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Meeting and greeting: my top 6 MBA networking tips

By Cynthia Halatyn - Posted on 9 May 2019

Networking can be an important part of an academic experience and can be especially important on an MBA programme. Here, full time MBA student Cynthia Halatyn shares her tips on getting the most out of it.

If you’re on an MBA course, you should be going to at least one networking event a month. According to Business Insider, as many as 85% of people found their current jobs though networking. Even if your current employer is paying for your MBA, you never know whether the connections you make through your course could benefit your organisation in the areas of talent acquisition, new contracts, or potential partnerships.

Order business cards as soon as you start

When I moved to Glasgow, the first thing I did after unpacking and grocery shopping was to go online and order a set of business cards. I was eager to get out into a new business environment and begin making new connections. I realise that a lot of personal branding these days happens online, but if you want your busy new contacts to follow up when meeting you, you need to have that piece of paper to hand them.

You don’t need professionally designed business cards to get started. I ordered a slick set from Moo.com that I’ve actually received a lot of compliments on, and there are other online business card shops with a variety of designs to suit your taste and budget.

My MBA programme ordered business cards for me as well, but I kept using my own. It helped me differentiate myself from my cohort when several of us attended the same event.

Save your Q&A questions for the cocktail hour

If you are attending any event or panel that features a question and answer session, but you know there is also a mixer after, resist the temptation to dazzle the audience with your brilliance and save your question for a one to one conversation with the speaker. If you have more than one brilliant question, then by all means, shoot, but save some for face time. This is my go to tip for a conversation starter with the guest. It also puts you in business card proximity, which a microphone from the seventh row does not.

Attend one non-MBA event per month

If you are self-funding your MBA course, you should be spending time outside of your programme meeting business leaders. You may end up working with members of your MBA class later down the line, but in the meantime, talk to the people who are already hiring. Google around to find events. In Glasgow specifically, I’ve found the best networking events are listed on Meetup.com. I realise you may be on a budget, but there are plenty of free events to attend.

Don’t ask about jobs on the first date!

If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this: don’t start conversations at networking events by asking about jobs. Your MBA should be a time to think long and hard about what you want to do. You’re after a career, not your next gig. Spend time talking to people you meet about what they do and learning about the culture of their organisations. Ask questions about the people you’re talking to and find things in common. In short: treat your new contacts like the interesting people that they are and not a job search engine.

Do follow up

Unless your goal is to collect exemplar business card samples for your MBA scrapbook, send follow up e-mails within a week after you meet people. It can be a simple e-mail to say:

Dear so-and-so,

Really enjoyed meeting you last night at the event. Would love to grab coffee sometime and talk about that thing more when you are free.

Then follow that e-mail up with a LinkedIn request so that they remember what you look like. You never know when you’ll want to reach out again with a question or for help with an MBA project, and if it’s six months later and the first time this person has heard from you, don’t expect them to remember you or respond.

Dress and act professionally

I would hope never to have to say this, but I’ve lived long enough to know it needs saying. Dress and behave in a professional manner when at networking events. Just remember that people are making 11 different judgements about you in the first several seconds of meeting you. Not only that, but if you are telling people where you go to school then you are also representing your MBA programme in the community and the calibre of student that they can expect to meet.

This blog first appeared in Cynthia’s own blog page. You can connect with her on Linked In

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