Since the markets crashed in 2009, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of students appearing for the coveted Common Admission Test. The number for 2013 was 1.95 Lakh as compared to 2.14 Lakh in 2012; a drop of almost 8.9%. The dip clearly suggests that the demand for MBA graduates has declined in comparison to its supply.
The negative growth has also made the aspiring student weary of the future prospects as a B-School graduate; however MBA is still one of the most preferred professional courses in India. With a high number of students still competing for an admission to the best colleges and thereafter for desirable job positions, it’s imperative for a prospective/current MBA student to enter his/her college with a fair idea of what ‘NETWORKING’ is all about. Once equipped with the basics of the art of networking, an individual can build an all important network within and beyond the campus boundaries.
A network here refers to an individual or a group of professionals who are aware of your credentials and are willing to lend a helping hand in learning the finer nuances of the professional world. This enhances your chances of being more employable and they might even help you land a job. In this fast moving and competitive day and age, we eventually are a sum of our networks! Let’s decipher the best way to network while at a B-School and how the art of networking that starts during the B-School journey will eventually help us in creating long lasting professional relationships.
Network in the realms of B-School!
In any MBA class there are students from diverse backgrounds, which supersede one’s class, creed or color. Students differ from each other based on their field of study, amount of work experience, extracurricular achievements etc. Regardless of whether they like it or not, they start collaborating on different projects, assignments, clubs and this is one place where one automatically creates a network with peers and faculties.
MBA is a professional course, make the most of it!
There is no harm in having a good time, however this is a professional course and within the next 24 months everyone will be out in some organization or the other. Having a cordial relationship with all your peers and faculty will be an added advantage for you in the years ahead. Any image one creates during the time spent at a B-School will always create a recall value (either positive or negative) amongst your batch-mates and the faculty. Please do remember that the visiting faculties at B-School are leaders from the corporate world. Your seniors or batch-mates may be a reference points during an interview or a social meeting. It is also important to lead while you are at a B-School to demonstrate the leader that lies in you; however it is equally important to be a good team player and allow others to lead too.
Building your network beyond the realms of the B-School:
While you engage in the activities within your campus, one must immediately start developing a network according to ones area of interests in the corporate world. It will always be useful to focus on the field you eventually want to have a career in. It is also imperative to connect with people who are better than you and have more experience than you. Below is something which few of my fellow batch mates and I tried. It paid dividends in the long run:
While I was preparing for my B-School journey I read this term in one of the newspapers I used to subscribe (I must admit reading newspapers always helps). In essence, this is a term from Bhagvad Geeta which points as action without expectation of results. As we approach a lot of people from the corporate world for guidance, please bear in mind that we should reach out to them with an intention of learning from their experiences and not to land a job. So here this term is slightly modified as one expects to learn or add some value from any interaction. Try not to have your very first meeting with a resume in hand and expectations of landing a job. The focus should solely be creating a network.
Practice being a good listener:
We all love to talk and talk for hours. However once you are out there to meet stalwarts and create a network of your own, you need to step back, listen and learn. Listening carefully, skimming and keeping useful information is an art that one needs to master. So till the time you master the art, try to write down important points which were a part of your discussion.
Pick up the Phone / Write an E-Mail:
These are the basics and yet somehow we resist from making that first connect, via phone or email. The worst that can happen to us is that we will not be entertained at all, however 1 in 10 will respond. That single addition to your network may turn out to be a game changer in your professional development. If possible, always try and meet the person (at least once) for maximum impact. It gives them a fair idea about you and vice versa.
This might start sounding like a sales pitch, but this is important for an individual; who aspires to stand out in the crowd and wants to create a recall with influential decision makers in the industry. Every SMS/e-mail/phone call does get registered and it can be for any special occasion / or just a catch up call (Note: start calling once you have a rapport in place).
Showcase your progress in a subtle manner:
While we interact with people from the corporate world, they will guide and advise us on different aspects. It is imperative to be a quick learner and implement their suggestions. Once it’s implemented, you can share the outcome within your network of people and thank the concerned person for the insight.
Get an Internship:
Once you have a network in place, rather than asking for a job (if that is what you are building your network for) always try to land an internship. People are more than happy to hire an intern. Although stipend is necessary, one should not mind working for free if the opportunity is worth its while. Good work in an internship definitely augurs well for the future strengthens your network and helps you to interact with more people at work and hence adding more people to your network.
Rome was not built in a day! Similarly the dividends of one’s network are not overnight just as all the other things in life. Hence the suggestion is to start as soon as one enters the B-School. It is also important for us to be patient with the development of our network in the corporate world. The people we are reaching out to would be the bigwigs and will be pressed for time in most occasions. Hence do not try too hard or appear pushy.
The art of networking is something which one gets better with time. However, with the growing competition and fewer market opportunities, one who keeps adding valuable relations to his kitty will definitely have an upper hand.
Contributed by Gaurav Sharga (Class of 2010, IBS GURGAON)