How a Networking Coaching Group Led Me to an Internship

Hongjie (Gracie) Zhu
Hongjie (Gracie) Zhu

Hongjie (Gracie) Zhu is a 2016 graduate of the Master of Science in Finance program at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and holds a BBA in Accounting from the Renmin University of China. An innovative and diligent team player, Gracie brings experience in investment banking and proven leaderships skills. She has a special interest in exploring tax accounting issues and is passionate about the real estate and entertainment industries.

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I recently completed an internship with Qualia Legacy Advisors, a Los Angeles investment bank, where I engaged in real mergers and acquisitions assignments and learned something new every day. Thank you so much to my dear career coaches because without the instructions and encouragements from them, I wouldn’t have had such an exciting experience. The Networking Coaching Group offered through CDO (and which I highly recommend!) played a fundamental role in my steps securing this internship.

In February, I noticed the analyst position opening at Qualia Legacy Advisors. The words “Investment banking” and “Los Angeles” attracted me and therefore, I started to plan for the application immediately. After half a year’s osmosis through various coaching events held by the Career Development Office (CDO) and several appointments with Michael [Doyle], I understood that simply applying online might not be the most efficient way to land a job since more than 90% of jobs are secured through networking.

At first, I wasn’t sure to whom I should reach out and what the most appropriate approach is. I needed to learn to network systematically and comprehensively. Fortunately, CDO was right there to help me. I registered for a networking coaching group and met Michelle [Jones]. The group was relatively small with 5 students from different backgrounds so that every one of us could get fully involved. Under Michelle’s guidance, we moved from identifying different tiers of connections, to conducting informational interviews, and finally to maintaining networks during the three-week period. With networking skills acquired in the workshop, I found a former intern of Qualia on LinkedIn and sent out my first informational interview request. To my surprise, he responded on the same day and we talked by phone for 15 minutes. Later that day I wrote a thank you email and asked whether I could mention our conversation in my cover letter. He happily allowed it and we agreed to keep in touch. The above process took about twenty days, and in mid-March, after Michelle reviewed my cover letter, I submitted the application for the analyst position.

Then came the long wait.

After about a month, I had not heard back. During a coaching appointment with Kathy [Bovard] in mid-April, I mentioned how much I love the business of the company, how I found this position a good fit, and how exhaus ting the long wait was. Kathy encouraged me that since my spoken English was outstanding, I should follow up with a phone call. Though nervous, I picked up the phone and dialed the number. Luckily, I was able to reach a managing director [MD] of the company. He told me there were many applications and asked me to resend my files to him so that he could give me a quick reply. I got his email address and sent the files.

Five minutes later, he called me back and rejected my application.

Instead of giving up, I showed him in what ways I was a good fit with the position and mentioned the conversation I had earlier with his former intern. He still remembered the intern and seemed more delighted than earlier. He asked me several other questions including the H1B issue. Finally, he told me that he was impressed, but my graduation date was too late. He would talk with other candidates and contact me if the situation should change. Through this conversation, the completely shut door opened a little.

Ten days later, an email from the MD asked whether I would be interested in another phone call about the position. I happily accepted and the call was scheduled several days later. I consulted Kathy on preparation for the second phone call. This time, the MD who contacted me and another MD were on the phone. They approved my verbal communication and previous investment banking experiences, but expressed concern on my writing abilities. I sent some writing samples to them and answered several other questions. The call concluded with scheduling a lunch interview in Los Angeles in mid-May.

I met with Michellebefore my trip to LA and she recommended I reach out to the former Qualia intern and thank him for his help. There were only two weekend days between my arrival in LA and my lunch interview, so I didn’t expect him to reply. However, he was so helpful and agreed to have coffee with me! I met him in downtown LA one hour after arriving at LAX airport. He shared his insights about how I could better prepare for the interview. We had a pleasant conversation and got to know each other better. Then came my big day, the lunch interview. I met three people at the company including the two who were previously conducting the phone interviews. During the lunch, I got to know more about the company, its business focus, the interviewers’ work experience, life stories and their passion for the company and the industry. I fell deeper in love with the company. They told me that they would notify me of their decision by end of the next week.

I waited about ten days. The Friday of next week came and I didn’t hear from them. I emailed the MD and got a reply saying that unfortunately they still found my graduation date too late. They needed someone to start immediately, and they had found that person. I was truly sad hearing that but I fully understood his decision. I replied with my understanding and appreciation for his time and consideration. I thought that was the end of the story.

However, two weeks later, I received the MD’s phone call asking whether I would be interested in a summer internship with the company. Excited to have the opportunity, I accepted the offer.

So that’s the story of how I got the internship in my dream company. You probably have found that Michelle, Kathy, the networking workshop, and the former intern all gave me very important help at defining points. My verbal and written communication skills, my professionalism, patience and perseverance also played important parts. Furthermore, a good fit between me and the company helped me excel.

There are no straight and easy ways in job seeking, so be sure to find your own.

I hope all of us could land our dream careers!

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