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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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    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

    How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

    Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

    Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

    Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

    In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

    How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

    Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

    Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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    • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
    • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
    • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
    • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

    If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

    After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

    We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

    Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

    Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

    One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

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    These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

    40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

    All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

    For Changing a Job

    1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
    2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
    3. Get a raise.
    4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
    5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
    6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
    7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
    8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
    9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
    10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

    For Switching Career Path

    1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
    2. Find a mentor.
    3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
    4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
    5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
    6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
    7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
    8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
    9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
    10. Create a financial plan.

    For Getting a Promotion

    1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
    2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
    3. Become a mentor.
    4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
    5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
    6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
    7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
    8. Become a better communicator.
    9. Find new ways to be a team player.
    10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

    For Acing a Job Interview

    1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
    2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
    3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
    4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
    5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
    6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
    7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
    8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
    9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
    10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

    Career Goal Setting FAQs

    I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

    1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

    If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

    If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

    How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

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    2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

    Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

    Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

    Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

    3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

    You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

    Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

    4. Can I have several career goals?

    It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

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    On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

    For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

    Summary

    You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

    • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
    • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
    • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
    • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
    • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

    By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

    More Tips About Setting Work Goals

    Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

    Reference

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