Personal MBA Coach’s January MBA Planning Kick-Start | Part 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 series: MBA Planning Kick-Start! Check out part 4 today: Expanding Your Network For Long-Term Success

(In case you missed any part of our series, be sure to read part 1, part 2 and part 3.)

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 my 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.

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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. There are four areas where you should look to build your network: at work, with alumni/students from your target schools, with professionals in your preferred field, and with admissions professionals.

While each of these is worthy of its own blog, in the spirit of “MBA Planning Kick- Start,” I have included one goal for each of these networks for now.

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, this 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 with coffee or lunch, ask a lot of questions, and 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 lunch or coffee.

2)       Network with 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 students they should reach out to. I advise two or three per school. Having a laundry list of students 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 students 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 her out for coffee. Tell her you want to learn more about her job and how she got there. Most people love to talk about themselves and are happy to help aspiring professionals. Avoid being too pushy. Meet at a time and place convenient for her 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. For many, 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 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. 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 New York, Washington DC or San Francisco areas, I will be presenting at The MBA Tour in San Francisco on January 28th, New York on February 2nd and Washington DC on February 4th so come check it out! I will also be offering free resume reviews at the QS World MBA Tour in NYC this Saturday, January 26th. If you are not nearby or cannot make these events, the MBA Tour, Forte Foundation, QS World MBA Tour and many other organizations have tours throughout the world.

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

Remember, networking is a skill and one you should perfect throughout your career. So, start small and take one step today!

Wherever you are in the MBA application process, Personal MBA Coach is here to help. Founded by a Wharton and MIT graduate, Personal MBA Coach regularly helps applicants navigate their applications each year. We also conduct mock interviews with former M7 interviewers on our team.

If you would like individual and personalized support with various aspects of the MBA application process such as early planning, school selection, essay editing or interview preparation, visit Personal MBA Coach.

This article has been re-published from Personal MBA Coach’s blog.

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