Why Start Building Your Network Before You Get to Business School

building your network before you get to school

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Building your network in business school
Editor’s Note: this is a previously published post about building your network. We’ve selected to share with our new friends as we relaunch MBAchic.

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 it’s one thing they certainly don’t tell you at the Career Management Center. You should start networking the day you find out you’ve been accepted to business school.

Here are some reasons to start building your network now:

People will believe that you are serious about 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 can avoid the networking semi-circle of doom. Have you ever been to one of those officially organized networking events with the high-boy tables, the lone bartender on the white table-clothed spot in the corner, and company representatives scattered around the room, waiting for you to talk to them? And have you ever ended up in the awkward semi-circle of doom, where you and 5 other classmates or peers are jockeying for attention from one of those company representatives? If not, you’ll know what I mean soon.

By networking before school starts – for example, calling or coffee chatting company representatives before they come to your school in an official capacity, you can avoid the semi-circle…and really stand out.

People are more willing to talk to you when they don’t think you want something from them

MBAs, by definition, are looking for jobs. People know that. And though we have a skill set that people do occasionally want to hire, professionals may see our MBA candidacy as a kind of request for help or time or some other resource.

As an example, a friend of mine once told me that she attended a conference while she was still an MBA student with a classmate of hers; her nametag read, “Founder, [Name of Her Company],” and her friend’s read, “[Friend’s Name], MBA Candidate.” There was a noticeable difference in the way they were treated at the conference – and that she finally just told her friend to say she was an employee, rather than a student.

Talk to people when you’re waiting to start school, or just as you’re starting. Build a relationship of mutual respect and resources, not a unilateral relationship where you’re doing all the asking.

Knowing people outside of your b-school alumni network will be an asset

This may seem counterintuitive, especially since many of us know that we’re investing [heavily] in “The Network” when we decide to attend business school. However, networking before school gave me access to opportunities that weren’t generically listed on business school job boards. Therefore, there was simply less competition from my MBA peers.

Not to mention, knowing people outside your b-school network will also allow you to connect some of your classmates into an industry they may be interested in, and that’s good networking karma.

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