Collective Minds

Why alumni networks are indispensable

There is no absolute, 100% certainty that you’ll get the desired job right after graduation. Exploring different channels to get closer to your dream job is a must for every ambitious MBA graduate. Many of these channels are available through the school’s career services, but it is alumni networks that really bring value to one’s career start and subsequent growth.

B-school career services cover much more than placement in the best jobs and securing juicy salaries for their students. They include organising different types of career events aimed at connecting students with businesses – job fairs, one-day workshops, career forums and company presentations where would-be MBA degree holders meet with corporate officials and HR representatives to discuss employment opportunities. School career services also organise meetings with alumni who work in students’ targeted industries and provide assistance with job applications and CVs/resumes.

Every business school has an alumni network acting like an ambassador of the school, through which it gains more recognition. Alumni are a powerful force in building a business school’s brand. They recommend programmes to prospective students, connect current students to job opportunities, and contribute significantly to building a school’s legacy.

Alumni are the top resource for business school recruitment, according to the 2014 Alumni Perspectives Survey Report of the General Management Admission Council (GMAC). Findings show that 95% of alumni would recommend their graduate business programme to others and 96% reported they are proud to have attended their graduate business programme. Additionally, 40% said they had mentored prospective or current business school students, and 32% had recruited management graduates.

Alumni provide perspective. They are willing to share their experience and give advice to MBA graduates. Exploring all the opportunities that alumni networks offer should be as important as the quality of the MBA programme and the support the career centre provides. Many schools welcome alumni back at job fairs and for company informational meetings and assist alumni in scoring interviews.

The alumni association of the Spanish IESE Business School provides its MBA students with a career counselling service via its Succeed platform. The platform offers access to a job board where companies offer work to members of the association.

Duke is another good example. “The Duke MBA career management centre has a variety of flexible recruiting options, ranging from books on CV writing to on-campus interviews that can help alumni identify graduates who can help their firms to address today’s most significant global business issues,” says Sheryle Dirks, associate dean of the career management centre at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in the US. “Besides, alumni can always give good recommendations and refer students to the network necessary for their career development,” she adds.

MBA graduates should not simply count on their schools to connect them with the right alumni to find them the best job. They should play an active role in getting in touch with and becoming part of the alumni community. Nowadays, with the social media boom, the variety of channels allowing this to happen is richer than ever.

“Build career ties while enrolled. As you explore various employment options, the alumni directory offers a wealth of contacts who will gladly respond to questions from current students. Such dialogue also gives them a chance to discover more about you, and might even lead to a job offer upon graduation,” advises Dan Bauer, an MBA adviser and HBS graduate.

Following the same trend, many schools have also developed web-based alumni platforms where (through password-protected online accounts) prospective MBA graduates and alumni can access online podcast seminars, post CVs and profiles, view job and placement listings, make career centre appointments, and get the latest news on job fairs and recruiter visits.

Building a network of contacts is one of the key assets each MBA programme provides for its students. This is an asset that goes beyond the programme. The alumni network is becoming an ever-increasing requisite to help MBA graduates find the right job. Alumni networks can be the right connections to step up the career ladder. With the rising number of social networks, access to alumni has become easier, leading to the increased effectiveness of alumni networking.

This article has been produced by Advent Group and featured in the 2015-2016 Access MBA Guide

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