MBA networking is one of the top takeaways that MBA graduates highly praise because it brings great value to participants during and after their studies. However, it is just as important to devote time to focused networking even before you land your dream business school.
Connecting to different MBA stakeholders is an insightful learning experience. It will equip you with different perspectives and enable you to make a well-informed decision about business school and how to make the most of your MBA studies. Let’s look at some essential elements of the networking process leading up to your B-school studies.
Any time, any place
To make it a truly useful experience, you first need to realise that networking is not tied to a specific place, event, or job position. However, networking takes time. The earlier you start building a circle of like-minded business professionals, the more useful your overall MBA experience will be.
Meeting new people and forming relationships early on in your search for an MBA programme will also allow you to truly diversify and extend the value of your professional circle. Business school alumni, school admissions officers, and faculty, as well as peers – potential MBA applicants like you, are all a great source of knowledge and insights. When you start your research into the most suitable programmes and worthwhile MBA experiences, stay open and take advantage of every opportunity to connect and learn. “Just mind the bias of your contacts and keep your focus,” highlights Iliana Bobova, Head of Admissions Consulting at Advent Group. “Look for facts, always try to understand the reasons for an opinion and check how relevant they are for you.”
As negative results can have long-term positive effects, career development expert Nicole Lindsay also elaborates on the topic for MBA.com: “As you talk with MBA students and alumni, you may find that the school you thought was your best fit truly isn’t suitable for you and one you hadn’t considered a strong contender might become your top choice school.”
Know where to look
Although at first it can be difficult to find new contacts beyond your workplace, stepping out of your current routine will help you find fresh perspectives on your education and career. Naturally, specialised MBA events provide just the right environment to start your exploration. Events such as the Access MBA One-to-One are an excellent opportunity not only for individual meetings with business schools regarding programme selection, application, and the admissions process, but also for informal and spontaneous conversations with other business professionals. “Not only will you get to know them as peers, but also as competitors for MBA admission which will help you fine-tune your application to stand out,” shares Iliana Bobova.
Other formats such as Premier EMBA, designed for senior professionals interested in the top-30 Executive MBA programmes, offer attendees special networking privileges that even go a step further. The so-called Premier EMBA Club is a curated global network of international business executives and EMBA alumni. Depending on your particular goals and interests, you will find that similar gatherings are an invaluable opportunity for expanding your circle of friends, colleagues, and business partners.
As a general rule, always remember to follow up on your meetings and contact the new acquaintances you made to thank them for their time. People who send a polite and unobtrusive email will be much more likely to leave a lasting good impression than those who do not initiate any contact at all.
Business school events and campus visits
Of course, there are also other valuable ways for MBA applicants to research different study options and meet the right people. Business schools often host their own branded events and organised campus visits to highlight their MBA programmes. School events are another great opportunity for networking during the initial stages of the admissions process because this is where you can meet local alumni and ask them to share their own experiences with the programme. Professionals who are able to visit the campus of their preferred business school will also get a much clearer view of the study culture at this particular institution by attending a lecture or meeting faculty members.
“Many [alumni] are open to communicating with you beyond the event. Consider requesting an informational interview from an alumnus to learn more about his or her industry or how to successfully transition to the field. At this point, you are just asking for information, but continue to maintain the relationship and in the future, you could have a strong resource for job opportunities,” further encourages Nicole Lindsay for MBA.com.
Technology is here to stay
Personal impressions are indispensable when it comes to important decisions, such as why and where to study for an MBA. However, technology makes the world much smaller, connected, and accessible.
The ever newer and more interactive technologies and social media channels enable MBA applicants to expand and evolve the networking experience of MBA applicants. It has never been easier to connect online, stay in touch, and exchange valuable information about common interests via social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. As a recent publication by Forbes suggests, sharing a relevant article with someone or sending them a job posting they could be interested in will indicate your genuine intentions.
On the other hand, this abundance of information can often result in communication that seems less personal. With so many possibilities online, it can be difficult to know where to start. The boundaries of acceptable online behaviour can also be somewhat ambiguous and subjective – who should you approach and how often should you initiate contact?
Poets&Quants offer some tips: “Friend people who can be your peers – it’s an easy way to stay in touch once you’re admitted and can take all of this social networking one step further. Don’t attempt to friend anyone on the admissions team on Facebook, but do feel free to follow them on Twitter, engage by asking thoughtful questions about the admissions process, and learn all you can from them.”
In any case, social media websites are just one of many sources to obtain useful information about MBA-related topics and to start diversifying your professional network. Most importantly, as a business school applicant you need to be open and ready to get out of your comfort zone early in the school selection process to tailor your own experience. In that way, you will be able to take networking to the next level during your MBA studies.