When anyone who has earned or is pursuing an MBA is asked why they wanted to go to business school, the answer almost always includes the power of the MBA networking opportunities.
I am going back to school so that I can gain the skills and expertise necessary to succeed in entrepreneurial ventures. But as an entrepreneur, I also realize that half the battle is who you know not what you know.
That’s why I have gotten as much of a jump on the networking aspect as possible before my MBA program starts this August.
Here’s five pre-MBA networking tips to help you do the same:
1. Make friends not acquaintances
Networking should not just mean exchanging handshakes and business cards. I think it should mean building relationships and connecting on a personal level.
Those are the kind of relationships I hope to build over the next two years of business school because they’re lasting relationships. Of course, there is merit to the fact that you might connect with someone on LinkedIn simply because you graduated from the same school or worked in the same industry, there’s nothing wrong with that!
But where possible, real friendships should be pursued with no ulterior motives tied in. The business benefits inevitably exist as a result.
2. Cold message people on LinkedIn
I know it sounds weird, but I can attest to the power of doing this. I have messaged more than one hundred individuals (including the BusinessBecause editor!) just to try to connect and start a simple relationship to build out my MBA network.
The connect request usually says something along the lines of, ‘I noticed you [something you personally found interesting or can relate to]. I would love to connect and learn more!’
Pretty simple right? More times than not, those people accept my request and we set up a time to speak over the phone or Zoom. I have met some great people this way! Ones that I’m glad to know. The easiest ones to reach out to are current students or alumni at the institution you will be attending.
3. If your cohort has a dedicated Facebook group, join it
If they don’t, create one and invite all your future classmates to join your network.
My school created a group that everyone gets added to as they are accepted. It has been a place for everyone to introduce themselves, seek guidance on various issues we’re all facing, and shoot the breeze to get to know each other.
4. Meet in-person if possible
Now that COVID-19 is easing up in most cases, meeting people in person over lunch is an opportunity to start a good relationship that is second to none. There’s nothing quite like chatting in person with someone!
I have reached out to many students, alumni, and teachers to take them to lunch and pick their brains. People love to feel needed, and I needed their wisdom! This is also a great thing to do with peers who are starting the program with you, just to spend some time together during the calm before the storm.
5. Join the global community of MBAs
The way I decided to do this was through starting a podcast called MBA Secrets. But you do not have to go that far.
One of the things I do on my podcast is interview students all over the world from many different schools. In these interviews, I ask them questions that I am interested to know from their experiences and that I think will be most useful for me to know as I approach the start of my program.
There is no reason you can’t have these exact same conversations, simply without recording them. I can’t express how helpful they have been for me as I continue to prepare.
My top tip: Don’t let one day go by during your business school experience where you don’t try to make at least one new friend. Imagine the impact on every aspect of your life that that would have!
Take small steps to start, connect with people on LinkedIn, and progress from there. Soon it will be very clear why so many go to business school solely for the MBA network.
Our MBA Newcomer, Ryan Price, is the host and founder of MBA Secrets and starts his full-time MBA at BYU Marriott School of Business in the fall. We follow Ryan through his MBA journey, giving you the inside scoop on life as an MBA student.
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