Networking during the MBA

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Know wow important networking is for your career

Typically Investment Banking relies a lot on networks, whereas Consulting and Corporates rely on them much less. If you’re targeting a company that doesn’t have a strong MBA culture, then doing a bit of networking may help get your CV in the interview pile (otherwise you may run the risk of HR discarding it thinking that you are either not relevant or over-qualified for the job), but then you’ll still have to prove yourself in the interview process.

But there are also huge cultural factors to be considered. In Anglo-Saxon countries (U.S.A., U.K. etc.) there is a trend towards equal opportunities aiming to ensure that only your performance during the application / interview process has an impact on whether you get the job.In other parts of the world other factors such as network come in to play, given that people tend to rely more on recommendations / views from their closest friends or colleagues in order to gauge whether someone is a good choice or not, rather than an interview process.

We are not here to opine on which one is the better approach, but we want you to take this into consideration when when deciding how much time you need to spend on networking. Unfortunately it’s often not easy to find out before you actually get to the other side, i.e. you are hired by a company and start taking part in recruitment yourself. Company practices may be different from what they officially communicate, so when doing your research make sure you try to read between the lines.

Once you’ve established how important networking is for your target companies, be bold with your decision. If you are 95% sure networking will have very little impact on your application, then don’t waste time on it. Just like for company presentations, the temptation is easy to try to cover all your bases, but that would be a mistake.

“Students tend to focus so much time on those strong connections, that they neglect the loose ones – to a point that when 5 years later they contact one of them for some advice or information, they don’t get an answer. And why would they?”

Invest in your long-term network – the power of “loose-connections”

When networking don’t just think about your short-term (post-MBA job) needs. Make sure you also invest in your long-term, lifetime network.

During your MBA, you will most likely meet hundreds of people. Most MBA students are open and friendly and will actively mingle with all the other students early on. After a while though, the majority will then start to focus their time on smaller groups of friends – our strong connections. That’s perfectly natural – it’s in our human genes.

However many students tend to focus so much time on those strong connections, that they neglect the loose ones – to a point that when 5 years later they contact one of them for some advice or information, they don’t get an answer. And why would they? Your life is not gonna get less busy after the MBA, and when somebody reaches out to you, no matter how strongly you feel about the alumni network, you will have plenty of other things on your plate to deal with. Nurturing and maintaining those loose connections (so that they don’t become a forgotten connection) will allow you to multiply the reach of your network tenfold.

How do you define a loose connection? It’s not simply people you recognise and say “hi” to. It’s those who you don’t see regularly but when you do see them, you take at least a few seconds / minutes to catch up, and not just on the weather. Keeping these loose connections wont be easy, even if you try. As time passes, it will be easy to switch these interactions to banalities such as exams, classwork, general news. No matter who the person is, there will be a few common subjects that you both find interesting or funny. Make sure you find them and remember them so you can keep the relationship meaningful.

Last but not least, diversify! You will have plenty of time to hang out with people from the same background / nationality / career path during …erm… the rest of your life, so don’t spend all your time doing that during the MBA!

Read on

This post is part of a series of articles to help you make the most of your MBA. Take a look at our other posts on the topic:

  • What to do before the MBA starts (link).
  • General Tips & Advice (link).
  • Career Focus during the MBA (link).

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