But postgraduate career opportunities don’t just appear out of nowhere. To get there, MBAs need to network—and network well.
“Networking is one of the most powerful reasons people pursue an MBA degree,” says Yiannis Gavrielides, co-founder and CEO of networking solutions company, Covve. “Considering that 22% of the world’s CEOs have an MBA degree, networking and therefore access to MBA alumni can be easily regarded as equally important as the business schools’ case study system, and any class of the MBA curriculum,” he adds.
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 52% of prospective students pursue graduate degrees such as an MBA in order to network. After completion, 76% of alumni agree that pursuing a degree like an MBA helped to successfully develop their professional network.
Why is MBA Networking Important?
You pick up lots of new skills on an MBA degree, ranging from practical skills in management and leadership to vital soft skills in teamwork and cultural differences.
But the degree also offers you an opportunity to build your professional network, which is likely to give you an advantage in the job market compared to non-MBAs.
A powerful professional network will help you not just throughout your MBA, but all the way through your career.
For starters, it can help you land that dream job. “Consider that almost 40% of the people who apply to as many as 10 job openings, do not even receive an interview invitation,” says Yiannis. “Whether you are applying for your first-year internship or full-time job upon graduation, networking can significantly increase your chances of getting interviewed or hired.” Yannis cites a LinkedIn study that reported 70% of the professionals found their job by knowing someone who worked at the company they were applying to. Plus, 52% of hiring managers say that a referral could increase a candidate’s chances of getting an interview.
“So, make no mistake, reach out to visiting lecturers from the industry, alumni from your MBA program, and even to the connections of your classmates,” says Yiannis. “Find the right people and get referred.”
When choosing to make a career move, a network can help give you the insider’s view of a company. Professor and director of corporate relations at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, Shawn Herrera, says: “Wise job seekers draw on the advice of others before jumping ship in order to affirm or reconsider their decision.” He adds: “Your professional network can help clear up questions about whether the workplace culture, compensation package, and growth opportunities at your current position are in line with industry averages. They can also provide advice on ways to develop additional skills or if an advanced degree might assist you to move up your current career ladder or pivot to a different career ladder.”
If you’re interested in entrepreneurship as a career (more than 80% of MBAs are), then networking is a powerful way of meeting potential business partners, investors, and talent for your startup.
In fact, nearly 30% of Chicago Booth Business School alumni said that they used their network to find talent, access industry insights, or secure funding when launching a startup.
Later in your career, you might find that having a professional network across the globe helps you do better business. In many cases, your career might lead you to work with people you did your MBA with, or others you know through your network.
Having an existing relationship will make it easier to get business deals off the ground and could lead to new business opportunities.
5 Steps to Better Networking
While networking a crucial part of business school, there’s a difference between simply meeting new people and doing effective networking. These five tips will help you refine your networking skills and ensure that you’re making the right connections for your career.
1. Refine your network.
Your networking will be more effective if you seek out people from the industries, sectors or companies that you’re actually interested in. You’ll find that a refined, targeted professional network will offer you better advice and quicker answers to the questions you might have.
2. Don’t hold back on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is an MBA student and graduate’s best friend. As well as a social network for professionals, it acts as a huge database of roles and opportunities. If you find someone who works at a company or in a role you’re interested in, don’t hesitate to reach out with a message.
3. Take advantage of alumni networks.
It’s not just your peers and professors who will help you find your dream role. Business schools have huge alumni networks—often exceeding 50,000 people—and schools make it possible for current students to communicate with graduates. Even smaller alumni networks can be beneficial, as those close ties can lead to meaningful connections.
4. Do your research.
You’ll build connections faster if you know who you’re talking to. Make sure to properly do your research on any LinkedIn connections or people in your alumni network that you want to speak to—you’re more likely to get good advice if they know that you’ve done your homework.
5. Keep in touch.
Networking doesn’t stop when you graduate from your MBA. It’s great if you’ve formed strong connections with your classmates during your program, but the rest test is when your course is over. Try to keep in regular contact with your network, including professors. You’ll be kept in-the-know about potential roles, and with regular contact you’ll know exactly who to reach out to if you need help when seeking a new role. Says Shawn: “Professionals should not wait to begin building their professional network until they are considering a job move, but rather be building allies, mentors, sponsors, and friends all along their career. With a solid network in place, professionals are better positioned to make clearer decisions of what their career should, and could, become.”