The term you hear most often at business school isn’t analysis, case study, brand equity, or even net present value (although you get overloaded with those words as well). The most common term you hear is NETWORKING. Any time a club is putting on an event, they remind you that it will be a “great networking opportunity”. They are right in that the event will give you the chance to talk to other people and form relationships with them. And if those people have the potential to give you a job, then that’s even better!
The truth is, however, that meeting people is the first step on a very long process that is “Network Management”. It’s not about who you meet, because most people that you meet are forgotten within minutes, if you even retained the name for a few minutes. And even if you keep in touch with people in a friendly way, there’s no reason to believe that they will put a job or other opportunity in your lap.
I’ve been spending more time over the past month than ever before in my life working on meeting people and talking to them. Last week, I had a phone call “informational interview” with the CEO of a national grocery store chain. He was very polite in telling me that his company doesn’t really have any occasion to hire MBA interns, whether the economy is up or down. When I asked him for additional advice, he said, “Keep doing what you’re doing, talking to people. Eventually someone you talk to will have a job for you or know of an opportunity elsewhere.”
I’ve also reached out to strangers (through LinkedIn or the school alumni database) to get “career advice”, which of course is a code phrase that translates to “CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME GET A JOB?” The surprising truth is that people like to connect with you, much more than they like to read large stacks of resumes.
So, if there’s a lesson to be learned, here it is. Don’t go to events just to meet people. You have to be prepared to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS and then ASK FOR SOMETHING.