October 12, 2020

#iblifehacks: Networking Tips from Top Dealmakers

By Brandon Mavleos – Sr. Director of Product Marketing

This summer, Datasite hosted a panel of industry experts to discuss career insights and how the global pandemic has reshaped the dealmaking workplace. During the sessions, ~75% of our audience responded, saying that networking is much harder given current circumstances.

Given this metric, throughout our #iblifehacks series, we had the chance to speak with several top dealmakers on their general advice for networking. As we learned, it's not always cut and dry, and it's essential to find your own personal formula. A few key takeaways emerged from the conversations.

Find good mentors.

“Having a mentor as a sounding board who can offer advice is extremely important”

One of the easiest ways to build your network is to take advantage of your organization's various mentorship programs. Getting involved in these is often encouraged and can lead to some long career relationships. Neha Shah, Director at Houlihan Lokey, mentioned, "Having a mentor as a sounding board who can offer advice is extremely important… it's really helped drive my career in a lot of ways."  It's a great way to slowly learn the ropes and can be helpful, especially for those awkward questions you might not want to ask your team. Additionally, Meg Taylor, Associate from Moelis, comments, "It's important you can find a mentor that you can click with organically beyond day-to-day work."

In terms of mentorship, it's also essential to have more than one mentor. Being able to gain the perspective of many different experiences and personalities will help you determine your approach to work situations. Stella Binkevich, Associate from Moelis, states, "pulling best practices from everyone across the board is its own learning and its own indirect mentorship." Additionally, mentorship doesn't have to be so formal. "Organic mentorship will naturally happen… if you produce great work for people, they will want to invest in you."

Networking doesn’t have to happen the traditional way.

“Relax as if you are amongst friends and think about what is most natural to you individually”

When we think of networking, the image of a big conference room with lots of people standing in circles comes to mind. For some people, this works great. However, for others, this produces a lot of anxiety and can be understandably intimidating. There are some ways to calm the nerves. Bao Truong, Senior Manager Director at Centerbridge Partners, provides some advice, "Maybe you can pull people aside when going into large rooms, have more 1:1 conversations." Then in terms of speaking publicly, "Relax as if you are amongst friends, and things will feel more natural to you."

It is also essential to recognize that networking doesn't need to happen in this environment. "One needs to approach networking on their own terms … think about what is most natural to you individually," says Bao. After all, building your network is multi-dimensional and evolves over time.

Tap into your existing relationships.

“Helping in times like these will always be remembered”

Expanding your networking in a remote environment has been a struggle for everyone. "Our collective industry relies heavily on in-person meetings and conferences", says Greg Rogers, Partner at Latham & Watkins. However, it is crucial to recognize that enhancing your current network shouldn't be overlooked. Sharing ideas with contacts and doing favors will go a long way. "Maybe you can even help a contact find a job … helping in times like these will always be remembered."

Additionally, when working remotely, it's important to recognize the value of the written word. "If you are strong using the written word, do some thought leadership in your area or volunteer to write an article," states Greg. While you might not naturally think of these things as 'networking' per se, they will help you organically expand your reach.

Look for outlets outside of work.

“It’s about finding what works best for you…”

While there are many great in-office types of networking associations, it’s important to branch out and see what’s happening outside your role and organization. We often connect networking with professional advancement; however, it's not always that linear. In fact, sometimes it pays to first find groups you want to be a part of, even if there is no obvious work connection. You never know when a relationship via these channels can lead to a future job or client. In terms of what to look out for, Anne Ross, VP at JP Morgan, comments, "There are so many groups that you can be a part of. It ranges from joining the choir, orchestra, various business resource groups, and all the informal networking opportunities…but it's about finding what works best for you".

Do some digging into regional networking associations in your area! You can also check out Datasite sponsored groups such as Exponent Women or engage in the Dealmakers Circle.

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