Business school applicants still fork out for the cost of management education, but it is their alumni networks that prove the most powerful aid in securing careers after graduation.
Several new studies released this year show that contacts are vital for finding MBA jobs, and that master’s students also benefit from their alumni rosters.
In a Financial Times poll of more than 1,000 masters in management students released this week, 77% learnt about employment opportunities through their school’s alumni network. Of those who got information about employment openings from alumni, 59% secured job offers.
MBA students also frequently site alumni networks as crucial to them landing employment opportunities.
Fay Wells, a graduate of US-based Tuck School of Business, landed two MBA jobs after utilizing her cohort connections. The former consultant chose the school because of its strong networking opportunities. She landed a job at ESPN, the sports broadcaster, where she spent three years, after “a Tuck connection recommended me”.
Fay said: “The alumni network has been pretty consistent. If there's ever a role I wanted, if there is a Tuck alumnus at the company, then he or she will definitely spend the time speaking to me about it… I found the network to be incredible. It’s full of people who actually care.”
This is an important part of a school’s admissions strategy for attracting prospective students.
Accord to data from an alumni survey released by GMAC earlier this year, 40% of graduates reported that they have mentored prospective or current students at some point since completing their studies.
A further 32% have recruited students for hire, and 29% have volunteered with their graduate business school, according to GMAC.
In July, a report by the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance, an association of business school career-management offices and companies, found that alumni networks proved valuable for 80 leading business schools.
Alumni-initiated hiring jumped 54% at those schools last year, according to the survey, and alumni networks were more powerful than career fairs during the same period.
In a survey of nearly 10,000 business and other professionals, Business Insider in August found that 37% MBAs polled said that a network of contacts was the most valuable business school asset. Its annual survey, which forms the basis of its MBA rankings, is based mostly on recruiters’ opinions.
The profile of business schools’ alumni is more important to applicants than course length or even employers’ recommendations, according to business school research company QS.
In an applicant survey, QS found that the profile of alumni is considered the 8th most important consideration in the US out of 14 choices; 11th in Western Europe.
Networking has become so important that some schools are formally teaching the practice as part of their MBA programs. London’s Cass Business School teaches networking on its executive programs, while Shanghai-based CEIBS delivers networking workshops for its MBA students.
The proliferation of social media – especially the web platform LinkedIn – has increased the effectiveness of alumni networking.
However, 20% of business school graduates surveyed by GMAC want to see more networking events. This is the second most frequently cited alumni recommendation in the US, Canada and Europe.
One anonymous survey responded quipped: “I would like more support after graduation for networking. Alumni calls every six months or webcasts to bring everyone together to update on the school and for the class to network would be great.”