How an Alumni Network Helped a Cal Student Land a Finance Internship

    Author Profile Posted by Logan Clements
    Marketing and Content Manager at InstaViser

    It was a Thursday morning in the middle of the fall semester and Cal student-athlete, Danny Jordan was sitting in his first class of the day, wondering how he was supposed to land his college internship. A rising sophomore and a member of the varsity men’s rowing team at UC-Berkeley, Danny was a first-generation college student with an interest in finance but he didn’t know where to start.


    With no existing connections in the industry, he decided to start with LinkedIn. He described this portion of his job search as the “ground and pound” technique, sending countless messages to high school alumni and family connections. He sent a few into the Cal alumni network but overall, he received only a few responses.

    “For every 100 messages on LinkedIn, I would get one message back. It was time-consuming and I spent time I probably should have spent learning business just trying to network.”

    “I knew I had to start [looking for internships] early. I had a low GPA and I went to a non target school [for investment banking companies], so I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. So I looked at what was ahead of me and said, ‘I better start now.’”

    He didn’t seem to be getting any tangible leads until an email caught his eye in class last fall. The Golden Ties Network, a student-athlete alumni network at UC-Berkeley, offers the opportunity for students to connect with alumni via video or audio chat and this month’s newsletter jumped out at Danny because it featured the profile of an alum who worked at a leading wealth management company.

    He decided to set up a profile and booked his first session with Kelly Brennan, the month’s featured mentor and a managing director at Goldman Sachs. He scheduled sessions with a few other advisors on the platform who also worked in finance.

    Before each session, Danny made an effort to craft a personal message to the advisor ahead of his call. He wanted to stick out to the advisor and save time in case the Golden Ties advisor had a busy schedule.

    “I tried to put myself in the shoes of the advisors as much as possible because if I knew what they expected, I could perform to those expectations. I kept thinking, ‘it’s your first impression, you need to prove you are very smart.’ For every one minute I spent on the phone, I probably spent two minutes preparing ahead of time.”

    Doing homework before the call and exchanging messages ahead of time helped Danny feel like he was making the most of both his and his advisors’ time. He was able to use the time on the call to network instead of asking basic questions about their company or the industry. When you set the expectations ahead of the call, this takes away the pressure from the mentee and helps the mentor feel that they’re spending their time efficiently.

    Through several calls with different Golden Ties advisors, Danny was able to refine his elevator pitch--the quick 30- to 60-second summary of who you are and what you want to do.

    “There is a science to networking and it is not as easy as making a friend. Sometimes it comes down to the right place at the right time,” said Jordan. At the Cal Crew banquet, an alum approached Danny and asked him about himself. “It was like I had a script ready,” said Danny. “I had pretty much finely tuned what I wanted to say from all of my calls with Golden Ties advisors.”

    After their initial conversation, Danny followed up with the alum, interviewed for an internship at Merril Lynch and got selected for the position.

    “If I hadn’t had the experience through Golden Ties, I don’t think I would have been as prepared because I wouldn’t have as much knowledge about the industry. Through my preparation for all of those alumni calls, I was more confident going into my job interviews.”

    “This is exactly the type of outcome we are striving for by building networking and mentorship platforms that work to connect people in meaningful ways,” said Meghan O’Leary, vice president of InstaViser. “Connections like this are life-changing and it’s great to hear that Danny landed a dream internship because of the time he took and lessons he learned speaking to alumni advisors on Golden Ties.”

    “I look forward to giving back whenever possible and hopefully later on in my career when I’m working after graduation I’ll also be a Golden Ties advisor,” said Jordan.

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