What Business Schools do not tell you about networking!
When I joined Business School, apart from the excitement of joining a world class university and meeting diverse professionals, the challenge of finding a proper job before the end of MBA was somewhere there at the back of my mind. Understandably so, as I had taken a huge education loan that had to be paid once I finish the course. A few months into the program, the fear of not getting a job started to worry me even more and the sweet phase of denial thus ended. With job search climbing up the priority ladder, I started interacting with my peers and other professionals regarding the same. I was told by many of them that MBA could actually serve as an opportunity for a triple jump, a term used to define a career change in terms of function, industry and geography. But for that to happen, one needs to start networking with people. Therefore, in order to get a job, networking surfaced up to be the most important thing I had to do at that point in time.
Soon I initiated my networking web by participating in college activities and round table discussions on topics ranging from disruptive technologies in energy sector to the future of cryptocurrencies. I would listen to the views of professionals representing global companies from diverse sectors. However, most of the times, I would wait for the sessions to end so that I could start my “true networking”. During the session breaks, I would reach out to the company representatives and try to get into a conversation. Most of the times, after an initial generic exchange of pleasantries, I would ask them about any relevant job opportunities within their companies. I would exchange cards and follow up through emails as well. However, such interactions often died after a few emails without any fruitful consequence.
Clearly, this way of networking was not working, at least for me. One incident during this phase, however, changed the way I reached out to people. One day, I came across an article on the challenges faced by the Malaysian shipping ports. Hailing from the maritime industry, I was naturally inclined to read the article. The article was written by the Head of Global Port Operations of a very big consulting firm. The in-depth analysis of the maritime ecosystem in the article impressed me and I wrote to the author congratulating him on his excellent work. Somewhere in that email, I expressed my inclination to work in that sector. Few days later, I received an email in which he thanked me and asked for a brief telephonic conversation. Evidently, this way of networking appeared to work for me.
Encouraged by this incident, I started reaching out to people in a similar way. I started reading articles concerning my field of interest and if I felt encouraged to connect with the author, I would write to him. A token of appreciation in the form of few good words worked well for me and I used to get a reply in most of the cases.
Over the course of such interactions, I made some very meaningful connections and received a few interview calls as well. These people were more than willing to refer me within their companies for roles they considered suitable. Some of the well-connected ones were even inclined to refer me in other companies where they knew someone.
My experience through such interactions has taught me a few things about networking. The biggest takeaway for me was that blind-networking would seldom render results unless you are supremely lucky. You need to be well informed about the area/ sector of work where you want to get into after graduation. Read articles and blogs that relate to that particular sector and get in touch with the authors who most of the times would be happy to discuss issues pertaining to the articles written by them. In due course of such interactions, professional relationships tend to build and solidify. Who knows one day such a connect might talk about a job opportunity, which you find interesting!