Networking, an intangible part of the MBA curriculum, is one of the most valued key take away from the B-School campus. Not surprisingly, most of the B-School alumni rate networking as the most useful “head fake” (head fake= indirect learning. Head Fake comes from the “Last Lecture Series of Randy Pausch”) in the MBA learning curve. This article covers is meant as an elementary write-up on networking skills especially for the B-School whiz kids covering benefits of networking, essentials and how of networking.
Why Networking? Benefits associated with networking vary from individual level to organizational level. Impact of individual benefits of networking like job referrals, tertiary referrals (a node in your network introduces you to a node in his network), information gathering about organization, business, profession, college etc are limited to an individual however organizational level benefits like business development, new recruit background checks, recruitments via social media etc have much wider impact especially in the times of recession.
B-School Networking: Today for MBA aspirants, networking with MBA students and B-School alumni goes beyond tips on how to prepare for admission to evaluation of college based on first hand information about the college from the concerned students which is generally not available on the information platter (website, brochure etc) provided by the college. No wonder B-Schools have recognized the modern mode of information gathering and many have appointed or volunteered admission counsellors and teams for MBA forums. For the first year students, the networking can form an influencing medium for deciding upon the internship organizations, the selection of specialization and for some in fact it forms a means to get an internship. In times of recession, especially for Investment Banking and Consulting aspirants networking becomes a very powerful tool for entry into the industry.
No wonder why organizations including B-Schools are emphasizing on building and maintaining relationships with their alumni network. Most of the B-Schools sent out SOS messages to their alumni network in assisting the institution in securing 100% placements and have made more than usual efforts in placing the interns in contact with the alumni in the organizations the first year students intern at.
Essentials of Networking: Even though the user base of social networking sites like LinkedIn, Orkut, Facebook etc have immensely increased in India over the period of time, but not all users of the social networking sites are able to leverage their networks. This can be attributed to some of the reasons like low awareness about networking benefits, low interpersonal cum communication skills and low activeness on online social forums. The last characteristic is not only applicable to less internet savvy individuals but also to high internet savvy students of B-Schools.
How do I Network? A few tips on how to build your network are:
- Recognize a few friends of common interest even before you land up in your college. Make use of MBA forums for this. The exercise to this would indirectly help you know the common grounds you share with your prospective batch.
- Try to be a member of various cells and special interest groups in your college especially the placement cell and alumni cells. These two cells present its members with large exposure to professionally managing relationships, improves communication cum interpersonal skills and most importantly helps you manage cold calls well which you shall be surely doing while building your network. Association with special interest groups like economics cell, finance cell, consulting cell etc will put you abreast to what your counterparts in the same arena are up to.
- Be active on online social forums on networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Orkut etc. Note that just being a member of such forums will not serve the purpose; you need to be an active member for developing a rapport among the members of the forum.
- Online Special interest group forums outside the campus like ConsultingNetwork, ZeneSys, Learn2consult etc help not only build the basic fundamentals required for entry into the industry but also help to develop networks within the group.
- Always prefer telephonic conversations to emails. Emails are sometimes put to the backburner by the respondents.
- As far as possible, with individuals with whom you have already established your connection, start conversation on topics away from their professional work life. Especially, investment bankers and consultants would not like to talk on economics, recessions etc as these are the daily chores for them. A small conversation on topic of their interest like movies, sports might help breaking the ice. In order to learn about interests and background of the individual do some homework. LinkedIn, Orkut, Facebook, individual’s blogs etc can be of good help in this regard. However, with individuals whom you are talking for the first time, directly addressing the purpose might be a better tactic.
- Make a point that you freshen up your memory with the previous dialogue with the individual before you start your next conversation. It helps you develop grounds for talks.
- Tertiary Referrals are preferred over direct contacts. It helps you convert a cold call into a warm call. For Example: If you are referred by Mr. X to Mr. Y and you make the first call to Mr. Y refer to the conversation where Mr. X referred you to Mr. Y, this helps to break the initial thaw.
- For individuals networking for job referrals using an excel sheet to track your developments is heavily recommended else your work may go haphazard and this may not reflect well on your prospective employer and colleague. Also, keep an eye on Job Boards on networking sites like LinkedIn which has now being slowly accepted as a preferred means of recruitment to Middle levels and senior levels.