Sunday, July 8, 2007

Who Do You Know?

Who Do You Know?

By: Joseph W. Norman

Action Plan: Figure out what you want to do, make yourself known in that field, reach out to whom you befriend there because they hold the power.

My greatest resources are the people in my unique network of relationships. Developing this base of human capital has been a rigorous effort for much of my life.

Since early on I believed in the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I have used such a cliché over and over again in my (young) life to move organizations forward, get people jobs, and get myself employed (a few times). There is nothing wrong with that principle.

More often then not, people argue that knowledge or talent gets somebody where they want to be. I disagree – your friends and acquaintances get you where you want to be. But, this is only if you let them.

Case in point – this past summer I worked an internship in the Risk Management Group at Manning & Napier Investment Advisors in Fairport, New York. As an English major one often asks how I got that job. I always reply, “I met the right people, stayed in touch, and asked for it.” They usually walk away stunned.

It is quite simple really. I found out that I had a passion for finance a few years ago when I started to manage my own money. Starting as an English and Secondary Education major, there was an obvious disconnect between my night time reads and my daily academic pursuits. The English was quintessential though, so I wanted to stick with it. Also, by staying the course I would be able to graduate in four years – an important goal for me.

When I made the decision to go for the financial community, I did everything I could to put myself in a position to meet the people that could take me there. It started with the Finance Club on campus. I had heard they ran a trip to New York City every fall, so I said to myself, “I need to be there.” When one thinks finance, “Wall Street” is of course, the number one goal. This was my chance…

So, I did it. I made it to Wall Street with the club, thanks to some great leadership from the former Finance Club officers (Mike, Matt, & Co.) and made some friends there (most of whom I stay in touch with to this day). Simple concept posed by Jeffrey Gitomer, a favorite author of mine: “People want to do business with their friends.”

I kept progressing through the club, putting myself in positions of leadership to create a “presence.” This led to my management of a team of investors for our Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF), and for my grooming to be the next president of the organization. Guess what? Thanks to my friends and their invaluable guidance, I am now the President of the Finance Club.

My involvement got me introduced to a few Manning & Napier executives, one of which became my boss this summer. I met them at a SMIF Advisory Board Meeting at Locust Hill Country Club early in the Spring semester. My presence was felt, and the Human Resource guy from M & N called me the next day. That was not the end of the story though, because I remain a believer that you never get a job through HR.

The phone went dead for me from M & N for about two months before I said, “I really need to find a job for this summer, and it needs to be in finance.” After some research into the company (M & N), I decided that was where I wanted to be. So, I put the action plan into effect – reach out to my contacts there. I peppered everyone I knew, the Co-Director of Research, the Director of Risk Management (my boss), and an analyst I met through another finance club meeting.

What did I say? I said, elegantly I might add, I’m impressed by your company (which I was – genuineness is essential, without it nothing you say matters), I’m curious if you have opportunities available for the summertime as I’m trying to figure things out from my end, and here is my updated resume for your viewing pleasure. The next day, Chris (my summertime boss), wrote me back and said he was looking to create an internship that matched up with my unique abilities and to call him if I was interested. I called.

Interviewed the next week, made friends with his team, got formally accepted into the group, and started May 21, 2007. My presence was felt…

But, you might be asking, “Joseph, how do I make myself known?” Check back in the future for articles on “Making an Impression,” and “Commanding a Presence.” - JWN

Notable: Joseph Norman is co-founder of a weekly e-newsletter, Notable and Newsworthy: VIP Profiles, with his friend and business partner, Ben DeGeorge. Together they have built relationships with dynamic leaders in many organizations and industries.