Networking is a word which any MBA student will hear the most in their academic & professional lives. Several books are written on it, and the Career Management Centre at SFU’s Segal Graduate School of Business organizes various sessions to enlighten students with best networking practices. Being an international student, initially, it was very overwhelming for me, as back home LinkedIn’s popularity is still in its nascent stage, and people generally connect through company events and meetings. In the past year, I have learned that companies in North America pay utmost importance to the person beyond your resume, academic and professional qualifications. I am in a gradual process of becoming an effective networker. However, I would like to share some valuable insights with students like me, who are new to this world of networking:
1. Build Network Through Referrals
It is essential to leverage your existing contacts to expand your network. Referrals always play a decisive role in people accepting invites from unfamiliar contacts. Being introduced by a noted professional helps you to receive desired attention, and you will get noticed way more than non-referred candidates.
2. Use LinkedIn
LinkedIn is emerging to be a potent networking tool, and its functionalities allow the user to connect with people from the desired industry, domain, and even potential recruiters. It is the need of the hour to have a solid LinkedIn presence.
3. Learn from Industry Experts
Firstly, the aim of networking is not to find a job or an internship. We connect with eminent people from relevant industries to better understand their work, company and learn from their experiences.
4. Keep it Short & Sweet
For every networking call, have a set agenda to keep the meeting on track. The focus should be on productive conversations rather than lengthy conversations. Always keep it short, crisp, and to the point with no more than 30 mins meetings. This also demonstrates that you value the counterparty’s time as well as yours.
5. Be an Active Listener
As a rule of thumb – let the other person talk. A good conversationalist is first a good listener. Make sure to listen actively to everything a person shares about their work experience. Avoid looking here & there or being disinterested. The best way to concentrate is to take notes.
6. Talk about your Achievements
To make a successful two-way conversation, slip in some of your accomplishments at the right time to demonstrate your competence. Include detailed information about your story and how you revamped or solved an existing problem that benefitted your team and organization.
7. Take Advice on your Resume
Ask people with whom you share an established professional relationship to review your resume and give feedback. This serves two important purposes. First, people discover your entire professional journey, and they might find you are fit for any of the openings in their teams. Second, they might refer you to their connections where your profile might be suitable.
8. Always Follow Up
The biggest mistake most students commit is that they do not “follow up” with their contacts. In order to maintain a steady professional rapport with industry personnel, always ensure consistent two-way communication. As a starter, you can always share with them any good article you read about their work domain or industry with a brief note. Reconnect with the members of your network every 2-3 months.
9. Say Thank You!
The foundation of any relationship, be it personal and professional, is gratitude. Always thank your networks for taking out the time from their busy schedules to speak with you and providing valuable insights about their role, company, and industry. Take notes about important lessons from each call as it will help in future correspondence.
10. Create an Active Online Presence
Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is updated with each section (bio, educational & employment details, skills, volunteer work, and profile photo). Recruiters actively gauge social media profiles of prospective candidates looking out for the right skills and expertise. Additionally, it keeps people in our network aware of the content we share (blogs, newsletters & articles), making our profile more visible.
About the Author
Aparajita is a full-time MBA candidate at Simon Fraser University’s Segal Graduate School of Business. Born and raised in India, she has ~7 years of professional experience in Investment Banking, Equity Research and Trading Floor. As a student ambassador at SFU, she is looking forward to writing blogs highlighting her unique experiences and learning throughout the MBA Program. She is a team player, collaborative, friendly, and approachable person. She is enjoying her stay at SFU’s Downtown student accommodation and loves to bike around and explore Vancouver.