Last post, we talked about a framework for finding and interacting with game changing people. If that post supplied a gun, then this update offers ammunition. Before we dive in, just a quick, preachy editorial note:
We all knew the kid in high school who was a total jerk to the uncool kids, and never gave them the time of day. However, when the popular kids came around, they were always there to laugh at their jokes, or follow them around like henchmen. That kid eventually grew up to become the spineless social climber in the office – who never says hi to the rank and file, but is always there to greet the Director with a smile. You probably detest that guy or girl, so don’t become them in your hustle. Real relationships are built through shared values and principles. If your held beliefs correlate with success (like curiosity, determination, or creativity do), then by all means, chase these like-minded people all day, whether they are big shots or not. However, don’t save your energy strictly for the Richard Bransons of the world. Part of living with grit is viewing life as rich in opportunities and unturned stones. Make sure that you are meeting people at all stages of the game – as each level contains unique trials and lessons. Be friendly to everyone on the up and up, and avoid those who are destructive or lacking in scruples. A healthy mix up and down the ladder will help you achieve an awesome network. Finally, when getting ready to message a VIP, remember the mantra of Jordan Harbinger at Art of Charm – “Always leave people better than how you found them.”
With that said, here are some of the best techniques for finding hard-to-reach people.
There are a great many successful people in financial services, colloquially referred to as “Wall Street”, and though this mature industry can be bureaucratic, you’ll find a great many hustlers and bright minds serving every walk of business. Keep in mind that I’m not only talking about investment bankers here. The list includes traders, researchers, hedge fund analysts/portfolio managers, risk professionals/quants, private equity professionals, and those in financial roles at non-finance corporations. Obviously this can be broken down even further. If you’re in the business, you probably know whom to seek out, but I’ll give a short heuristic guideline that will help others figure out where people are on the totem pole. Generally, job titles in finance are fairly consistent, and equate similarly across (large) firms. Here’s the general pecking order:
- These are the new kids on the block, similar to associates in the legal profession.
- Generally the next promotion up from Analyst (except in the research industry, where the two are switched). Freshly minted MBAs typically come in at the associate level.
- Vice President (banking)/Executive Director (trading)
- These are the mid-level guys, doing less of the grunt work, and more managing. They may also help to bring in business to the firm at this level. Many don’t make it past this rank in their careers.
- A more senior intermediate step. This position doesn’t exist at all banks/funds.
- Managing Director
- These are the big dogs, in charge of a group or department. They often manage the money, develop the business, and oversee higher level issues. Many view this position as a milestone goal, as it is very well paying and prestigious.
- These are equity holders in the company. Not all banks have partners for employees, especially publicly traded corporations.
- C level executives
- These guys who run the entire company, and answer only to the board of directors or the company owners. Enough said.
The reason I go into this is because your audience will depend on your question. If you are looking for specific subject matter content, then you can get a higher response rate reaching out to the younger folks, and their answers may be more detailed since they are working closely with lower level data on a daily basis. However if you are trying to connect to people for long term career advice, or learn how business is done at the top, you’ll be reaching out to more senior professionals.
From here, the first place to check is LinkedIn. If you don’t have an account, sign up for a free one. This is not a fun social media platform. The content posted is usually bland, whitewashed, and pretty much useless. However, it’s the largest network of private professionals on the web, and makes it easy to find people in a specific area of the economy. Make sure you learn the big firms and players in your industry. You can easily do this by google searching “largest American Banks”, or “list of private equity firms”. I’ll assume that you took care of this by now. If you have any lingering curiosities about the industry, wallstreetoasis.com is an excellent community for learning about banking and finance.
Let’s say that you wanted to get a job in bond trading at a Wall Street Firm. Log into your LinkedIn account, and search in the top bar for “bond trader [insert bank/company name]”. You should get a solid number of results. Look through the list for people whose full names are displayed. If only the first name and first letter of the last name appear, then the person has privacy settings up that will not allow you to view their profile directly. LinkedIn uses a degrees of separation function that shows whether you are a 1st connection (equivalent of Facebook friends), 2nd connection (friend of a friend), or 3rd connection (friend of a friend of a friend). The more people you are connected with, the more profiles you’ll be likely to view from simple searches. To note – there is a way around this. If you really want to see a person’s profile, but can’t through the search, go back to google, and type the person’s first name and first letter of the last name, followed by the company and job title (which will show up in the partial LinkedIn result). For instance, it could be “Robert W Goldman Sachs Managing Director Corporate Bond Trading”. This will often return you a result with the person’s full name, and their public LinkedIn profile, which you can access directly from Google. You can also take the full name and type that into your LinkedIn search now. Profiles are usually associated with a photograph (if provided by the user), so you can establish if the LinkedIn profile found on Google is the same as the one in question from LinkedIn by establishing a photo match. I may be a little long-winded here, but the process only takes about 15 seconds per person in question.
All this work is for a reason. We are looking for email addresses or phone numbers. Many profiles include these, some even with personal cell phone numbers. When you get more sophisticated with LinkedIn, you can play around with the search by using queries like “Trader Goldman Sachs 212”. The 212 is included because that is the area code for New York City, where they are headquartered. If you wanted a different location, just make sure you know the area code of the city (this can be found via any search engine). This tactic also applies with email addresses, so try something like “Managing Director JPMorgan @jpmorgan.com” if email is your game. Remember you can try different contact methods and test results. Calls will more often get through, but phone numbers are harder to find, and they’re high risk/high reward. I say go for it, but be prepared to know what you’re asking for. You will get chewed out sooner rather than later if you selfishly waste their time. Still, including the email tail or a partial phone number in the search is the best way to leverage your time. It will take you directly to people whose contact information you can see with existing privacy settings, and allow you to sift out all the people without this information included.
Let’s say that your search isn’t going so well. You’ve gone through everyone in a given position, and there are very few results with embedded phone numbers or email addresses. LinkedIn has a private messaging system for those who are connected. There’s one out left here. If you want to get in touch with someone, but don’t have contact info, request them as a LinkedIn connection. You are given about the length of a twitter post to write an introductory note where you can make an elevator pitch about why you want to get in touch with them. Be honest, to the point, and relatable. I’ve had about 30-50% connection rate, and many people are willing to help. However, not everyone checks the site daily, so you might get a random notification that your invite was accepted a month down the road. Move on quickly if you’re not getting traction – this is not a game of patience until farther down the road when you are in touch with high value contacts.
The Ace in the hole
LinkedIn is a great starting place because it’s free and you can access it anywhere. However, this next strategy can offer great rewards if you are able to find the access. Bloomberg is a leading financial information service that charges a hefty price tag for users (about 20k per year!). However, with that membership, you get amazing suites of data on economics, finance, demographics, politics, news, and a quadrillion other things. One of the most underutilized abilities of the service is its people search, which is essentially the front end to a database containing every single Bloomberg user, as well as other financial professionals who may not use the software. There are currently over 300,000 subscribers worldwide, so I don’t see you running out of leads anytime soon. I remember the first time I discovered this tool, and after a few successful tests for finding profiles of friends in the industry, I tried Warren Buffet’s name in the search. When it returned his work email and a general phone number for his office (granted, it went to a secretary, not him directly), I thought “holy crap – who else can I look up?!” I’ll let you do the searching for yourself, but just know that you can get some serious leads from this method – ranging from new analysts, to the crème de la crème of this business.
Here’s how you execute on this strategy.
- Find a location with a Bloomberg Terminal. Most universities with business schools have a dedicated room with Bloomberg computers. Try and get in to sit down at one – real talk, nobody’s going to call you out for being on the campus. If they do, just say that you are here waiting for a friend to finish up his/her class, and that you needed to take care of something work related. They’ll be too busy worrying about their own problems to press further. Alternatively, join a local investing club or financial professional society. Most have common office space at their regional headquarters where you can get free access to financial software like Bloomberg. If you are near an urban area, you’ll have better luck – if not, it’s less likely that you can capitalize on this.
- Create an account. It’s free to create one, as the software download to a computer how the company charges. Unlimited individual accounts can be registered, but only one can be used per computer at a time. Follow the steps of creating your login and password on the main screen of the Bloomberg program (found on the desktop).
- Log in with your credentials. Once you’re in, you’ll see that Bloomberg operates in a unique way. You call up different functions and screens with various prompts typed into a command line. At the top of the screen, there is a blinking cursor that shows you are ready to type in a command. All you have to do is type “PEOP” and hit the enter key, known as <GO> to Bloomberg users. These codes are called functions on the Bloomberg. They return different screens, news pages, documents, or links. PEOP <GO> will bring you to the discussed people search portal.
- Select your criteria. You can search by a person’s name, job title, firm, location, or other parameters. This is great, because their data are usually clean and up-to-date. This will return a batch of everyone meeting your search standards, for instance, all of the listed analysts at Bridgewater Associates, a leading hedge fund.
- Click on your results to view a profile. Some profiles are more complete than others, including pictures, bibliographies, education history, work history, and details about current employment. Some of this is self-entered, but the company also has dedicated staff that looks into expanding and updating this data, especially for high profile VIPs.
- From here, you can see if a phone number is available, a work email, personal email, and if all else fails, a Bloomberg email address comes up. Everyone who signs up with an account is given a Bloomberg email automatically. On top of this, the service is known for its flagship instant messaging system. Anyone can contact anybody, so long as the person is logged in. Got cojones? Put together a polite and very brief message, and send it via IM if the person is logged on. It’s tough for them to ignore you at this point. Not even a phone can tell you if the person is available for a call, but Bloomberg can. A little green light next to a person’s name will tell you if they’re logged in. A yellow light signals away and red means logged out. It’s like AIM instant messenger, but you don’t have to do any work adding friends. Simply one of the best tools out there. With great power comes great responsibility – don’t use this in a spammy way, or you could ruin the system for everyone. If you turn a guy into a cynic, you’ve destroyed the opportunity of others to have a question answered in the future, and you made somebody’s day worse. As long as you are polite and perceptive, then by all means go for it though.
These first two methods can offer amazing cold networking opportunities, but they will always pale in comparison to warm introductions. Once you start building a network in your desired niche, start making friends and getting introductions from others. After some successful conversations, if a friendship or mentor-protégé relationship blossoms, you can ask a person who else you need to talk to. This is where the huge gains are made. Think about it – asking George Soros how he found success is going to be a huge confidence booster if you get a reply, but how much can the man personally help you if you don’t have necessary experience to be of service to him? The one way out here if you are a newbie is to be a connector. Once you start getting familiar with networking, even if you don’t have rock star chops yet, you can use your rolodex to help contacts meet other people you admire. This is a form of currency, and can often be the olive branch that gets your foot in the door with people. Taking it from here cannot be covered in a single blog post, but you’ll be well on your way to making big moves.