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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 August 20, 2019

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

    You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

    Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

    “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

    It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

    Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

    As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

    As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

    Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

    Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

    1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

    When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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    Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

    2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

    Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

    But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

    If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

    Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

    3. Go to All Office Networking Events

    Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

    If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

    Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

    Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

    The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

    Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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    4. Show Initiative

    Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

    Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

    Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

    5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

    Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

    Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

    6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

    A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

    Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

    Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

    A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

    Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

    Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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    These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

    Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

    7. Find a Mentor

    With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

    Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

    Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

    Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

    8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

    After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

    What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

    Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

    Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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    You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

    9. Set Your Professional Bar High

    Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

    Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

    Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

    Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

    The Bottom Line

    Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

    “Half of life is showing up.”

    The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

    Remember, your career is your business!

    More About Continuous Growth

    Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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