How do I network with people without sounding too transactional?

MBB networking
New answer on Oct 05, 2022
7 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Oct 03, 2022

My university has a huge presence in MBB all over Europe and the middle east, basically. We had a careers session in which representatives from MBB said they love our school and will do networking sessions down the road. They encouraged us to get in contact with employees from our school.

Personally, I'm shy as heck. It's a disadvantage that I know pretty well can be a weakness in my career. But for the time being, I simply cant bring myself to send a message to someone, basically asking them for a favour. I know good questions to ask, but eventually I cant help but think it will sound too transactional. How do I not make it sound transactional?

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Francesco
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replied on Oct 03, 2022
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

Q: Eventually I can’t help but think it will sound too transactional. How do I not make it sound transactional?

It’s a good question.

I recently helped a candidate who had some issues with networking. She was getting a good conversion in email replies, but no one was referring her. After 8-9 attempts it was clear there were some issues with the call.

We did a mock. It turned out she was indeed very transactional in the ask. She was doing all the steps “right”, but it was clear for the listener that her goal was to get a referral, not to really have answers to her questions or know more about the person.

My suggestion to her (and to you) was simple: change your mindset about the call. 

Don’t make the call because you want to get a referral. Make the call because you want to know more about a great person who has been successful doing exactly what you want to do. If you change your mindset on why you do the call, you won’t sound transactional. Because if that’s your real mindset, you will be ok even if they don’t refer you. And the person will feel it (as humans, we are very good to "sniff" if someone is authentic or not).

Yes, you will still need to follow some steps / a script to get the referral. But that mindset will be key to sound authentic.

In terms of the steps to take, you can find some tips below:

▶ How to Get a Referral – The Exact Steps

Good luck!

Francesco

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Sofia
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replied on Oct 05, 2022
McKinsey San Francisco | Harvard graduate | 5+ years of coaching| Free 15 min intro call | Personalized approach

Hello,

Great question! This is certainly something a lot of candidates experience, and learning to feel comfortable with networking is something you will have to navigate as a consultant. My advice would be to approach the interaction with curiosity and openness, and ‘fake it till you make it’ if you don't feel confident yet. 

People get these messages asking to network all the time - it is perfectly normal, and most people enjoy having those kinds of conversations and giving others advice! So don't feel awkward about doing it, no one is going to find it strange or transactional, and the worst thing that can happen is you get no response or someone tells you they are a little too busy to talk right now. Send many of these messages, and ask to talk to a wide range of people.

In your message, you can start by mentioning any connections you have with the person (e.g., if you are interested in the industry they work in, or went to the same school) to establish common ground, and then just ask them for some time to talk. Approach the conversations with an outlook to getting to know them, learning more about their work and day-to-day life, rather than a transaction you have to engage in to get a referral. I think asking for suggestions of other people who you could reach out to (e.g., who work in the industry) can be a nice way of starting to develop a network in a more organic way.

At the end of the day, networking feels awkward for most people to begin with. However, you get better and more natural at it with practice, so the best advice on this is just to go for it! You will get more comfortable with it over time, but as long as you are polite and professional, and curious and open in your interactions, you can't really go wrong.

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Udayan
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updated an answer on Oct 04, 2022
Top rated McKinsey Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience

It is nice that you are emotionally aware. It is true that by sending a message and asking for a favor you are potentially making an individual do something they perhaps do not want to do. But you know what - that is 100% okay. There are 3 truths to networking to keep in mind

  • The whole world relies on networking to get a job whether knowingly or unknowingly. The person you reached out to very likely also got their job by networking and asking for help and it is likely that they might want to pay it forward for the right people
  • It is totally up to them whether they choose to respond or not. The most you can do is ask nicely for help then it is their call to take the next step. Many times this means rejection (usually no response) and this is 100% okay. All of us are afraid of rejection but the sooner you accept that this is part of the process the easier it all becomes. And for the 10% of times you get a positive response it can lead to big changes such as getting your dream role and is totally worth all the rejections put together
  • Lastly - most people want to help you because helping others makes us happy and content. Most times they feel they may not be able to do so for many reasons (e.g., they do not have the right contacts). But, if they can help you most people will choose to do so.

Once you understand these 3 concepts you will find it a lot easier to reach out to people. Networking takes time and has an emotional toll that is why people are hesitant to do it. If it was easy everyone would network themselves into great roles all day every day.

Follow the process many coaches have highlighted here. Do what works best for you and the results will come.

All the best,
Udayan

(edited)

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Ian
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replied on Oct 04, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

I completely agree with you that the process can be intimidating. For the record, I promise you it's hard for everyone (even outgoing people).

You say: “I simply cant bring myself to send a message to someone"

Yes you can.

It's “simple”. Just do it. Send a message. Then send another. Then send another. 

Like anything in life (learning a sport, learning an instrument, attending a class, making a friend, traveling abroad, etc.) it gets easier and easier every single time.

Just make that first step.

No more excuses…just go :)

(In terms of how, maybe hire a coach to roleplay it out and give you an outreach message template. The #1 rule is to be personable/genuine in reaching out + speaking)

 

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Rohit
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replied on Oct 05, 2022
Contact for free resume reviews! (limited time offer) | Former Oliver Wyman NYC | Recruiting experience

I've definitely felt this way before; what I've found most helpful is to think of yourself as the person being reached out to. What would you find the most compelling? Are there any scenarios in which you would be annoyed?

Framing it that way, it becomes easier to realize that personal connections are the most compelling ways to try to connect (you'd be most likely to respond to others who connect with you) and also that its unlikely that anyone would be annoyed (you'd never find someone asking for help annoying, and at best would ignore it).

A last thing I've realized is that it is very easy to forget to respond to requests, and often following up a second or third time does make a significant difference. Again, think of all the times you've meant to do something but forgotten to because it was low priority. 

Best of luck; I guarantee you'll get a lot more responses than you think!

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Dennis
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replied on Oct 03, 2022
Seasoned project leader with 7+ years of consulting and recruiting experience in USA and Europe

I would recommend to also go broad here. Reach out to as many people as you can find (who have some common connection with you - e.g. your school) because not all of them will have the ability or willingness to make time for info calls.

I'm sure you also have general questions about the consulting life - what is it like?, how to best prepare?, key success factors for getting in and starting out?, etc. Use the calls you get as opportunities to get answers to those questions for yourself, both in general terms but also specific to the person you are talking to. 

Out of such a context, it might be easier to naturally ease into the topic of potential next steps and the person you are talking to might offer to review your CV or connect you to a colleague or even refer you to the firm. If not, you at least got some more info on the consulting space and you try again with another person.

Your aversion to reaching out to people is something you will definitely have to overcome though. After all, your first assignment in consulting might be something like having to cold-call people to obtain some specific market or company information for your project team ;)

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Emily
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replied on Oct 03, 2022
Ex McKinsey EM & interviewer (5 yrs) USA & UK| Coached / interviewed 200 +|Free 15 min intro| Stanford MBA|Non-trad

The first thing to remember is that everybody (generally!) loves helping other people. There's nothing more flattering that someone wanting to speak with you because they want to do what you do. It's affirming, it's validating - and people love helping people who make them feel that way. 

The second thing to remember is that no one wants to feel used. It's not much fun taking a networking call, expecting to feel validated, an instead you realise that you're just being used by someone for a specific aim (e.g., referral). 

Therefore you need a mindset when you're doing networking which is ‘I’m interested in this person, I want to know how they go to where they are and what their day to day life is like. I'm curious about them'. At the end of a session you do want to ask for something, never leave a conversation without asking for something further. But you don't want to ask for a referral - this will make someone feel used. Ask if there's anyone they could connect you to who works in an area you're interested in, or if you could have a follow up conversation to learn more. If they want to, they'll offer a referral. 

Good luck!

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Francesco gave the best answer

Francesco

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