Pick up a few tidbits of information;
- Remember names;
- Gather company information;
- Create a strong connection;
A 5 Step Process on How to Network
1) Picking Up Tidbits of Information
Most info-sessions begin with a presentation by the firm. This occurs within the first hour of the event. As much as you may find this presentation boring, you must pay attention.
Use this opportunity to listen and pick up on, key information from the presentation.
Remembering a simple fact that was shared about the company will help boost your ability to ask relevant and high-level questions later. This demonstrates that you were paying attention and are truly interested in the type of work they do.
For instance, the firm shared, “In the prior year, our growth in our M&A advisory practice has grown by 4-5%”. You can then bring up in networking conversations: “*insert name* mentioned in the presentation that growth in the M&A advisory line of business has increased by 4-5% last year. Could you elaborate more on this? I am interested in what caused such an increase in m&a activity this year, and what are your thoughts on it?”.
Even the most minuscule of details can go a long way as a thought-provoking ice-breaker during conversation will pique interest from the firm’s key people.
2) Remembering Names of Key People
There is always going to be a portion of the presentation dedicated to introductions. It would be best if you remembered names for each person at the firm, or at the very least, the names of the people on the team you wish to speak to.
“A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”
Quoted to Dale Carnegie, there are many benefits to remembering names. It is essential in forming and strengthening relationships with individuals you wish to work with.
On top of that, it establishes rapport with them from very early on. Making one feel good and important by merely remembering their name is subtle yet effective.
It also leaves a good impression of you on them, whether they realize it or not. On a side note, be careful not to overuse their name in conversation.
3) Gathering Company Information
This step builds on remembering people’s names. Beyond that, you should try your best to find out each of the employers’ positions and titles. Conjure a simple framework in your head on the firm’s various business lines, know who is in charge, and who is on which team.
For example, one of the Big 4 accounting firms (PwC) is hosting an info session at your university, and the various business lines that attended are:
- Mergers and acquisitions advisory
- IT advisory
- Change management
You really do not want to be that person who accidentally starts a conversation with someone in audit when you were really looking to get into M&A. You are then socially compelled to pretend to be interested for the next 20 minutes as they talk about new accounting guidelines as you spend the whole time awkwardly trying to end the conversation. For some reason, this happens way too often, and it has to stop.
During the networking portion, you have an hour or two to chat with employers. You may think this is more than enough time, but when the firm brings only 5 employees (which is standard), and perhaps 30-40 students are attending; it can turn into quite the shit-show.
Hence, time management is essential. Knowing the firm’s landscape right off the bat will help save you the precious time you cannot afford to lose.
4) Creating Strong Connections
From my experience, I like starting the networking segment by speaking to interns/analysts. I find analysts are the easiest to talk to as they were most likely in your shoes not too long ago. Most people tend to gather and wait to chat with high-level officials of the company initially; hence, analysts tend not to attract heavy crowds. Ask some important insights into the company and who they would recommend you to speak to based on the kinds of opportunities you are seeking. Always thank the analyst you spoke to for their time and politely request to grab their card if they have one.
When you get a chance to talk to the directors or partners, it is essential to remain professional and do your best to understand them. Some like it when you get to the point and be transparent with your intentions. Others like the whole dance of people asking high-level questions relating to the industry.
Try your best to gauge what they prefer and give it to them. The conversation you had with the analyst previously can help you here. You can say, “I had a chance to talk to *insert name* about *insert* opportunities with the *insert* team, and he recommended me to speak with you, so I was wondering if you had any advice for me.”
Now that you’ve gotten a chance to meet the team, you should also reach out to HR or the recruiter to introduce yourself.
Some ass-kissing may be necessary here.
Compliment the team and express your admiration for how well they have organized the info-session. Your positivity and kindness will inevitably make them feel comfortable.
If you are lucky, they will ask for a résumé. If they did not, you still managed to increase your chances of remembering your name and face when you send in your online application.
Lastly, you should connect with them on LinkedIn as well.
5) FOLLOW UP
This is an essential step. This is what will probably separate you from the masses.
You need to send out a thank-you note to each person you spoke to and use that opportunity to ask them out for a coffee-chat. If someone has indicated to you during the info-session that they are impressed by you (for whatever reason), definitely reach out to ask them for the “next steps.” Please seek advice from them on where you can go from here to get connected and eventually get a job.