Relationships are key to success in business school (and work, and life)

networking and cultivating strong relationships

Ask any business school student about networking and they’ll tell you all about coffee chats, learning teams and group projects, bschool travel, informational interviews and more. So much of the business school experience is built on networking and relationship building in and out of the classroom. In a time where everything has been flipped, turned upside-down, even networking and relationship building, as key as they are, were forced to go virtual.

In a recent piece for Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington (Founder and CEO, Thrive Global) and Jen Fisher (Thrive Global’s Work-Life Integration Editor-at-Large, Deloitte’s Chief Well-being Officer and author of Work Better Together) discussed the importance (and centrality) of relationships, how they’ve had to evolve during the pandemic, and how companies (and by extension, business schools) who empower relationship building in a now hybrid world, will thrive:

“This centrality is backed by ample research. The Harvard Study of Adult Development, a longitudinal study that began following Harvard sophomores in 1938 and is still running, found that close relationships are the single biggest factor in our happiness —more than money, fame and other outward forms of success. According to Gallup, employees who reported having a close friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. And perhaps not surprisingly, our relationships directly impact our health, with studies showing that our social ties boost our immune system and increase our longevity.”

Listen to Jen’s podcast episode of “WorkBetter” which dives further into the study and discusses how to prioritize relationships and well-being at work.

Relationships that are real, honest and engaging impact the quality of our lives and help us to be more resilient. So many of the challenges we face in life can be better navigated knowing we have a support system we can rely on. When we asked MBAchic members about some of the mental health and sanity practices they employed to get through the ups and downs of business school (and particularly through the intensity of recruiting), a number of responses centered on relationships and building a support system around yourself, even in these wild, virtual times. Sharing a couple of replies that we loved below:

Build a network with which you can share your feelings. Networking is thrown around a ton in business school. Coming out of school – I feel satisfied to have built a “network” of close friends with whom I can share life’s ups and downs (recruiting, personal life, etc). That has ended up being profoundly more impactful for my overall happiness than being able to create a network of people within my chosen career (technology). Professional connections happen naturally, normally through evidencing good work – we’re given a rare opportunity during the MBA to create deep friendships that might last a lifetime, try to take advantage of that by bringing your true self to the experience.
Mariam Waqar, Wharton & Lauder MBA/MA

Find a support group within your MBA who will be your biggest cheerleaders. One of my best friends from my program was recruiting for finance/strategy in entertainment, and I was recruiting for marketing/strategy in entertainment. There were some things that overlapped – but mostly we would try to find opportunities for each other. We prepped for interviews, reviewed emails, and worked together through the process. I couldn’t have done it without her!
Sarah Rubin, NYU Stern

On relationships turning a horrible situation into a good one:

When COVID-19 shut down the world, I suddenly had the opportunity to explore who I wanted to be outside of my typical 9-5. I decided to move to London since they were reopening, and I could stay for a few months without needing a visa. I reached out to the USC Alumni in hopes I might connect with one or two people while I was in the city. Five and a half months later, I have a dozen new friends in London and two even referred me to opportunities within their company in case I wanted to make the move more permanent.
Olivia McDonnell, USC Marshall

On balancing new business school friendships with existing ones:

It’s been a struggle, but I’ve always understood that you can’t take everyone with you in life. Nurture the friendships worth keeping, and respect the distance from the ones who are no longer part of your journey.
Nastacia Escobar, SMU Cox

My prior friends have been extremely supportive. They understood how much the MBA meant to me. They also give me an outlet to vent about frustrations without worrying about what other people in the class would think.
Olivia McDonnell, USC Marshall

As challenging as the last year and a half have been, they’ve shown us how valuable our relationships and support system are. As we move closer to a post-pandemic world, cultivating those honest, strong, and engaged relationships will be as important as ever. Read more in the WSJ Best Selling Book Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines.

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We’re thrilled to collaborate with our friend Jen Fisher to give away signed copies of her newest book, Work Better Together. Head to our Instagram account to learn more about how you and a friend can win signed copies (three sets of friends will win).

Giveaway Rules:

Our followers on Instagram may be familiar with this type of giveaway, but to avoid any confusion…

Per Instagram rules, this promotion is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm that they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use. Above all, give it your best shot and we wish you good luck!

To enter the giveaway, we’ve kept things very simple:

  1. Follow @JenFish23 and @MBA.chic.
  2. Like the Giveaway post.
  3. Tag a friend in a single comment on the Giveaway post. The more friends you tag in their own individual comments, the more chances you have to win. (You and the friend mentioned in the randomly selected comment will win. Three sets of friends will win, six winners in total.)
Some more fun disclaimer-speak:

Giveaway Period will run from now to September 26, 11:59pm EST. However @MBA.chic does reserve the right to revise the Giveaway Period at any time without prior notification. All entries received outside of the Giveaway Period will be disqualified.

To share more about your bschool experience or to review Work Better Together or another favorite book of yours, head to to learn about contributing to MBAchic.

Photo from PxHere

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  1. Thanks to Mariam, @Nastaciae , @OliviaMcDonnell  , @sarahkrubin  for sharing your experiences with us for this piece! Connect with them here —

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