By: Heather R Huhman
What prompts people to spend $120,000 on an MBA from a top-tier institution, at least in part? The coveted network. But, as we’ve learned from all the social networking platforms that continue to pop up, being part of a network isn’t enough — you need to know how to utilize it to its best potential.
I spoke with three individuals who offered advice from their personal experience:
Randy Lubin, business consultant for tech startups Standford University Graduate School of Business, 2011
The network can be extremely powerful; most alumni are very willing to help. When I’m researching different ideas, I won’t hesitate to reach out to someone who’s already done a start-up in that space or to investors who are within the alumni network who’ve invested in similar companies. I’ll explain my idea, then seek as much feedback as possible.
Another use of the network has been for information gathering. A few of my consulting gigs have involved research into new markets. For one startup, I evaluated the opportunity of building apps for live sporting events; they were interested in expanding into that space. I was able to look through the Stanford GSB network to find alumni working at different sports teams. They were all very receptive and happy to share their take on the niche. I think the biggest thing is that everyone in the network really wants to help; they love talking to current students and to recent grads and giving them insight into their own industry. There’s no reason to be reluctant.
Marc Cenedella, CEO & founder of TheLadders Harvard Business School, 1998
Find alumni in your school’s database that work in the industry and send them a polite, short email that mentions you’re currently at the school, graduating this year, and are interested in working in the relevant industry. You’ve shown that you’re actually interested in working in that industry by being in the club / working last year in the industry / attending the industry conference, and you’d love to hear their thoughts on what somebody just getting out of business school might do. You think it’s interesting how social media is changing the industry in such-and-such a way, but would love to hear their reflections. By showing that you’re serious, concise, and willing to give something to get something, you’re likely to get a meeting.
Chirag Saraiya, Principal at Training The Street Kellogg School of Management, 2006
If you graduate from a Top 12 program, there may be a lot of institutional pride that people have from the programs they graduated from. My experience is that I’ve really leveraged our alumni directory heavily. I don’t think it’s necessarily from the angle of “Hey, let me call you so you can help me with something,” but more from the informational standpoint. I think there is a lot of professional courtesy that comes with alumni from these institutions.
One tip I would give to people that are pursuing MBA programs right now, is walking out of the program with just an education is only half the battle. And, if that’s all you walk away with, you are really missing a tremendous opportunity here. You should walk away with not only a fantastic education, but also with a fantastic network that will be decision makers down the road.
What other advice would you give to MBA professionals for best utilizing their alumni networks?