Networking. It’s this bizarre word that describes so much of what we do at business school – socially and professionally, actively or subconsciously – but no one really likes the word, or the connotation that comes with it.
It doesn’t all have to be bad, but business school doesn’t teach you a lot about how to do it. But the truth is, building your network is critical to your success and your happiness as an MBA. And the one thing they certainly don’t tell you at the Career Management Center is that you should start networking the day you find out you’ve been accepted to business school.
Here are some reasons to start networking now:
People will believe that you areseriousabout their industry. Especially for those students who are looking to transition to a new career, start informational interviews before starting school, or very early on in the first term. It shows commitment to the industry, and it shows that you know what you want.
Also, it’s a way to differentiate yourself – you don’t want to be the twelfth person who asks someone for an informational interview during a heavy recruiting cycle – it will be obvious what you want, and it will be difficult to differentiate yourself from your peers. As they say, to be memorable, you want to be the first interview, or the last one.
You might have seen my tweet last week, but I wanted to post a blog explaining what is happening with MBAchic and Beat The GMAT. I’m happy to announce that going forward, MBAchic articles will be syndicated on BeatTheGMAT.com. If you are already a reader of MBAchic (you can subscribe in the sidebar!), not much will change, but this provides an opportunity to reach a larger audience of MBA applicants. As always, your Facebook posts and retweets and shares are much appreciated, All that will happen is that any articles that Beat The GMAT finds relevant will be reposted to the BTG homepage.
On that note, I have been in touch with Eric Bahn, the founder of Beat The GMAT, and he has shared some new things they are putting together. MBA Watch is a new tool developed by the BTG team. I asked him some questions about the new tool:
MBAchic: What is MBA Watch?
Eric Bahn, founder of Beat The GMAT:MBA Watch (www.mbawatch.com) is a free service that makes researching MBA programs easy. There are three main features of MBA Watch as of today: Continue reading →
What are you doing this September? Studying to kick butt on the GMAT? Maybe figuring out who will write you the absolutely, positively, most superb recommendation letter on Earth? Well, add this one to the list: attend Forté Foundation’s 2011 Forum: Inspiration, Opportunity and the MBA. Register online for free admission (or pay $5 at the door), and learn more about the MBA, hear from MBA ladies, meet fellow potential MBAs in your area and very important: meet representatives from top MBA programs. Be sure to bring questions, a great professional outfit (Keep It MBAchic) and a great attitude.
Here’s the schedule (note: events are planned for 6-9pm, so you can go after work!): Continue reading →
We’ve all been there, trying to hold our bags, papers and other freebies as we are shuffled along a never-ending line to visit the booths of all the exciting, fantastic, and world-famous student organizations at your school. “Join Our Club! It Will Change Your Life, and All of Your Wildest Dreams Will Come True. Today!”
An MBA is all about networking, right? A good way to meet and interact with your fellow MBAs is to get involved on campus through organizations. But how do you choose your organization? Where will you pour those hard, countlesshours of event planning, wine tasting, and schmoozing with professionals…?
Okay – MBA clubs are more than just a party (but also, a lot of fun). Choosing to get involved now actually can help you out in the long run. You might want to learn as much as you can about all the groups available before deciding, or you can always default and sign up for whatever your orientation group is joining (in order to get a free pen or t-shirt). Regardless of your method (or lack thereof), here are some quick tips to help you decide what organization to join in your MBA program:
What are your short-term goals?
This is an important question to ask yourself; this is not asking you to cut and paste your application essay responses. Clearly, you are in the MBA program because you are trying to advance your studies and career. What are you studying? Are you “majoring” in anything? Are you focusing on one business sector? Do you want to venture into non-profit organizations? Do this now: figure out your goals. Give yourself a chance to diversify your MBA experience, but also recognize that you want to make the most of your time – do not spend all your time with the accounting club if you want a career in marketing.
(*Note: Some of the best learning (and job training) experiences in undergrad were those that came with my membership in organizations that had absolutely nothing to do with my major or career path. Do not exclude yourself from what could be a great opportunity, but if you are short on time and want to network effectively [and efficiently], focus on the reasons you came to business school. Just a little disclaimer – carry on!)
Networking. It’s the name of the MBA game and during a typical two year MBA program, the word will be thrown around so many times you’ll start to think it may actually be more important than finals. The truth is, making meaningful professional connections can create as much value for you as your degree, but there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Here are some tips on developing your soft skills and networking effectively:
It is quality that counts. Don’t go to every event, every speaker, and every dinner only to hand out your calling card to every person that glances in your general direction. Don’t follow quantity theory and hope that with all the cards you pass out, someone is bound to call you (this also applies to résumés). It’s a time waster for both parties and your potential professional contacts, professors, and classmates will sense your insincerity.
I recently read a Clear Admit article that offers tips on recommender selection, and started thinking about my own application process (link to Clear Admit article HERE – make sure you read this article. GREAT advice.)…
I had two advisors write on my behalf: the first was a professor with whom I had taken two classes – he wound up advising me on which classes to take in the finance program. Every so often I would pop into his office to ask about another class or professor, and he gave me sound advice about school and life after college. He understood my work ethic and how I would perform in the program, and was an obvious choice.
My other letter came from a mentor who really helped shape my undergraduate experience. He was not an academic advisor, but the director of the volunteer and leadership office at my school. He challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and really pushed me to become a better leader. We keep in touch from time to time and he was a huge part of my college career (it was a no-brainer that I wanted him to write my letter).
But not everyone has the time to join community service groups, and not everyone has a great relationship with one professor or advisor. Let’s face it – life is busy and what if you haven’t had a chance to foster lasting relationships with people outside of your classes?
You’re an MBA now (or you plan to be one very soon). These opportunities to foster relationships with people in different areas of your life are not a waste of time. At this point, you have to be able to market yourself and let people know who you really are – and that requires developing relationships with people you meet in your professional and personal lives. No one is going to vouch for you if you don’t give them good reason. And because you want to put your best foot forward in your applications, your recommendation letters cannot fall short. Continue reading →
Clearly, networking is important. Attending cocktail hours or “MBA networking mixers” here and there definitely works, but really, some of the best networking happens informally, everyday.
Think of your closest friends. You may have met in high school or college, or maybe at the gym. Perhaps you were on the field hockey team, or survived college physics together. When you first met, you probably weren’t thinking about how they might be able to find you a job later in life, or how you could work together, but that’s totally networking.
Men are great at this. Consider pickup football games: what is involved? A football and a stretch of grass. So simple, yet a few hours of touchdowns and field goals equals serious face-time with your new contacts. I’m not suggesting a woman should go invade one of these games (that would be awkward, for you, and for the guys), but I believe we can get better at this.
I am not saying that every player at Saturday’s pickup game is guaranteed a job interview, but I notice guys will help each other out in professional settings if they really get along in casual settings. Women can be just as good at this, but maybe go about it a little differently. Continue reading →