A week before finals, 12 students from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School attended the HSBC Networking Event at the HSBC Tower in New York City. I was honored to be one of the students selected to represent our school among 60 other students from different top business schools. Although our schedule was packed and the weather freezing cold, the passion to learn and to connect with professionals was not dampened.
Before the event, I checked each panelist’s LinkedIn profile, reviewed statistics about HSBC and learned some fun facts about it (Did you know they changed their logo in 2018?). I also looked up HSBC business lines that are interesting to me and prepared questions for what I would want to know more about. I saved the information on a Word document on my phone so that I can read on the go.
The event started with a keynote speech from Rhydian Howell Cox, Chief Risk Officer of HSBC, who gave us an overview of the history and global presence of HSBC. The concepts of “global bank” and “cross-border experience” were anchored in a presentation with four panelists, all heads of either risk management, compliance, FX derivatives trading or valuation in HSBC North America. After the panel presentation, there came a trading floor tour led by Joseph Norena, the COO of HSBC Global Markets Americas. A free networking session concluded the three-hour event.
It’s always enlightening to pick the brains of industry professionals and get first-hand information from them. I found the below takeaways most helpful and would like to share them with you.
- If you stop learning, you will be stoppable. Take everything as a learning opportunity, not just in the classroom but everywhere: learning from work, from colleagues, from clients and especially from mistakes.
- Quantitative skills are important. To know coding or programming is not enough; you have to be able to present the meaning behind the numbers to ordinary people. Getting out numbers is easy, but to get the correct number with judgment is what distinguishes successful employees.
- Take an extra step on your passion. If you are passionate about something (it’s totally ok if that something is not finance-related), you should dig deeper into it to know the whole picture and be able to tell a story to those with no prior knowledge. Showing passion is considered one of the key traits of success.
- Leave your ego at the door. Everyone in the room is smart and specialized in different fields. Respect everyone’s ideas first and then bring everyone to work together efficiently.
- Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Doing something that you are not familiar with or good at is uncomfortable in the very beginning. In order to improve yourself, you have to go through the process and make yourself comfortable.
- Work your butt off!
At an event like the HSBC networking reception, asking questions is key to learning more about the people and company, and to make yourself stand out. As far as I am concerned, the best questions to ask are those that you may hear during an interview: Why do you want to work for our firm? Why are you interested in this particular field? These events are great opportunities to get answers to these questions – just by asking the professionals the exact same questions. I asked the panel the very first question of the day, which was about how to improve judgment on numbers. This question was relevant to what they talked about as well as to what I was curious about, and being the first to ask thoughtful questions scored me some bonus points.
Keep in mind that the goal of such events is not to land a job offer on-site, but to establish an initial connection with professionals, and more importantly. By prepared by studying who you are meeting with, what they do and what their backgrounds are (names are usually provided before the event). Once you research and prepare, relax and be yourself. Listen carefully to what they are saying and give your genuine feedback. Try to make the conversation flow and tie the people you talk to with to yourself with something in common. Last but not least, do not ever ask for a job and always remember to follow up.
The HSBC networking event was a wonderful opportunity to learn and build connections with brilliant minds at HSBC and represent the Carey Business School at the same time. I really appreciate HSBC for hosting us as well as the Career Development Office for coordinating this event. I look forward to meeting more professionals and my fellow classmates in the upcoming events and strongly encourage you to do the same. You will never know how many doors will open for you when you establish connections with people and one of the most efficient ways to establish such connections is through networking events.