Why is networking so hard? A question that troubles many MBAs.
What is the importance of networking? Networking is, probably, the most significant part of your MBA. Many say that an MBA program is not just about getting a degree but is also about establishing a good network of contacts.
If you can build a strong network with your peers and the alumni, it will help you not only during your MBA and but more when you will be in the industry.
I do not deny that networking is challenging; instead, I would try to tell you why networking is so complicated and what is the hardest part of networking? Just read along.
Why is networking so hard?
There are primarily two reasons why networking is challenging:
You have made it to be a sales pitch for yourself –
Let’s assume that you are planning to “network” with that business executive who is coming for a guest lecture at your B-school. Just imagine what is most likely going on in your head at that time. You are basically a salesperson trying to do a sales pitch to get yourself recruited. That builds pressure and makes networking look difficult.
You know that you don’t have much to offer –
Secondly, you know inherently that you are there to sell your candidature, maybe for that internship or that placement that you seek from the executive. But further what you also know, which creates an added pressure in your mind is that you constantly doubt yourself as you know that you don't have much to offer the other person
Thanks to those two reasons, networking becomes a great challenge and that is the reason why MBA students wonder why is networking so hard.
There are other exceptional reasons why networking could be hard for you. For, e.g., if a person is very shy or conserved or if a person stammers, they can find it difficult to network as the process involves a lot of communication.
But trust me, many MBAs have managed to maximize their career opportunities along with their speech disorder (including us in the team of Super Heuristics).
For any MBA student out there, shy or not, it's all about following the right approach.
Let me show you what I feel is the best approach and mindset you need to ace through networking.
The Right Approach for Networking during MBA
Let me tell you that when I am saying “the right approach” for networking, I don’t intend to take any credit for inventing this. In fact, I would like to see myself as a problem-solver.
This means that for me to tell you about what the right or the best approach for networking during MBA is, I just need to solve the two problems that I highlighted above.
So, let me suggest to you how you can find a solution to each of the two challenges of networking that I mentioned above.
Seek mentorship first
Imagine again that situation where you wish to “network” with that business executive who has come to your campus.
The trouble that we discovered which makes networking difficult was that in your mind you are doing a sales pitch to sell yourself.
My suggestion is, that if the fact that you seek a job from that executive in the long-term is creating so much stress in your head, then simply reduce your ask from that executive.
Which means what?
It means that if you are trying to build a connection with a company CEO, don't do it so that you can get a job out of it.
Instead, seek mentorship from him/her. Implore them be your mentors and guide you. This will indeed take you a long way.
Let them know that if you could have only their email, it would be really important for you. Tell them that you will be sending them an email to discover more about how to go about your MBA so that you can do well in your career.
And then actually go ahead and do that!
Send them that email that very day reminding them about how good a conversation you had with them.
Inquire about the information you can't find in research (e.g., What do you wish you knew before entering this industry?).
In not directly asking employers for a job, you're more likely to receive advice and recommendations to help you achieve the eventual goal.
Build your portfolio of work
Remember what was the second problem which made you wonder why is networking so hard and difficult for you?
It was the fact that that you know in this conversation that you are planning to have with the executive, you don’t have much to offer to them.
From your side, there is not enough expertise or assets to share-- a problem that makes you feel that networking is challenging.
To address this problem, you have to change your mindset. My suggestion is, to let go of the student mindset and become a practitioner.
As a student, you are only thinking about learning, but as a practitioner, you will be thinking about applying the knowledge you have acquired.
As a student, you focus on bookish knowledge, while a practitioner builds their brand using that knowledge, so choose wisely.
While you are in your B-school, you should build a portfolio of your work and make yourself a brand. For this, instead of thinking like a student, you would have to become a practitioner. For this, apart from only learning the concepts at your B-school, you need to apply them somewhere.
Let me tell you more about how you can do this.
The art of Blogging:
You must start a blog where you should write about everything you learn. For instance, if you know SEO, write about it on your blog and use SEO techniques. This is just a small example; there are many such as digital skills like Digital Marketing and Marketing analytics that you can learn and apply. In this way, you would create a marketing experiments lab for yourself.
How to create your own career outcomes from the MBA program by becoming a practitioner in the field of Marketing – is what I talk about in my course Five Steps Ahead.
I have, in fact, encapsulated all the learnings which help many other students and me get job offers from outside the campus even when the on-campus placements had not begun.
Once you do all this, you will acquire a lot of digital skills, and you will also build a portfolio of your work and build yourself as a brand.
Trust me; once you can achieve this, you will gain immense confidence, and next time you try to network with any business professional, you will certainly not panic and will certainly ace it.
I am sure that I have answered all your questions, like why networking is so hard and the most challenging part of networking.
Whatever you do, always focus on building relationships, not on immediate results. Consider the long-term possibilities so that you can create a strong network of peers, professors, and alumni. Become a practitioner of your learnings.
If you follow this, you will go from being a simple job seeker to a practitioner who is almost an expert in their field, seeking advice.