Professional networking, I would argue, is the most important part of an MBA student’s life. I had always believed in networking, but only after I started at the Broad school that I became a (fanatic) advocate of it. That’s because on day one of orientation, I walked into the Big Ten rooms at the Kellogg Center and told my brand new classmates that I am looking for a marketing internship at a technology company in the Pacific Northwest! My classmates at the time were like, “ok, good luck with that!”
It’s not their fault. Both they and I knew that I had a very narrow set of requirements and that my options would be limited. That’s where networking kicked-in. I worked intelligently and relentlessly to develop my professional network by reaching out to alums, colleagues, classmates, friends, and others I didn’t even know. In the end, I did end up getting exactly what I was looking for, but it wasn’t easy. There were a lot of things that I did right that ultimately helped me achieve my goals.
I’m sure you have heard of LinkedIn and some of you may have even used it to network and/or look for internships & jobs, possibly with little success. I’m not going to give you a list of “top 10 ways to use LinkedIn” because you can find plenty of articles on the internet teaching you the mechanics of the tool. I would however share some insights that helped me make the most out of LinkedIn and be successful in my internship/job search.
First, develop a strong network. This is critical because the more people you’re connected to, the better chance you have of finding the one person who can help you get that interview. Second, make a list of all the people you may have run across in the last 3-5 years (literally), and then evaluate who in that list could have the slightest chance of helping you. For example, who would have thought that a speaker at a conference in New York City that I attended about 3 years ago would be interviewing me a week after I contacted him! I had never actually met him and all that I really remembered about him from the conference was his name, his position at the company, and some of the things he mentioned during his speech. Third, when you contact someone through LinkedIn don’t ask for a job but instead ask for their advice. Be upfront about what you are seeking, but do not pressure the other person. Instead, develop a rapport first and impress them with your desire to work for their company, enticing them to ask you for your resume without you even offering it. Finally, perseverance is key. Be creative when you search on LinkedIn, and find different ways to organize your search results so that you don’t miss an important name or connection. Also, not everyone you contact through LinkedIn will respond. Spread a wide net and give each person a strong reason to write back to you.
Remember, it’s never too late to start networking and also networking never ends. You can use networking as your primary method for job search, like I did, or use it to supplement your other efforts. But do yourself a favor and spend some time each day on LinkedIn. I did, and it paid off!