“Why do you want to pursue an MBA?”
If you pose this question to any MBA aspirant, you will get a diverse range of replies. Some might see an MBA as an essential step to achieve their career goals while some may wish to an MBA purely for monetary gains. Very rarely, one would come across an MBA aspirant who would state Networking as the main reason for wanting to do an MBA. However, if the same question is posed to a person who has started his MBA, of the many reasons he would give for enrolling for an MBA course, networking would probably be right up there.
Networking may not only help get that all-important first breakthrough after graduation, but also provide career or business opportunities later in life. The network that an MBA student develops during the course of his stay at the program may be an intangible treasure trove that he may be able to bank on whenever the need arises. Opportunities for networking are available in various forms.
The classroom is the first and one of the best places to start networking. The courses in B schools are structured in such a way so as to give you ample opportunity to mingle with your classmates. Most of the courses usually have group projects and various other modes of peer group learning. As a student in an MBA program, the earlier you begin networking with your classmates, the better. You may get to know of internship opportunities earlier than others and we all know how that elusive an internship could turn into that full-time job offer on graduation. It’s also helpful to keep your eyes and ears open early on for networking opportunities beyond your cohort. This will help in converting potentially good opportunities by giving you the time to develop the necessary contacts and planning effectively.
Student clubs and organizations
Almost all good B schools have a very diverse collection of Student Clubs and Organizations. There will be career oriented clubs such as Finance Club, Marketing Club, etc. There will be interest or hobbies oriented clubs such as Music Club, Theater Club, Trekking Club, etc. There will also be regionalism or ethnicity focused cultural clubs such as International Students’ Club, Indian Students’ Club, etc. Try to make the best possible of these clubs and organizations because these are platforms where you can further hone your leadership skills. In your MBA class, there might be hundreds of people, and it will not be possible for you to know each of them as well as you would like to. So, these clubs and student organizations provide excellent opportunities to build closer connections with those of your classmates and seniors who have similar interests as you do.
Alumni networks are usually great sources of networking opportunities. They have been at the school you are going to and chances are, they will be willing to give you an ear. You should aim to contact as many alumni as you can during your term at the school. Remember, every alumnus, especially if he or she is proud of his or her alma mater, could potentially be an employer, or at least get you an interview. To gain the maximum benefit, set up an informational interview with the alumnus. Go prepared with your questions (such as what qualities potential hirers look for in MBA candidates), carry a copy of your CV, conduct yourself professionally, and respect the person’s time. Keep in mind that this is not the actual job interview, so don’t ask for a job upfront. However, sending a thank-you note and staying in touch with each of the alumni will go a long way in setting you up for a wide range of potential opportunities.
Also, look out for opportunities to network with companies that have offered internships/job offers to students from your school in the past. You should look to set up informational interviews with representatives of these companies, just as with alumni. Again, follow the same rules when interacting with these people as you would with alumni. These informational interviews may help clarify what’s involved in a certain job, as well as provide hints as to what these companies are looking for. Make sure you speak with as many such people as you can – so that you become increasingly clear about what you are interested in doing after you graduate and that you increase your chances of finding something suitable in the form of either an internship or a full-time job offer.
Social media networks
This is the age of the “social network”, so do not underestimate the value of networking on sites such as LinkedIn. For example, once you learn of a potential opportunity, a LinkedIn account could help identify people you could set up interviews with to better understand what the opportunity involves and how you could improve your chances of landing the job. These could be current or past employees of the firm or even company representatives. Such sites, in case alumni have created a “group”, could also help in simplifying the process of identifying and contacting them.
Networking events also offer opportunities to connect with people who may be able to be of help. Always be on the lookout for these, and go prepared to make the best use of such opportunities.
Lastly, remember that networking is all about connecting with people. Do not just look for how you could gain something, but also look for opportunities where you could be of some help. Coming across as friendly and genuinely good-natured could only be helpful, and these are humans, after all, and will respond to stimuli just as you would. Remember that every networking opportunity could potentially lead to a strong friendship and every social acquaintance could lead to a strong professional connection.