Scott Edinburgh
January 19, 2024

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

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

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 MBA 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
  • With admissions professionals

To get you started, Personal MBA Coach has included one 30-day goal for each network.

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 a letter of recommendation for you when the time comes.

However, do not force the relationship. Start slowly by asking to schedule a virtual or in-person coffee chat. Given that a lot of people are still working at least part time from home, many 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 this relationship 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 coffee chat.

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 how many people they should reach out to. We advise two or three per school. Not sure how to approach these conversations? Check out our quick tips video on student engagement.

Having a laundry list of current students or alums you have reached out to is not necessary; 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 coffee chat. This can certainly be virtual if needed. 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. You should also take advantage of the Zoom culture that has emerged since the pandemic to reach people from other locations, allowing you to gain a broader view of your future industry and more easily connect with diverse professionals.

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

4. Network with admissions professionals.

While there are many ways to connect with your target schools, MBA fairs are a great way to start. Personal MBA Coach is excited to be returning to MBA fairs in person this year! If you feel a bit unsure about how best to engage with business schools at such events, watch our quick tips video below.

You can meet multiple admissions professionals in one place and ask any burning questions. Even if your target schools are not scheduled to attend, these events can be great networking opportunities. Plus, you can get helpful tips from the presentations and other students. These events are easy and low risk. Watch our quick tips video below to learn how best to engage with business schools.

Below are a few of the upcoming events you might consider.

The MBA Tour:

The MBA Tour is a great opportunity to explore your business school options and determine which programs best align with your MBA goals. This year, The MBA Tour is offering a number of in-person and virtual events, and we will be there, too!

In-Person: London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, New York City

Virtual: Spotlight on MBAs for Veterans, The MBA & Master’s Tour Spotlight on STEM Degrees, North America, Spotlight on Black, Hispanic and Native MBAs, Europe, Latin America

Access MBA:

Access MBA is also hosting several in-person and virtual events for MBA hopefuls this winter. Personal MBA Coach’s Founder Scott Edinburgh will be attending the Boston event and moderating the alumni panel: “How I Upgraded My Career” as well as offering resume reviews!

In-Person: Boston, New York, Washington, DC

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. Start small and take one step today!

Looking for more guidance through the process? Check out our Early Planning Services to see how we can help you put your best foot forward with your future business school applications!

Or, if you are ready to get a jumpstart on your MBA applications today, reach out to discuss our Comprehensive Packages!