Scott Edinburgh
January 26, 2021

MBA Planning Week 4: Expanding Your Network for Long-Term Success

test alt text

To give you a head start and keep you on track in the new year, Personal MBA Coach has developed a 4-part MBA Planning series!

Check out week 4 today: Expanding Your Network for Long-Term Success

(In case you missed them, check out Week 1: Make Your Career Work Harder For You, Week 2: Enhancing Your Extracurricular Profile and Week 3: Planning Ahead for the GMAT/GRE/EA)

It should come as no surprise that networking is a key part of every long-term career strategy. It is also something that many of our clients struggle with. To get you on the right path this year, Personal MBA Coach has some tips on when and how to start networking.

It is never too early to start networking. Whether you are planning to apply to business school later this year or a few years from now, a strong network will position you for success. You should look to build your network in four areas: at work, with alumni/current students from your target schools, with professionals in your preferred field, and with admissions professionals.

While networking is certainly more of a challenge in the current COVID-19 environment, there are still some actions you can be taking now. In the spirit of MBA planning, we have included one goal for each of these networks to get you started.

1. Network at work.

Find one mentor at work and begin to establish this relationship. Look for someone who knows you well and is more experienced. If the relationship progresses, it can be a source of solid career advice from someone who can identify your strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps this mentor could even write you a letter of recommendation when the time comes.

However, do not force the relationship. Start slowly by asking to schedule a virtual coffee chat (in our current work-from-home environment, many people are anxious to find new ways to connect so this invitation is likely to be well received). Then, ask a lot of questions to see if there is a good fit. Remember, finding a true mentor is a process, so do not get discouraged if it takes time to find the right person.

30-day goal: Schedule one virtual chat.

test alt text

2. Network with students or alums at your target business schools.

Speaking to current students or alumni at your schools of choice is an important part of the process. Many candidates ask me how many people they should reach out to. We advise two or three per school.

Having a laundry list of current students or alums that you have reached out to is not necessary and including it anywhere in your application would be overkill for most schools. Instead, try to have a few meaningful conversations. Alumni directories from your undergraduate university or current/former firm and your personal network are great places to start.

30-day goal: Locate and email two current students or alums about their business school experiences.

3. Network with professionals in your target field.

Setting up these relationships now is a great way to get a head start for recruiting time. Start small by finding someone who has your dream role and invite them for a virtual coffee. Tell them you want to learn more about their job and how they got there.

Most people love to talk about themselves and are happy to help aspiring professionals. Avoid being too pushy, however. Meet at a time convenient for the professional and do not ask for anything. This is not the time to ask for help getting a job or for a recommendation. Instead, let the relationship grow organically.

Speaking with strangers can be intimidating, but do not let this stop you. Meeting with alumni from your alma mater or friends of friends/family can be an easier place to begin.

30-day goal: Reach out to one professional and ask for a virtual meeting.

test alt text

4. Network with admissions professionals.

While there are many ways to connect with your target schools, virtual MBA fairs are a great way to start. You can meet multiple admissions professionals in one place and ask any burning questions. You will also get tips from the presentations and other students. Plus, it is easy and low risk.

For those in the United States, Personal MBA Coach will be attending The MBA Tour’s online Western/Mountain North America event on February 9, Central North America event on February 11, and Eastern North America event on February 18.

30-day goal: Locate one event in your area and register/put it on your calendar.

Remember, networking is a skill and one you will perfect throughout your career. But you don’t have to do it all at once. So, start small and take one step today!

About Personal MBA Coach:

Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 14 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2, currently holding the #1 ranking in the US on Poets&Quants.

We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing and mock interviews. Our team includes a former M7 admission director and former M7 admissions interviewers.

Last year, our clients earned more than $6M in scholarships!

You also may like these other blog articles:

The Rise in Deferral MBA Programs

How to Think About MBA Goals

From Berkeley Haas to Yale SOM: MBA Essay Analysis Beyond the M7