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A 6-Step Guide to Networking for First Year MBA Students

A 6-Step Guide to Networking for First Year MBA Students

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    If you are a first year MBA student, especially if you are at a lesser-known MBA program, networking is going to be an essential component to landing your summer internship.

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    Start Early

    If there’s any piece of advice that I would give first year MBA students it’s that your job search stats the day you start school, and if you are really a go-getter even before you arrive at school. There are several reasons you should start early. First off, the later you start, the less leverage you have when you talk to people. When you start later, people know you need something from them and are less likely to help you in the process.  Another reason you should start early is because getting in touch with people can often take time and an early start will save you from scrambling to get things done in a short amount of time. Effective networking as an MBA student is really about planning and an early start will help you formulate a plan.

    Informational Interviews/Research

    Informational interviews are REALLY important to your networking strategy. First off you may have certain impressions of the industry you want to work in and those impressions could be completely off. For example, when I started business school I was convinced that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry. After about 4 conversations with people in the entertainment industry, I realized I had no desire whatsoever to work in that world. Using informational interviews also enabled me to build a network of contacts at Harrah’s (an organization that didn’t recruit at my school) and get to the final round of interviews for the MBA internship program.  Here are a few things that you should keep in mind about informational interviews:

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    • Keep it short and sweet, 15-20 minutes tops.
    • Have a list of questions about the company/intern program.
    • Find out what skills you need to develop during your MBA to get hired.
    • Send a copy of your resume to interviewee prior to the interview.
    • Don’t ask for a job.
    • Conduct multiple informational interviews (different perspectives will shed more light on the position and the organization).
    • Send a follow-up note thanking the interviewee for his or her time.

    LinkedIn

    At this point in your career, it’s highly unlikely that you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, and if you don’t, set one up right away. LinkedIn is an essential asset to networking. If you want to find recent MBA graduates or people who have completed an MBA internship at an organization that you are interested in, LinkedIn is a great way to connect with these people. When I targeted Harrah’s President’s associate summer program, I used LinkedIn to identify all of the current President’s associates at various Harrah’s properties and set up informational interviews with all of them.  Thanks to these efforts, when I had my first interview with the recruiter, I was so well-versed about the organization that the first round was a breeze.

    Alumni Networks

    Depending on where you go to school, an alumni network can be a huge asset. When approaching alumni keep the same tips about informational interviews I offered above in mind.  I would recommend you try to reach out to at least one or two alumni a week.  If you connect with one alumni every single month that you are in business school  (i.e. 2 years) and form a solid relationship, at the end of two years, you’ll have a network of 24 solid contacts who can help you.

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    Networking Events

    With the current state of the economy there are so many networking events going on that it would be foolish not to take advantage of them. If you do a Google search for networking events in your city, you’ll find a list of events that occur on a monthly or even biweekly basis. I recommend trying to fill your calendar with at least one event a week. Try to make at least one solid connection at each event that you go to.

    Volunteer Work

    In Brian Tracy’s book The Luck Factor, he mentions doing volunteer work as one of the most effective networking strategies ever. While your immediate thought might be soup kitchens and homeless people, there are numerous opportunities to do volunteer work for organizations in your area of professional interest. The most amazing example Brian Tracy gave in this book was how his work as a volunteer for the chamber of commerce eventually led to a committee position, and ultimately connected him to many influential leaders in the community.  As a result of doubling his number of contacts, he doubled his income.

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    Social Life

    Your social life can provide another tremendous outlet for networking.  Simply turning and saying “hello” to the person next to you at a bar or lounge can connect you to some highly influential people. As a result of doing this, I’ve met other MBA graduates, real estate developers, and other people who could be of tremendous value in my networking efforts.

    While each of these strategies is effective at different levels, be smart. Use the 80/20 rule and realize that 80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of your efforts. So rather than trying to do them all and do them poorly, choose the ones that work for you and do them well.

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    Published on December 18, 2018

    How to Brand Yourself and Make Your Business Stand Out

    How to Brand Yourself and Make Your Business Stand Out

    You’ve been in business for years and have finally hit your plateau.

    The tactics you’d implemented for your customers aren’t working as they’ve used to. You feel like your business has fallen out of the spotlight and now you’d have to settle for any business you get. It’s how businesses work, right?

    The truth is that some brands will fade off the business world–while others will adapt well and continue to grow. You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself for where your business currently stands. After all, you’d kept applying tactics that provided predictable results.

    Instead, decide to not settle for average results and spend more time building your brand. To make your business stand out from your competition, you need to be unforgettable. But how can you?

    In this article, I’ll cover timeless tactics that have worked for other businesses. If you apply these tactics correctly your competition won’t be able to copy them. Here’s how to brand yourself and make your business stand out:

    1. Win Your Audience’s Hearts with Authenticity

    The truth has always shined.

    Even without the technology we have today, people always had a way of finding out if someone was lying. And, with everyone engaging in social media today, it’s hard to hide from the truth. Yet, this seems to be what many businesses fail to do.

    For example, companies like Listerine have been fined for lying.[1] A quick buck today won’t be worth it in the long run. Instead, practice being authentic to your customers and they’ll eventually rely on you.

    Allow your customers to buy your products with a money-back guarantee – then deliver on your promise. Be consistent with the content you provide and stay true to your brand.

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    For example, if you provide coaching services for entrepreneurs, don’t sponsor irrelevant brands. If you stop caring about your brand’s mission, your audience will notice. They’ll question your integrity with your business and stop trusting your brand.

    But if you gain your customer’s trust, you’ll start standing out from your competition. Your customers will feel safe purchasing from you since they’ll know you’re honest.

    2. Share a Story No One Will Be Able to Copy

    A few decades ago, a brand would’ve gotten away without being unique. That’s because back then starting a business was not accessible to most people. You’d either need enough money to launch your business or have the credentials. And even if you had all these qualifications, you needed to get past the gatekeepers.

    Today, technology has disrupted many of the barriers that were present a few decades ago. For example, today a college student can launch a Podcast within a week. He can create a website in a few hours and record a few Podcast episodes. If he’s persistent, he can build a large following overtime and get paid by sponsors.

    This is great news for aspiring entrepreneurs but there’s more competition than ever. You can only do so much before other businesses begin to copy you. But what no business can copy is your story.

    That’s why you need to share your story with your audience.

    For example, if you have a money blog, share how you’ve overcome your financial struggles. If you run a freelance writing business, share how you’ve overcome writer’s block. The more your audience can relate to you the better.

    Without a story, your business won’t stand out. And if you copy what’s working for other businesses, you’ll experience short-term success.

    Take some time to share your story with the world, your audience will love you more for it.

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    3. Stop Reinventing Every Single Thing

    “Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.” – Anthony J.D’angelo

    You may have heard that being original is the way to stand out. While this is true to an extent, you also shouldn’t be original when something is already working.

    For example, if your competition has a successful Podcast in your field, then so can you. Don’t search for better alternatives to a Podcast if it’s already working.

    Why?

    Because this is a waste of time. Instead, copy what’s already working and make it your own.[2] If your competition has a Podcast, figure out which areas you can improve and tailor it around your brand.

    Knowing this you can now spy on your competition and determine which areas you can improve. But, know that it also works the other way around. Others will view your business and copy what’s working for you.

    That’s why it’s important to stay true to your brand and be authentic with your audience. When you do, your competition won’t be able to copy your unique traits. Have an abundant mindset and feel confident for what your business has to offer.

    4. Shine Because of Your Uniqueness

    Stop trying to help the entire world and focus on helping a specific group of people instead.

    I get it, you’re willing to help almost everyone because you want to bring in more business. But the truth is that if you resonate with everyone, you resonate with no one.

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    Take, for example, a marketing agency that helps businesses promote their product. This business doesn’t speak to anyone but gets occasional sales throughout the year.

    But what if there was a similar marketing agency dedicated to helping real estate agents? If there was a real estate agent looking for help in marketing–who do you think they’ll choose? That’s why niching down is necessary if you hope to stand out from your competition.

    Determine which customers you enjoy working with the most and determine which customers bring in the most revenue. Once you’ve gathered enough data, focus on servicing your ideal customer.

    Don’t expect immediate results since this won’t be an easy transition. If you’re currently helping a narrow audience, slowly transition into a niche audience. Niching down is crucial to building raving fans.

    5. Be the Brand Everyone Can Depend On

    Being the brand your customers can depend on is important. How many times have you bought a product that’s failed on its promise? Or have settled for an average service?

    Exceeding your customer’s expectations is a sure way to make your brand stand out. In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, studies on human psychology prove that when you give to others, they’ll reciprocate. Offer your customers free consulting, a free ebook, or free quality content. Eventually, they’ll be happy to reciprocate after receiving value from you.

    View what your competition is doing and surpass their offers. For example, if your competition offers a free 15-minute consulting call, offer 30 minutes. When you focus on helping others more, your customers will notice.

    Make it your mission to serve your customers first and then worry about making a profit. Other ways for your business to be reliable is by inspiring your customers. That’s right, a business isn’t only about selling, it’s also helping customers achieve their goals.

    For example, you can write content that will inspire your audience to take action. You can interview guests that will push your audience to break bad habits. Get creative and look for more ways in which your audience can depend on you with.

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    The Bottom Line

    Imagine serving fewer customers and getting paid more than ever.

    Despite the fierce competition, you’ve got fans wanting to buy your products and services. Although this may seem impossible right now, it’s not. If other brands have been able to stand out in a crowded industries, why can’t yours?

    The truth is that standing out from your competition isn’t easy. There’s no secret formula that’s available to the rest of the world. The trick is to do what most brands are unwilling to do.

    Many businesses don’t want to niche down because this will mean a loss in sales. But that’s sacrificing short-term gains for long-term success. Niching down is necessary to build a brand your customers will love.

    Many businesses will spend a lot of money looking for ways to innovate, but won’t apply what’s working. But, not you.

    You’ve got what it takes to stand out from your competition. Start slowly and master each principle covered here. Now go and make your business stand out like never before.

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    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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