Networking Strategies for MBAs Before and After Graduation, Pt. II
The first installment of this series highlighted the fundamental importance that networking plays in a job search and outlined some of its basic strategies. Quick recap: start with friends and acquaintances; present yourself professionally on social media; and remember that the best networks are built from mutually beneficial relationships. This second article offers more nuanced networking tips tailored specifically to MBAs.
One of the best ways for an MBA student to grow their network is simply to volunteer their time. By seeking ways to volunteer in their desired field, one can expand a network by demonstrating their knowledge and experience to others.
Dr. Janis Moore Campbell, Ph.D., the Director of Graduate Professional Development at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, explains that volunteering is a great way to build relationships. “Without fail, others will gravitate to you if you are willing to share your knowledge and expertise. Before, during and after your MBA, strategic volunteering is an outstanding way to showcase one’s knowledge, skills, and generous spirit.”
While it is critical to offer to share your talents, remember that time is a scarce resource. Focus on getting involved in projects that will yield the most benefit. Dr. Campbell notes, “It’s important to think strategically about how best to demonstrate your strengths.”
Current MBA students should take advantage of the resources that their schools provide. Many schools have well established programs that are designed to aid in the process of networking. For example, Beth Briggs, the Assistant Dean in Career Services at the NYU Stern School of Business, points out that in her school’s MBA program, “Students participate in our career education program … which, among other services, helps MBAs become more conversant in their skill sets and personal stories, identify whom it makes sense to network with based on their goals, and then leverage Stern’s relationships and their own contacts to make those connections.” Other MBA schools have similar programs, and they should be thought of as a crucial part of the curriculum.
Another key way to capitalize on your school’s assets is to make use of the alumni network. Schools will often facilitate meet-ups between current and former students, and attending alumni events, for example, is a great way to forge new connections. Linking up with your school’s alumni is a crucial part of networking for any MBA student. Stephanie Johnson, Director of MBA/MS Career Services at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business in Philadelphia recommends, for example, that MBA students should “set weekly goals to attend at least one event and reach out to one to two alumni for informational conversations.” Contacting and talking to past graduates is not just about meeting new people and building your network. Alumni have been in your shoes, and will have essential advice to help you move forward.
Finally, remember that networking does not stop after you have found a job. As Mark Brostoff, Assistant Dean and Director of Graduate Career Services at the USC Marshall School of Business reminds us, “Having a vibrant network of professional contacts is a valuable resource to cultivate and maintain, even after landing the job.” Perhaps the best lesson is that networking is mostly about creating healthy and fruitful partnerships. A strong network is a web made of vibrant relationships, and it is a serious mistake to neglect those bonds. It is also necessary to remember not to spread yourself too thin or to focus solely on networking when finding employment.
“You need not name-drop or be a social butterfly to build a strong network of friends and colleagues” adds Dr. Campbell. “Networking is much more than “Hello, my name is …” nametags or the exchange of business cards.”