Networking is a significant part of building a successful, sustainable career. It requires a set of learned skills that can help MBA students and graduates discover and explore opportunities in the field and beyond. Active networkers attend conferences, events, business meetings, and other face-to-face scenarios to make personal impressions, cultivate relationships, and stay current in the field. You will not always network in person. Digital networking through social media and email is also a critical component to developing a substantial base of trusted contacts. In either case, it is vital to create a personalized element to your networking strategy as it distinguishes your work and skills from other professionals.

Networking for students and new MBA holders plays a critical role in locating jobs in a competitive market.

MBA networking is an ideal way to meet established working professionals in the field. Networking for students and new MBA holders plays a critical role in locating jobs in a competitive market. Additionally, networking allows you to share knowledge and resources with like-minded professionals. When it comes to recent graduates, networking is especially important because it enables you to diversify your contacts, grow your business, and open doors to new and exciting opportunities.

How Do You Network Professionally?

Different Types of Professional Networks

According to the Harvard Business Review, three kinds of networking exist: operational, personal, and strategic. Operational networks are mostly internal or not far removed from your social circle. These contacts help you achieve short-term goals by completing work efficiently on a task-by-task basis. With operational networks, you should develop healthy working relationships. Often built around tasks and short-term demands, operational networks are limited and offer little to raise the bar on a grand scale.

Personal networking can help you seek opportunities outside of your organization, but alone it is not enough to propel you to the next level.

Personal networks enhance your personal and professional development. These groups and individuals offer outside referrals and help you move closer to current and future interests. Personal networking can help you seek opportunities outside of your organization, but alone it is not enough to propel you to the next level. Strategic networking is about determining future priorities, gaining leverage, and getting both internal and external contacts to support your efforts. On the downside, this can be time consuming and often takes you away from critical daily operations. These three networking strategies are not mutually exclusive. MBA graduates should practice all three networking types to maximize and diversify their contacts.

Networking Events

Networking events often occur at convention centers, banquet halls, universities, restaurants, and bars. They typically include question-and-answer sessions with experts in the field, lectures, and seminars. Sometimes these events are less formal, such as a job fair, and are designed to help companies and potential employees interact. Depending on the space and event type, participants engage in a range of behaviors. Social events, such as mixers and company parties, are also valuable networking opportunities. In these less-formal scenarios, you can get a sense of what a group or individual is like outside of a business setting. It also affords you the same opportunity to show your dynamic character and discuss topics, hobbies, and interests outside of work. It is generally not a good strategy to distribute business cards in these scenarios unless someone specifically asks for one.

Elevator Pitches

All professionals must be able to concisely articulate what they do. The elevator pitch is a brief commercial about yourself and your work, and is an essential networking component. The pitch is usually most appropriate when you first meet someone. It should be 25-30 seconds or eight to 10 sentences long. Your pitch should describe you and your company, what you offer, the benefits you provide, and how you execute your work. Avoid speaking too quickly, rambling, or being overly formal. MBA graduates and other professionals find themselves in a variety of situations where a casual elevator pitch is appropriate. Current MBA students should include a brief reference to their year in school and, if pertinent, which school they attended, as well as their primary interests in the field.

Social Networking Sites

MBA graduates and working professionals can use a variety of social networking sites in addition to LinkedIn. Peruse this list of 20 sites that foster community building and professional networking that you might have missed. Not all of these sites require you to be a paid member, but you may discover that paid memberships often allow you to access various tools, making it worth the investment. When using multiple networking sites, always manage your privacy settings carefully and regulate business and personal contacts on each platform. By being cautious about your connections and the information you reveal, you maintain better control over your reputation and personal branding.

Tips for Networking Professionally

Networking is a crucial skill for most professionals and MBA graduates, but it does not always come quickly. You can only learn useful networking skills through experience and repeated exposure. Seasoned networkers often learn how to continue or avoid specific words and actions in their effort to make connections and forge relationships.

Networking Event "Do's"

Networking Event "Don'ts"

Top of Page