Candidate Blog: I truly believe I can network my way out of operations and into an analyst role

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Are you one of the many people employed in an operations role, diligently studying your CFA material after work and on weekends in the hope of obtaining the designation? Are you trying to become a junior investment analyst (or similar) prior to completing the CFA? Are you frustrated with your current role to the point where you have seriously considered quitting, so you have more time for job hunting? If this describes your circumstances, we have a few things in common.

My immediate advice to you (and a note to self): be grateful that you are gainfully employed in this tough job market and stay in your current position for now. But what can you do in the meantime to prepare for your next career move? Obviously you need to continue building your knowledge by working toward the CFA and reading as many periodicals as your limited time allows – these two points are a given. 

You may also want to try many of the other typical job-hunting techniques, such as getting to know a few recruiters and applying for roles directly. However, it’s unlikely that these efforts will lead to a step up the employment ladder in the short term. If there is one thing you can do to give yourself a boost, it is networking.

Why network: finding those "hidden" jobs

Why is networking so important when seeking a junior analyst role (or many other positions for that matter)? Well, that analyst job you are vying for is not likely to be advertised anywhere because hungry candidates and keen recruiters are already knocking on employers’ doors and building relationships.

Networking also has less obvious benefits. For example, it can help you stay positive throughout your job hunt. Looking for work can be a disheartening and demoralizing venture, whereas forming new connections can be informative and even exhilarating. Furthermore, simply meeting new people and hearing their stories will do wonders for your own motivation and focus. In my view, networking is where you need to spend the bulk of your job-searching effort.

How to network: my simple four-step guide

Networking is surprisingly easy. This approach has worked for me:

1) Create a list of companies where you would like to work.

2) Contact people employed in those firms using professional networking sites.

3) Set up quick meetings with these new contacts, so you can learn about their career path, work environment, industry, job opportunities and so on.

4) Repeat, repeat, repeat steps two and three.

If you are lucky enough to be currently employed, see if you can enhance your network by attending some of the many breakfast and lunch events organized by, for example, fund managers in your city. If you have yet to join a professional organization, do so as soon as possible and start attending its events – some of which are specifically designed for networking.

The above should help get you started.

So you have a network: now what?

Networking is not simply about meeting people. Beyond that it involves: 1) ranking your new contacts, and 2) building meaningful relationships over time with those who are most likely to help you achieve your goal of a new job. These two points are extremely important because they provide focus to your networking efforts. Point two cannot be overstated – it allows your meetings to move away from being merely "transactional."

Like so many other things, you get out of networking what you put into it. And you can get a lot out of networking, if you make the effort. It can be tough to begin with, but once you make that first connection, I think you may find it can actually be quite fun. Good luck!

The author currently works in an operations role at a boutique wealth manager in Australia and is one of the legions of people across the globe studying toward the CFA designation.

Can networking really get you a job, especially if you want to move away from operations? And what’s the best way to network? Sign in/up and leave your comments below (you can use a pseudonym display name if you wish).