A question I get quite often is how do you network your way into a consulting firm interview when you don’t know anyone who works in a consulting firm?
When I first started networking, I did not know anyone who worked in consulting either. In fact, it is not necessary to know someone who works in a firm to start your networking process.
While the goal is ultimately to meet someone, who works in such a firm, your initial goal is simply to let everyone you know who you are looking to make contact with. Here are a few tips for doing this.
Tip 1 - Call up every childhood friend, every aunt, uncle, cousin, and friend and tell them who you are trying to meet and why... and ask if they know such a person or if they know someone who might know the kind of person you are trying to reach.
Tip 2 – Use Social Media and do the same
Tip 3 - Use your school's alumni office networking resources (many schools have an organized system to allow you to contact alumni). When I was in college, I used my alumni center's alumni volunteer’s directory -- a list of alumni that volunteered to talk with or meet students interested in learning more about their careers.
Today, I have access to the McKinsey Alumni directory -- a directory of every person who used to work at McKinsey--- which includes several Fortune 500 CEOs.
The key to these tips is if you let 200 people know what you are trying to accomplish and they in turn have access to the 200 people they know... that's a network reach of 400,000. They in turn have access to the 200 people they know... giving you a reach of 80 million people.
Here is an example of how this works, a friend of mine contacted me recently, wanting to know if I knew how to make contact with a particular New York Times Best-selling Author. This author is actually a friend of a former client of mine who I have met on a few occasions.
The person trying to reach this author is a U.S. Olympic Silver Medal Swimmer. The swimmer is a client of my friend's wife's friend.
He asked on his wife's behalf... who was asking on her friend's behalf. And I said, "yes," I could connect them.
This introduction involves a total of seven people! The two people who will meet, and the five people in the middle who made it happen.
The lesson here is to literally call, email, write, visit every person you know or have ever met in your entire life and tell them who you are trying to meet. Now it helps a lot if you have done the same for them in the past, but that's the basic idea for how to get started networking.
Most people severely underestimate how many potential networking resources they have access to. In addition, like most things in life, most people put in very little effort to do this, and as a result wonder why they aren't able to be successful. It is time consuming, but it does work.
For other suggestions on networking, consider my guide on How to Network to Get a Consulting Interview, for a specific process you can start using right away towards securing an interview.