How To Network With B-School Students and Alumni?
What do you think is the most important aspect of applying for a top MBA program in the world? We have spoken to multiple candidates and aspirants over the past few years, and as expected, there is a huge difference in how an ‘aspirant’ - someone who has not yet applied - and a ‘candidate’ - someone who applied and got an admit - approach this question.
If you have ever spoken to someone who has pursued an MBA or even undergone the exhaustive application process, you’d be surprised to hear how much they emphasize on ‘value and culture fit of the school’. Simply put, the fine difference lies here - instead of thinking why you are a good fit for the school, an equal (if not more) amount of thought should be put into why the school is a good fit for you? Admissions committees look for strong reasons and evidence of your interest in their school and program. And hence, considerable effort needs to be expended in showcasing why a school is the right fit for you!
What would be a better way to learn more about a school than from the people who have actually been there, done that? The people who have been exactly where you are right now, have had the same questions, the same apprehensions and have lived the life you are thinking about! In fact, schools highly recommend that you reach out to their current students and alumni and they look for instances where you can demonstrate what you gauged. But for a lot of us, this is easier said than done.
Read on to find out how you can reach out to current students and alumni and make a lasting impression!
Want to learn more about your dream school but don’t know how to go about it? Reached out to a few people, but to no avail? Not sure how you can go the right way about networking? Fret not! Garnering our experiences from our conversations with several candidates and alumni of business schools across the world, here we have some key takeaways for you to understand how to make the most out of your conversations with alumni.
The Groundwork Is Must
Do your homework. We cannot stress upon this enough! Doing your research upfront helps you get a holistic perspective about the specific school or program. You know what’s there on the website and you exactly know what you want to learn more about. This goes a long way in helping you ask the ‘right’ questions.
Your level of preparation and your interest shows in the questions you put across. Asking smart, relevant and clear questions sets you up for customized and clear answers! So hands down, the benefit is all yours.
Be Strategic About Who You Reach Out To
One of the best ways to increase the chances of hearing back from alumni or current students is being a little smart about who you are reaching out to. While the student diversity at most b-schools is truly diverse and international, the quality of the conversation that you have can be amazingly amplified if you are interacting with someone in a relatable context.
With a bit of research, you can try and reach out to these people first, that is, those with a similar pre-MBA background or post-MBA goals or from the same region! It also helps if you mention how you learned about them or came across their profile. Not just this, ensure that your purpose also shows in the questions you ask, which brings us to the next point.
Follow A Methodical Approach and Be Specific:
Have a clear purpose of why you’re reaching out to a particular person. After all, you would mostly be requesting them for a brief call and asking them to take out some time to chat with you. And while they do understand this and are happy to help, be prepared with a list of logically flowing and concise questions.
Leverage this opportunity to ask questions pertaining to their specific experiences or takeaways. Refrain from asking open-ended or vague questions that would potentially have a generic answer, and seeking information that can be easily looked up on the Internet! Similarly, if you want to know more about how you can make the most of MBA events conducted by the b-schools, read here.
Make It Easier For Them and Remember To Follow-Up
Remember, nobody is obligated to revert and that you’re not the only one seeking help or advice from them. It is highly recommended that you mention the time commitment in advance and a good practice would be to send a calendar invite, once you have fixed a suitable time.
It is also entirely natural for people to miss your message. You can remind them about the call a day or two in advance, or drop a follow-up in case any rescheduling is required. Most importantly, be respectful of personal boundaries, thank them for their time and the experiences they have shared.
Get The Pitch Right
Goes without saying but you’ll have to give a brief background about yourself. This is in fact a great opportunity to establish a connection with the student you are speaking to. Be prepared with a quick 3-4 lines about yourself and your ‘future plans’ about an MBA. Consider it a 30-second elevator pitch.
Understand that your aim should not be to just put a tick in the box. Believe it or not, if you foster relationships, gather valuable insights, and build your rapport even before you apply, it will show. It will be visible in your essays and in your interviews! This is an un-skippable step in your application process and so, begin networking early-on since the game of cold-messaging is not entirely in your control. Don’t stick to the basics and reach out for specific, targeted information that will genuinely help you. There might be times when you don’t receive any response, but do not feel dejected! Try following up instead and try reaching out to others. Often, even admission officers can help in connecting you with relevant alumni, so, seek that help. Lastly, be genuinely interested in what the person on the other side of the table has to offer! You never know what helps you strengthen your ‘WHYs’ and sets you apart for your target b-school.