A Guide to Networking in Business School

by Jarie Bolander on October 22, 2012

So you’re in the process of getting your MBA, and you can’t wait to get out there into the business world. You’ve probably heard before that building or working for a successful business is all about networking. There’s definitely plenty of truth to that, but what many MBA students don’t realize is that the best time to start networking is NOW, not after you leave school. As MBA holder Adam Janikowski notes in an article in the Globe and Mail, “Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the greatest value to me of my MBA is the network I gained.” So how does an MBA student make the most of his network in school? Here are a few solid tips:

#1 Choose networking and recruiting events wisely

Your business school will likely hold many recruiting events throughout the year, especially during recruiting season. It can be tempting to desperately go to every single event, thinking that you’ll maybe miss out on something. In reality, it’s better to be prepared for and attend happy hours and recruiting events selectively. Going to every event can be exhausting. In the case of networking in B-school, the quality of your networking experiences definitely trumps quantity.

#2 Tap into your alumni database

Alumni databases are one of the most helpful yet inexplicably underused resources in both graduate school and college. Especially in business school, alumni of your school very much want to help you and establish a connection through community. Check out your alumni database and find professionals who are doing now what you want to do in the future. Call or send a polite email asking if you can meet with them for an informal, informational interview. Be respectful of their time and don’t be too pushy. Contacting alumni is a great way to find a life-long mentor and grow your network.

#3 Don’t be overbearing or a brownnoser

When you read advice about networking, you’re often instructed to be assertive. This, of course, is great advice, but it can often be misinterpreted such that you come across as desperate and annoying. When you’re in the process of networking, don’t be obvious about sucking up to a recruiter. Your classmates will resent you. What’s more, the recruiter can really tell the difference between genuine interest in the company and forced brownnosing. Just be yourself. Don’t overdo it.

#4 Don’t always talk business

Paradoxically, one of the easiest ways to widen your network effectively in business school is to stop talking about business all the time! Networking is just as much about informally socializing as it is about having professional conversations. When you’re trying to network with certain individuals, go for the personal connection first, whether it’s a shared hobby, interest, or passion. Then talk about business. You’ll become much more memorable in the eyes of the recruiter or professional when you’ve first established a close personal connection.

There’s no doubt about it—networking is tough. But it’s really never too early to start building your network, even if you are still in school. Good luck!

Melissa Miller is a freelance writer and budding entrepreneur. She enjoys writing about education, small business trends, and personal finance. Check out more of her writing at www.associatedegreeonline.com. Melissa welcomes your comments below!

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