How to Network When You Have No Network
This semester, I dove deep into the recruiting process for an internship opportunity in venture capital and/or growth equity. And let me tell you, it was not easy.
While I had gained some “street cred” from interning at Revolution, it was still difficult to find the contact information for people at venture capital firms, email them, follow up with them, and talk with them. Venture capital is notorious for being a difficult industry to break into. While it’s always nice to network face-to-face through career fairs and recruiting events, that’s not always possible for everyone. For example, while I met with representatives from major banks and consulting firms at Georgetown, I struggled to find ways to tap into companies in the Silicon Valley area.
I soon discovered that online networking was just as powerful. While it’s harder for people to ignore you face-to-face, there are definitely ways to connect and form just as meaningful relationships via phone and Skype. The problem is getting connected with them in the first place.
However, to find their contact information, I utilized LinkedIn and Hunter — two resources paramount to any dream job search, especially at companies where there are not always job postings. And if you think that most jobs are advertised to the general public (which I used to think as well), then think again. Experts agree that only about 30 percent of job openings are posted to the general public.
First, I made a list of all venture capital firms and accelerators that I would be interested in interning for the summer. After doing this, I created a database of these companies, and then searched each of these companies on LinkedIn to find out who worked there. After writing down the names of 10 employees at each company, I took to Hunter to find their contact information. Typically, companies have a standardized format for their emails. For example, many startups have the format of firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
After this, I emailed each contact that I found with the following message. In these emails, my entry-way to a conversation about career opportunities was my book that you’re reading about.
Here is what a sample email looked like.
Hi (INSERT NAME HERE),
I hope that you had a nice weekend! My name is Alex Heintze, and I’m a Junior at Georgetown University studying Management, Leadership, & Innovation and a former intern at Revolution LLC.
This year, I’m working with a publishing company to write a book on how the entrepreneurship and venture capital ecosystems are changing in the 21st century in response to Generation Z. With Generation Z about to enter the working world, I’d love to interview you for my book, as I saw a recent tweet you mentioned about this. If you are at all interested, I’d be happy to send you over more information about the book and how the interview would look. I look forward to hearing back!
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
All the best,
If you didn’t notice, the topic of my book changed. But you get the picture.
After sending the emails, I nervously waited for responses, and I didn’t get very many. Nevertheless, I followed up every 48 hours about three times, and suddenly, I began getting responses from employees at my dream companies, such as Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Greylock Partners.
Then I went on to set up phone calls with some of the people who had responded, and the hard part began. Finding a time to meet with many of these professionals was a challenge, but once I found a time, I pounced on it. Sometimes, this meant having to miss a class just to make a time work. However, it was totally worth it.
In each phone call, I started by talking to the person about my book, and I ended each conversation asking for their own advice for my professional aspirations. Many of their pieces of advice serve as the crux of this book. But most importantly, I gained key connections in this highly competitive field.
Even though my book idea was far from polished, I had a perspective worth sharing, and professionals in my field were willing to listen. As a result, I got a wealth of knowledge and advice from the people who know the industry best.
So put yourself out there! Who knows which one of your role models will take the time to respond.