top of page


“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”


Moreover, you can know everything about finance, however, knowing someone who knows how smart, talented, and/or interested you are about a specific position will assist you incredibly in gaining the opportunity to obtain an interview or even a job. In the working world, most individuals must interview to obtain jobs, while some individuals don’t even have to interview because of their reputation and what other individuals know about them.

5 Key factors for a successful career:

  1. What you know?

  2. Who you now?

  3. Their perception of you?

  4. Your attitude 

  5. Luck


When thinking about networking, you have to understand that meeting people will help you grow your brand. It'll enable you to show people what you're made of, along with what you can do for them.

Benefits from Networking Include:

  • Mentors for a Lifetime

    • People to go to for specific things and specific topics (life, family, career, etc.)

  • New Ideas

    • Networking will provide you with people that have a different perspective that will change the way you think or increase your knowledge on certain aspect of life.

  • Second Opinions

    • When making a hard decision, you will be able to contact someone in your network with wisdom to gather an idea of it's the right decision or not.

  • Connection

    • Networking sustains you with a wide range of connections in different positions and industries along with information about specific topics which are primarily for business.

  • Gaining Favor

    •  If you do something beneficial for someone, they will certainly be open to doing you a favor in the future.

As you try to figure out which career path you want to follow and which employers that you want to potentially work for, speaking with a large number of people can provide you with helpful information and advice to help you make your decisions.

  • Pamplin has about 50,000 living alumni (and Virginia Tech has over 250,000), many of whom are willing to speak with students and provide them with helpful advice about careers, employers, internships, and jobs.

  • You can find them via LinkedIn, professors, and Pamplin Career Services.

Most employers would rather interview and hire someone who has already been pre-screened by one of their employees or has been referred to them by someone that they trust. 

  • You need to network with people to get these preliminary approvals and referrals. Getting the right people to advocate for you in the process can significantly improve your chances.

  • Many firms have alumni screening and referral programs. The Virginia Tech alumni at the firm form a recruiting team and talk to potential candidates throughout the year before finalizing the list of candidates that they want to interview.

The network that you build as a student will pay dividends for years to come. You may need those contacts for future advice, mentorship, or jobs. Some of those contacts that you make could become your future co-workers, friends, clients, or customers. The larger your network is, the more chances you have for opportunities to come your way. 


Virginia Tech alumni like to help current Virginia Tech students. You have access to a huge network for advice and contacts. Use it!


People in Your Network

  • Family

  • Friends, neighbors, family-friends

  • Classmates and Alumni 

  • Professors

  • Co-workers from the past and present

  • People in extra-curricular activities (clubs, fraternity/sorority, sports, church, volunteer activities)


Ways to Continuously Grow Your Network at Virginia Tech

  • Join clubs, get involved in activities that will allow you to meet like-minded people.

  • Get closer with your professor.

  • Use your status as a Virginia Tech student to use LinkedIn and other social networking platforms to grow your network (more on this later)

  • Talk to other students that are going on different career paths to learn more and understand if those specific careers would be a good fit for you.

  • Attend speaker events and other on-campus events where alumni and company representative will be present.

  • Join professional association and attend their events.


Timing of Networking

Most internship interviews happen during the sophomore and junior years. You should start networking as early as your freshman year and no later than your sophomore year. The exception is if you transfer in as a junior from community college, in which case you should start networking the minute you start at Virginia Tech. Please view the Planning Page to see what the timeline is for networking on a year to year basis.


Cold Calling/Emailing

Cold emailing is something that a lot of people have a fear of but there really is nothing to worry about. When reaching out to alumni or anyone in the world, you are reaching out for them to help you and for you to possibly end up helping them. You will learn something from the conversation, and they will possibly find someone to add to their team or someone else’s team. In the beginning you will make a few small mistakes but the more you do it the better you will get at the entire process. Very similar to the saying “You have to learn to walk before you can run”. In a matter of no time, you will speak/email/communicate with alumni and recruiters like it's second nature.


Here are Some Key Things to Think About When it Comes to Networking:

  • Reach out to more junior members of an organization 

    • You can get answers to simple questions with some individuals which will allow you to cater specific and thoughtful questions for high members of an organization.

  • Try to contact someone who you have something in common with like school, people you both know, somewhere you've met before, etc.

  • Start with an email

    • Tell them your name, year, major, and university.

    • Identify something in common between you and the person you are contacting.

    • Keep it brief and straight to the point.

    • Highlight one or two things that would establish a reason for them to speak to you.

    • Ask for a chance to speak via phone or meet in person regarding career advice and/or information about opportunities at their firm.

    • Let them choose the time for a call or meeting.

    • Attach a PDF of your resume.

    • If they don’t reply within a week, send a follow up email. If they don’t reply after the second time, call them if you have their number.

  • Sequence of Emailing​

    • First send an e-mail (unless someone has specifically told you that the person prefers text or a phone call)

    • If you have not received a response within 3-5 days to your email, then call them (or email them again, then call if another few days pass and they haven’t replied)

    • When you call, always leave a message with your phone number (repeat it twice) on their voicemail.

  • To build a network within an organization, start speaking with junior people first to ask all the basic questions and they will also give you insight about a variety of topics such as:

    • Senior members you should speak with.

    • They can help you prepare for calls with senior members.

    • You can learn what is important to know and what are some common mistakes that you should avoid.

    • Will know more detail about the hiring process because junior members when through the process recently.

  • Always ask for additional leads and referrals.

    • This will allow you to create the cycle of continuously building your network.

  • Try to set up networking calls during breaks where you can get coffee and chat.

    • Dress and act appropriately.

    • Always have copies of your resume.

    • Always ask for a business card and follow up with a thank you e-mail.


    • Being overly shy.

    • Being overly informal in your correspondence, phone calls, and meeting – treat these networking calls and meeting like interviews.

    • Not proof-reading emails and other correspondence – always check grammar.

    • Wasting people’s time – keep correspondence short and to the point.

    • Not following up – MAKE SURE TO SEND A THANK YOU EMAIL or MESSAGE – it goes a long way when you show someone appreciation for their time and efforts to help you.

    • Not asking each person for additional contacts at a firm or someone that will be able to help or give advice.

    • Emailing mistakes: Use their work e-mail address and phone number, unless they or the person referring you tells you otherwise. Only use their cellphone number or personal e-mail address if they have explicitly given permission, made them available to you (or more broadly to VT Finance students), or they are on their LinkedIn page (and you have already linked with them). Many alumni do not like to have students they don’t know contacting them on their cellphone or personal email.


After College:

  • Stay connected with Virginia Tech by the Alumni events in the area that you live. Can be beneficial to meet new people throughout your future career.


E-mail Etiquette:

Do not be informal – be professional even if the person is someone whom you have met in another setting. Recognize that a different setting requires a different approach. Realize that your e-mail could be forwarded to other people in the firm’s hierarchy.

  • Dear _______, or Hi _____ for a younger person (not Hey _______)

Don’t address an older person (someone over 40) or someone whose age you have no idea about (are they 25 or 55?) by their first name or nickname (“Kev,” “Bo,” “Mickey,” “Augie”) unless you know them. If they tell you it’s OK to use their first name, then do so. Some industries are exceptions to this rule (for example, almost everyone on Wall Street goes by their first name). In some foreign countries (German and China, for example), people are much more formal about names and titles.  

  • Get to the point:

    • Who you are – include college, major, year

    • Why you are contacting them: to set up a meeting or informational interview, to ask for career advice, for information about their firm’s interview process, etc.

    • What type of job or internship you are interested in obtaining

    • A couple of points about why you are good candidate

    • If applicable, something that sets you apart from typical candidates (varsity athlete, SEED/BASIS/COINS/CREDIT, senior officer role in student government or a relavent student organization)

    • Contact info (phone number and e-mail)

    • A sentence that your resume is attached (and remember to attach your resume)

  • Always be flexible in your request for their time – work around their schedule and do not assume that they will be flexible in trying to meet you.

  • Proper grammar and spelling are critical

    • Use spell-check and grammar-check (if you have it)

    • Reread it multiple times to check your grammar (and spelling) – spell check doesn’t catch things like from vs. form and advice vs. advise 

    • Consistent formatting is important - similar items should be formatted in the same way

  • Always attach a PDF of your resume (not a Word version)

  • Be careful about cutting and pasting (they can sometimes check if this has been done and see who else you are corresponding with)


Phone Call Etiquette:

  • Treat any phone call as if it is an interview, even if you already know the person

  • Don’t address an older person (someone over 40) or someone whose age you have no idea about (are they 25 or 55?) by their first name or nickname (“Kev,” “Bo,” “Mickey,” “Augie”) unless you know them. If they tell you it’s OK to use their first name, then do so. Some industries are exceptions to this rule (for example, almost everyone on Wall Street goes by their first name). In some foreign countries (German and China, for example), people are much more formal about names and titles.  

  • Be energetic and interested in the job

  • Watch your spoken grammar

  • Do not waste the other person’s time – get to the point

    • If the other person is busy, offer to call back later or let them call you back

    • Be cognizant of the typical workday in the field that the person works. For example, Wall Street and institutional investment professions are often very busy in the morning – lunchtime or late afternoon are less busy times for them. 

  • Be nice to secretaries, receptionists and switchboard operators – they can help you get through to the person you are trying to reach

  • Have questions prepared for you to ask and be interactive – don’t expect the other person to give you a monologue

    • A few possibilities

      • Ask about their career and why they like it.

      • Ask why they like working at their firm and what they like about their role.

      • Ask about their customers/clients and industry/market dynamics.

      • Ask about how specific current events are impacting them and their customers.

      • Ask about how their training process works and your ultimate role is determined.

      • Ask if they have any advice or contacts that they would recommend.

      • Ask what makes someone good at their job and what are the most important skills and personality traits.

      • Ask for their advice about how to prepare for and navigate the interview process.

  • Do your homework before making the call

    • Know what the person does for a living and if they are a VT alumnus.

      • Try to see if there is anything that you have in common with them (VT organizations, hometown, etc.)

    • Know basic information about their firm.

      • The products and services that they offer their customers and clients.

      • Their market position (leader, also-ran, etc.)

      • Important recent news about the firm

      • Important trends and issues in their industry

      • Who is the firm’s CEO?

      • Their firm’s strengths and weaknesses

      • For investment banking and real estate, know their major recent deals.

  • Be up to date on major news items and world events. For market-related jobs, be current on market news, levels, trends, and drivers.

  • Have an “elevator pitch” – be able to summarize who you are (name, major, year) and your key selling points in less than 60 seconds.

  • Make sure that the recorded greeting on your phone’s voicemail has been activated and is professional.

    • It should include your name (people may not leave a message about an interview or job offer on a voicemail with a phone number, but no name)

    • Make sure that your voicemail is functional and not full

    • Do not have any music or background noises (barking dogs, roommates yelling, etc.) in your voicemail greeting.

  • Your Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, Instagram and other social networking sites should be cleaned of any photos, activities or language that could:

    • Cause an employer to question your maturity or judgment

    • Make them consider you a potential legal, ethical, or reputational risk for an employer (especially employers in the financial industry who are concerned about their public image and publicity).

    • Employers check social networking sites and could have ways of getting access even to restricted sites.

  • Make sure that your LinkedIn page is professional and up to date.

    • Have a professional-looking picture (neat hair, business attire, neutral background)

    • Don’t have other people in your LinkedIn photo.

    • Your GPA, activities, jobs and internships should be up to date.

    • Make sure that your LinkedIn information is consistent with your resume.


Interview and Meeting Follow-up

  • Always send a thank you note as soon as possible (within 12 hours or by 10AM the next day)

    • E-mail is OK

    • A handwritten note is also nice, but only as a supplement due to the slow speed of mail

    • Keep any message brief (but thankful and enthusiastic)

  • Do not make your note self-centered.

    • Do not indicate how they will do great things for your career or how you will benefit from working at their firm. They already believe that. 

      • If you are going to say something in this vein, mention how you look forward to contributing to the operations of the firm.

    • Do not give them advice about how to run their business or advice regarding their business model (even if you are confirming that their business model is a good one). That appears arrogant coming from someone being considered for an entry-level position.

  • Try to mention something specific to the conversation you had with them so that the message doesn’t look too generic. 

    • Something like “I enjoyed learning about your firm’s rotation program and hope that I can become part of it” or “I hope that your son recovers from the flu soon” (if they had mentioned that their child was sick).

  • If you have not heard back within a reasonable time, call the interviewer or HR contact.

  • Get feedback, if possible

    • This is especially important if you were not chosen – what did you do wrong or what could you have done better?

    • Be aware that some firms have official policies in which they do not give feedback. 

  • If you get invited to a superday (final round), make sure that you don’t have any significant schedule conflicts that can’t be moved – tests, papers due, etc.

    • Most faculty members will let you take makeup tests or submit work electronically if you have to miss a day of classes for a superday. However, don’t automatically assume this. Some faculty may not be as cooperative, especially if common time exams are involved.

    • Let other firms that you are still in the process with know that you have a superday scheduled.

      • If they also want to move you forward in their processes, they will often accelerate their timing so that they can do make a decision about you before you accept another offer. 

      • Employers hate finding out that a candidate that they really wanted to hire has gone through an entire interviewing process and accepted an offer with another firm without letting them know and giving them a chance to provide a competing offer.

  • If you get an offer, make sure that you have enough time to make a rational decision.

    • It is OK to ask for a deadline extension if you have other final round interviews in process

    • Let firms know if you get an offer from another employer – it may get them to move more quickly towards a decision regarding a superday or an offer for you

    • Throughout the process, keep the people who have been helping you up to date on what is happening, especially when you have superdays, get offers, and accept an offer.

      • People get very annoyed if they spend a lot of time helping you and then don’t hear about what eventually happened. It may make them less willing to help the next set of VT students.

  • Keep in touch with interviewers with whom you had a positive experience.

    • They could help you in future years

    • They could switch firms and help you get a foot in the door at their new firm

  • If you have a negative interviewing experience, do not burn a bridge – it is a small world.

    • The exception is if something illegal or highly unethical occurred in the process, in which case it is OK to mention it to Pamplin Career Services so that they are aware of the issue and prevent it from happening to future students.

    • If you just have a bad interview or the interviewer was rude, just move on and keep trying with other employers. Everyone has a story or two about interviews that didn’t go well for one reason or another.

  • Once you have accepted an offer, do not continue interviewing. Do not have a plan that includes backing out of a job acceptance if certain events happen (offer from your dream employer).

    • Accepting an offer is a personal commitment to the company. Going back on your word will seriously burn a bridge.

      • It could also damage Virginia Tech’s relationship with that firm and cost future students an opportunity with that employer. Always remember that it’s a small world, people change employers, and people have long memories. 

    • Let the other firms with which you have been active know that you have accepted an offer.

      • They may want to hire you in the future, and need to know where to find you.

      • Give them positive reasons as to why you made your decision, especially if you have to explain why you are turning down an offer from a firm.

      • ​​Don’t say anything negative about the rejected firm, because you may need them in the future. 

  • Throughout the process (and after you have accepted your offer), keep your grades up, stay out of trouble, and keep your social media posts and sites G-rated.

    • Companies can rescind job offers, even for social media posts that they don’t like. 


If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Many of us have been through this process before or have dealt with similar issues before with prior students.

bottom of page