Written by Omar Taheri
I have been meaning to share my networking journey for a while as I realised early on the benefits of being an active networker.
I was never a natural networker and suffered social anxiety for a long time, to an extent I would avoid my colleagues as I would get very nervous to communicate with them. My first job as a trainee broker was also very daunting as I was scared to pick up the phone and found it difficult to hold a conversation. The two senior brokers told me that I wasn’t suited yet for the job but had the potential but I would need training from a big organization to improve my sales skills.
I went back to the drawing board and got a job at a bank. I realised at a bank I had huge disposal of thousands of people that I could meet. I took up a role in operations (this role didn’t involve much communication with people), but I realised this wasn’t for me so I started to utilise my lunch times very efficiently by meeting people from the front office of the bank and trying to understand what makes them tick, what makes them people persons and how could I get there eventually. I networked to such an extent that I managed to get time with the banks CIO and senior staff. My manager had found out I was doing such networking and she wasn’t very happy as she thought that I was bothering the senior staff. I found that rather surprising as I was trying to get an overview of how each engine in the bank operated. With her not supporting my networking I realised it was time for me to leave.
Quickly I realised that my network could become my networth and I put together a strategic plan on what I wanted to do in the next couple of years and how I would get there. I really wanted to get involved in the Hedge Fund industry. At that time I was a young 23 year old and I though the Hedge Fund industry is where the money makers are. How would I ever get there ? I don’t have a Ivy league degree. I don’t have the credentials of working on the front office. I also didn’t have a rich dad who could open doors for me. Then I realised it was time to differentiate myself.
At 25 years old I set up “The Fundies”. The Fundies is a networking event for the buyside to come together and mingle with one another. I had my first event at a very simple bar. We had 14 people turn up which I thought was reasonable.
I didn’t mind even the non buyside guys coming along initially as you never know what opportunity could open up. I never understand why people don’t want to come to a nice networking gathering. As one small conversation and a hello can completely change your life. This happened to me at my third Fundies where I had met a gentlemen who liked my idea and then two weeks later had hired me for my first gig at a hedge fund. How did this happen so quickly ? It was all due to networking and me building my own brand. Having your own brand is key. Too many people expect things to happen and have the idea of millions of dollars falling into their laps. You have to be proactive and create your own brand that people will remember you by. I don’t want to be someone who is lost in the rat race, I want to be someone who adds value.
For anyone who is new to networking and is unsure of how to approach it just feel free to reach out to the person you want to be. If you want to be a prop trader at Goldman, try to mix yourself with ex- Alumni, current traders and people from within the organization. Once you are able to mould yourself in a specific manner you will get your dream job.
I remember when I started networking I realised that there was a domino effect to networking. I had met a person for coffee and then at the end of the meeting I wanted them to introduce me to another person. I never went to these meetings asking or expecting anything. I focused on building a long term relationship rather than just ask for something in the short term and this is the mistake a lot of people make.
I will always remember an event in my life that will never skip my mind and made me realize how short term natured some people are. I had met a gentlemen (just out of politeness I shall call him that), at a hedge fund conference. I had sat next to him during lunch and told him what I did for work (this is when I was selling HF research), he told me bluntly to go sit somewhere else as he wanted to meet investors. Two years later I bumped into this gentlemen again and he reached out to me introducing himself not remembering what he had said (this time I was working at a HF), I reminded him what he said to me a couple of years ago. This man was a horrible networker and relationship manager as he was just focused on the short term, but his short term actions may have long term consequences as I will always remember his actions and he never gets an invite to my events.
I want to tell all you networkers out there to keep business cards religiously, makes notes about the people you meet and keep track of this in excel. This way you will always have a personal touch when you meet them next, by remembering small facts. Being a relationship manager is not that hard, but being a very good relationship manager is not easy, you have to put in the time and be different.
My tips for networking :
- Have a goal in your mind on networking ( I made sure I met 10 new people in a month and I am diligent about making notes about these people even if you think there is no immediate opportunity)
- Be Genuine- don’t just go networking with the intent to get something, people can read through this very easily and you will find that at one point people will avoid you.
- Build your own brand- make people want to approach you. Try be a useful resource. The moment you are the centre of a network your network will amplify x10.
- Don’t overcomplicate-try explain what you do in a simple manner. People don’t want to be bored by an overcomplicated explanation at a networking event. Keep it simple for the networking and if people are interested they can ask for a meeting.
Always remember your network is your net-worth.
Always be happy to help people and the goodwill will be returned.
My networking events no have turned into events where we have 150 people attend and have thousands of dollars in sponsorship to facilitate a hub for people to explore their business ambitions while feeling no pressure.