“There is no royal road; you’ve got to work a good deal harder than most people want to work.”
It felt like a wake. All first-year analysts had gathered on the top floor of Goldman Sachs’s gleaming office tower for the opportunity to meet and schmooze with company directors and executives. Beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres were served, but to call it a happy hour would be to insult the word happy.
Everybody was nervous, scared to say the wrong thing to the wrong person. Anonymity, they figured, was better than someone finding out your name for the wrong reason. I was part of that insecure and anxious group. “Just blend in,” I thought. “Please don’t let them notice me being too awkward and realize I don’t belong here.”
By the end of the event—after a lot of forced smiles, cursory handshakes, curt hellos, and obligatory small talk—the number of contacts I made was a big fat zero. The hospitality staff made a better impression than I did.
As I sat at home that night, I was disappointed in my performance. I was disappointed that I wasted such a great and rare opportunity. I was in a room with some of the most influential people on Wall Street for the express purpose of building relationships, and I couldn’t bring myself to have a meaningful conversation with a single person. Sure, I introduced myself to a few people, but I didn’t connect with anyone who would remember ...