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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 October 8, 2019

    How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

    How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

    The late writer William S. Burroughs once said that “When you stop growing, you start dying.” It might have a morbid undertone, but it’s one hundred percent true in terms of one’s career.

    The days of finding a job with one company that you can stick with for 30 years, and simply relax as you move up its company escalator are few and far between in today’s world. This isn’t necessarily bad news. On the contrary, it means that you’re the one in charge of shaping your career advancement.

    By putting these principles and behaviors into practice, you’ll begin to see how to advance your career quickly. Ready? Let’s get started…

    1. Define What Success Is for You

    There’s no right or wrong definition of what success in your career looks like. The important thing is to figure out what success looks like for YOU. It might, and probably will, change along the way, but if you don’t have some sort of milestone on the horizon, then you won’t know which direction to go in.

    Think about success in your career in terms of one year, five years, and 10 years. Once you have that, it’s time to lace up your boots and get to work.

    2. Learn How to Develop and Follow a Plan

    Nobody just stumbles upon success accidentally. Sure, they may stumble upon breakthroughs or new methods accidentally, but all success stories have one thing in common — a plan.

    Establish a timeline for the things that you want to achieve in your career in the next year, five years, 10 years, and so on. Consider the skills that you’ll need to learn to make these things happen and work on acquiring them.

    3. Surround Yourself With Those Better Than You

    It’s a rule of thumb among musicians that if you want to get better, then you need to get out of the bedroom and play with people who are better than you.

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    By surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and where you want to be, you’ll not only see how these people climbed to where they are in their respective fields, but you’ll learn from them and naturally want to push yourself to be better in your own job as well.

    4. Seek Out a Mentor(s)

    A mentor will not only be able to help you refine and reach your career goals, but will be invaluable in landing promotions and finding unadvertised job openings.

    One unique approach is to work on fostering a relationship with a mentor both within and outside of your company. This will help in giving you different perspectives as you rise up through the ranks in your company and career overall.

    5. Stop Wasting Your Mornings

    You may not think you’re a morning person, but if you can learn to be one, you’ll thank yourself 10 years down the road.

    Prepare a to-do list of tasks that you want to accomplish the day before and work on knocking them out for at least one hour before you respond to morning emails. The problem with responding to emails first, is you’re giving your attention to somebody else’s agenda, instead of plotting your own course for the day.

    6. Arrange or Attend a Networking Party

    If you’re attending networking events simply because you might get a few free drinks, you’re doing them wrong. These events are great for meeting new people and forming relationships. Your goal shouldn’t be to get hired by the end of the night, but to simply make a good impression by being friendly and authentic. So what’s next?

    Reach out a few days later via email or on social media to follow up and connect!

    7. Pick Up Some New Skills

    Nobody wants to be the old dog that can’t learn any new tricks. To move up in your career, you’re going to likely need to pick up new skills along the way. Maybe your company offers on-the-job training or you have the option of taking online classes at night.

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    By learning new skills, you’ll not only be able to expand upon what you can already do, but you’ll make yourself more valuable to your employer and future employers.

    8. Exploit the Benefits Already at Your Disposal

    Remember what we just said about the possibility of your company providing on-the-job training? Take advantage of these sorts of benefits!

    If you’re working for a company that allows you to job shadow other employees or has company mixers, you should attend these. They not only allow you to develop your skills within the company, but show seasoned executives within your field that you’re interested in more than just clocking in for a paycheck.

    9. Make Yourself Indispensable

    Good help is hard to find and employers want to retain outstanding employees. If you can learn to make yourself indispensable to your company, you’ll not only communicate that you’re successful, but will have a lot more job security. What’s this entail though?

    It’s actually not all that difficult. By being reliable, adapting to new challenges, and holding your own work and performance to a high standard, you’ll stand out among your peers and others will take notice. Easy enough, right?

    10. Get Off the Fence

    People who advance in their careers are those who don’t shy away from voicing their opinion and stand up with authority when the opportunity arises.

    If a problem arises in your company and you think you might have a solution or are willing to work to find one, then let others know. Employers value and promote problem solvers. Start off with something small and work your way up towards tackling more difficult tasks and projects.

    11. Don’t Wait for More Responsibility, Ask for It

    If you want more responsibility in your job, then be open about it with your manager. Your manager may be so busy with their own work that they weren’t aware you were looking for more challenges.

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    Just make sure you can handle it and that you already show strong performance in your current duties. And if your manager doesn’t seem supportive about offering you more responsibility, well, then it could be time to look for new employment.

    12. Stop Wasting Time on What You Don’t Want

    If your career goals start with “I should do this…” there could be a problem. This kind of language in referring to goals can doom them to failure because the want isn’t there.

    Consider using the RUMBA method (Reasonable, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral and Agreed) when setting your goals. That “agreed” part should really be “want.” By going after career goals that you actually want to accomplish, you’re much more likely to achieve them.

    13. Seek Out Feedback and Apply It

    Simply doing your job might not always push you up in your career advancement. Too often, employees just assume that their bosses will notice their performance strides and reach out when the time is right to advance.

    Don’t be afraid to regularly seek out feedback and ask for constructive criticism. It not only shows that you value your manager’s opinion but demonstrates that you care about your job and want to become better in your chosen field.

    14. Pick Your Bosses Wisely

    Advancing in your career can move a lot quicker if you’re working for the right people. If your boss isn’t any good at their job or doesn’t value you, then moving up could become difficult.

    A great boss though, will be able to help you capitalize on your strengths and be an advocate for your success. If there aren’t any strong developers of talent in your management chain already, then look around for some and seek them out as mentors.

    15. Learn to Develop Your Sense of Timing

    The odds of asking for a promotion or raise are in your favor with over 70 percent of respondents to a survey from PayScale reporting some success. One thing to keep in mind that can make all the difference is when you ask.

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    Some corporate cultures may prefer that employees reach out about advancement during their annual review, but maybe you work for a more free-spirited startup. The best approach may be to take note of when others advance and ask about how the organization handles employee development.

    16. Work Hard and Promote Yourself

    Working hard and delivering a solid job performance are the keys to advancing in your career no matter what field you’re in. This doesn’t mean you need to be completely humble about your accomplishments either.

    Keep a record of your positive impact within the organization and let others both within your company and your field know that you’re enthusiastic about your role and work.

    17. Don’t Just Build Your Network… Cultivate It

    It’s way too easy to add new people to your LinkedIn network and then forget about them for all eternity. Rather than just collecting business cards or social media contacts, you should be cultivating relationships with the ones you already have.

    Follow up with people that you haven’t spoken to in a while, offer to connect them with somebody you know in their field, or ask about a new job title they may have taken on. Doing so could be the spark that leads to a potential job referral.

    18. Join a Professional Organization

    The National Association of (insert your industry here) and other professional organizations can still offer a great wealth of advantages from networking to industry insights, and skill development.

    Even outside of professional organizations dedicated to particular job fields, civic organizations can also be fantastic for making new contacts. After all, so much about career advancement is who you know, and you never know who you’ll meet who knows somebody else who is looking for someone with your skills and experience.

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    Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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