How can you forge connections to help raise your profile and keep your career moving forward? We asked Morgan Stanley employees around the world who have networked their way to success for their top tips.
Talk to any recruiter or career coach and you’ll likely hear the word networking more than once. But other than ensuring your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, what does that really entail? To get to the bottom of getting to the top, we spoke to three Morgan Stanley employees who have leveraged their networking skills with impressive results. Read their stories and tips on how you can do the same.
Vik Darji started his career at Morgan Stanley as an Industrial Placement student in 2007. He then went back to university the next year to complete his degree and traveled the world while keeping lines of communication open at the company. "I made an effort to stay connected to people who I knew," Darji says, and while he didn’t follow the traditional career path of summer interns in Sales & Trading, his persistence paid off: He was hired by the London office's Risk Management division as an Analyst in 2009.
Though he enjoyed the opportunity and thrived in the role, he says, "I wanted to be closer to the stock market, so I started by finding key people who worked in the division I wanted to be in. I took people out for coffee. I was up-front and told people where I wanted to be in my career." His networking landed him a position in Prime Brokerage in 2012.
But Darji actually met the person who was key to his career success while doing company-sponsored volunteer work, proving you never know when or where you may find a crucial part of your network. "Morgan Stanley is very involved in giving back, and one day I was helping tidy up some community gardens as part of a volunteer initiative. I met this individual from Equities and we really got on well," he says. "I just thought he was a Vice President or Executive Director, but when I looked him up the next morning, I was amazed to find he was a Managing Director."
Darji followed up, and although his contact didn't have the head count to hire him at first, he gave him a crucial leg up. "He told me, 'You have the hunger and the drive to succeed on my team.' Each morning the Equity Sales team would hold a meeting. He invited me to attend, and I did. Now I sit in Equity Sales and am really happy with how things wound up—I had to work incredibly hard to land the job, but it was worth it, and networking played a crucial role.”
In addition to her role as an Executive Director in the Legal and Compliance division of our Hong Kong office, Sharon Nye—who has been with Morgan Stanley for eight years—is also one of the co-chairs of the firm's Hong Kong Multicultural Alliance employee network. Nye credits much of her success to the networking she's done in both roles.
“Building meaningful relationships is not just about attending a networking event,” says Nye. “It's something that I invest in every day as part of my interactions with colleagues.” Nye, who is the Asia Pacific Head of Governance within the Legal and Compliance division in Hong Kong, is always looking for ways to expand her network. “I do it with small steps—it could be a conversation with a colleague in the pantry or sending a colleague an interesting article on an issue that they have been working on,” she says. Soon after she joined the firm, Nye was offered a six-month stint in our London office—an opportunity that was rare for new joiners, particularly those from a different region—that she attributes to several factors. “I stayed connected with those around me. I consciously built my personal profile and I tried to be as helpful as possible to managers and peers no matter how busy my day was. Do not underestimate that last bit. People will appreciate it and remember it.”
As with Darji, Nye has found that giving back is one of the best ways to grow personally and professionally. “When I was first invited to establish the Hong Kong Multicultural Alliance as one of its founding members, I worked with a group of people who were passionate about shining a spotlight on multiculturalism. The relationships and friendships that I have forged along the way are genuine and authentic because of that mutual belief in doing the right thing. If I have raised my own profile, it was incidental to helping others.”
"Had I not been intentional in engaging my professional network, I would not be where I am today," Darla Pires DeGrace, Executive Director and Global Head of Diversity Talent Acquisition, says emphatically. "I wasn't looking for a new opportunity, but my current role appeared on my LinkedIn newsfeed, prompting me to reach out to people I knew at the firm, and that eventually led me being hired,” she says. “This time I cashed in on my relationship currency, and it worked for me. A relationship that I had built years prior and continued to maintain served as an internal referral."
DeGrace has concrete advice for those wishing to start or advance their careers: "Nurture and cultivate relationships over time even when you don't need anything and, just as importantly, even after you've gained something. Be transparent about what you want when you ask a connection for help.”
An engaged social media presence is critical, DeGrace stresses, saying, "We live in a world where your network is your net worth and your social capital is on social media. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is always up-to-date and engage with people on the site at least once a week if not more. As well, say yes to as many opportunities as you can, including speaking engagements, volunteering, and serving on boards that will allow you the opportunity to expand your network and skill set."
Finally, DeGrace encourages paying it forward. "As soon as I meet someone, I am thinking about who I can connect them to. I think about what I can do to help them,” she says. “Relationships that are rooted in reciprocity have worked best for me."