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Monday, February 6, 2012

The importance of networking before and after MBA

When I was preparing for that IIM interview call, I spoke to alumni from several business schools including IIM-A itself, ISB, JBIMS, XLRI etc. Each of them gave a unique perspective and helped me refine my expectations of how to best present my case. Despite my rather unique background in the applicant pool(non engineer), I did get several useful insights from the selfless way many devoted time and patience to help out. Even during the MBA here(2010-12), I needed to seek inputs from alumni related to career choices, research projects, speaker series, articles for magazine etc. And inevitably, they were happy to help-even to the extent of calling me from abroad/oustation at their own expense! Telecom is cheap but that is not the point.

This year, I returned the favour somewhat by advising an IIM-A call getter(fellow CA) right from CAT preparation stage till the interview. I guess I would have spent 3-5hrs in total, and that while his own efforts obviously made much more of a difference, I like to think that I played a small role in that success. But all that(my speaking to alumni and even the call getter seeking my advice) would not have been possible without proactively reaching out. One may cynically feel that why should others help when they have nothing to gain? But then, they are not exactly inundated with such requests and often feel flattered to help, also people are inherently altruistic despite what economic theory may hold.

Contrary to general perception, MBAs from top bschools are not arrogant(on the contrary, they usually feel less competitive pressure than those from other colleges), and are quite willing to help out within the limitations of their busy schedules. As a 2005 alumnus pointed out to me, the more senior people are, the less competitive pressure they feel from you and thus are more willing to help. After leaving campus, the main asset one has is the alumni network, and using that means networking. Now, by networking I do not mean spamming with visiting cards/friend requests/insincere sales type requests etc. Rather, it would mean meeting people in real life first(as far as possible) and then using cyberspace to maintain that connection.

How does one get in touch? Some basic tips are
  1. Linkedlin makes the outreach portion of networking much more easier, but just having a huge Linkedlin network does not help. One needs to nurture the network and keep in touch with constituents. Else, it will become like another huge social network such as Orkut, without much value add, just leading to information overload and link squatting.
  2. Send a thank you email/note/call after your purpose is achieved, updating about the result either positive or negative. That maintains the connection. 
  3. Be considerate of their time, and ask questions after doing your own research.

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