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

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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 25, 2021

    Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

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    Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

    As a recruiter, I have met and interviewed hundreds of candidates who have no idea who they are.

    Without a personal brand, candidates struggle to answer the question: “tell me about yourself—who are you?” They have no idea about who they are, what their strengths are, and how they can add value to the company. They present their CV’s believing that their CV is the key to their career success. In some ways, your CV still has its use. However, in today’s job market, you need more than a CV to stand out in a crowd.

    According to Celinne Da Costa:[1]

    “Personal brand is essentially your golden ticket to networking with the right people, getting hired for a dream job, or building an influential business.” She believes that “a strong personal brand allows you to stand out in an oversaturated marketplace by exposing desired audiences to your vision, skillset, and personality in a way that is strategically aligned with your career goals.”

    A personal brand opens up your world to so many more career opportunities that you would never have been exposed to with just your CV.

    What Is Your Personal Brand?

    “Personal branding is how you distinctively market your uniqueness.” —Bernard Kelvin Clive

    Today, the job market is very competitive and tough. Having a great CV will only let you go so far because everyone has a CV, but no one else has your distinct personal brand! It is your personal brand that differentiates you from everyone else and that is what people buy—you.

    Your personal brand is your mark on the world. It is how people you interact with and the world see you. It is your legacy—it is more important than a business brand because your personal brand lasts forever.

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    I have coached people who have very successful careers, and they come to me because they have suddenly found that they are not getting the opportunities or having the conversations that would them to their next role. They are having what I call a “career meltdown,” all because they have no personal brand.

    A personal brand helps you become conscious of your differences and your uniqueness. It allows you to position yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the pack, especially among other potential job applicants.

    Don’t get me wrong, having a great CV and a great LinkedIn profile is important. However, there are a few steps that you have to take to have a CV and LinkedIn profile that is aligned to who you are, the value you offer to the market, and the personal guarantee that you deliver results.

    Building your personal brand is about strategically, creatively, and professionally presenting what makes you, you. Knowing who you are and the value you bring to the table enables you to be more informed, agile, and adaptable to the changing dynamic world of work. This is how you can avoid having a series of career meltdowns.

    Your Personal Brand Is Essential for Your Career Success

    In her article, Why Personal Branding Is More Important Than Ever, Caroline Castrillon outlines key reasons why a personal brand is essential for career success.

    According to Castrillon,[2]

    “One reason is that it is more popular for recruiters to use social media during the interview process. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees.”

    The first thing I do as a recruiter when I want to check out a candidate or coaching client is to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your digital footprint is the window that highlights to the world who you are. When you have no control over how you want to be seen, you are making a big mistake because you are leaving it up to someone else to make a judgment for you as to who you are.

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    As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

    In her book, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about the importance of having a personal brand and her journey to defining her personal brand. She wrote that:

    “if you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

    When you have a personal brand, you are in control. You know exactly what people will say about you when you leave the room.

    The magic of a personal brand is that gives you control over how you want to be seen in the world. Your confidence and self-belief enable you to leverage opportunities and make informed decisions about your career and your future. You no longer experience the frustrations of a career meltdown or being at a crossroads not knowing what to do next with your career or your life. With a personal brand, you have focus, clarity, and a strategy to move forward toward future success.

    Creating your personal brand does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and self-reflection. You will be expected to step outside of your comfort zone not once, but many times.

    The good news is that the more time you spend outside of your comfort zone, the more you will like being there. Being outside of your comfort zone is where you can test the viability of and fine-tune your personal brand.

    5 Key Steps to Creating Your Personal Brand

    These five steps will help you create a personal brand that will deliver you the results you desire with your career and in life.

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    1. Set Your Personal Goals

    What is it that you want to do in the next five years? What will your future self be doing in the next five to ten years? What is important to you? If you can answer these questions, then you are on the right path. If not, then you have to start thinking about them.

    2. Create Your Unique Value Proposition

    Create your unique value proposition by asking yourself these four questions:

    1. What are your personality features? What benefit do you offer people?
    2. Who are you and why do people enjoy working with you?
    3. What do you do and what do people want you to do for them? How do you solve their problems?
    4. What makes you different from others like you?

    The answers to these questions will give you the information you need to create your professional story, which is the key step to creating your personal brand.

    3. Write Your Professional Story

    Knowing who you are, what you want, and the unique value you offer is essential to you creating your professional story. People remember stories. Your personal story incorporates your value proposition and tells people who you are and what makes you unique. This is what people will remember about you.

    4. Determine Which Platforms Will Support Your Personal Brand

    Decide which social media accounts and online platforms will best represent your brand and allow you to share your voice. In a professional capacity, having a LinkedIn profile and a CV that reflects your brand is key to your positioning in relation to role opportunities. People will be connecting with you because they will like the story you are telling.

    5. Become Recognized for Sharing Your Knowledge and Expertise

    A great way for you to promote yourself is by sharing knowledge and helping others. This is where you prove you know your stuff and you gain exposure for doing so. You can do this through social media, writing, commenting, video, joining professional groups, networking, etc. Find your own style and uniqueness and use it to attract clients, the opportunities, or the jobs you desire.

    The importance of having a personal brand is not going to go away. In fact, it is the only way where you can stand out and be unique in a complex changing world of work. If you don’t have a personal brand, someone will do it for you. If you let this happen, you have no control and you may not like the story they create.

    Standing out from others takes time and investment. Most people cannot make the change by themselves, and this is where engaging a personal brand coach is a viable option to consider.

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    As a personal brand coach, working with my clients to create their personal brand is my passion. I love the fact that we can work together to create a personal story that defines exactly what people will say when you leave the room.

    Other People’s Stories

    Listening to other people’s stories is a great way to learn. In his article, 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding, Rafael Dos Santos presents the best Ted Talks where speakers share their stories about the “why,” “what,” and “how” of personal branding.((GuidedPR: 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding))

    Take some time out to listen to these speakers sharing their stories and thoughts about personal branding. You will definitely learn so much about how you can start your journey of defining yourself and taking control of your professional and personal life.

    Your personal brand, without a doubt, is your secret weapon to your career success. As Michelle Obama said,

    “your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

    So, go own your story. Go on the journey to create your personal brand that defines who you are, highlights your uniqueness, and the value you offer to the world.

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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