Once you’ve settled into that first post-MBA job, it’s easy to tell yourself that your hardcore networking days are behind you – but nothing could be further from the truth. Most likely, you’ve still got another 30 years of work ahead of you, at least (it could be more like 40 or even 50 years!) – think of how many jobs you’ll want to network to over the decades. As you rise up the corporate ladder, you’ll be networking to find the best and brightest employees. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll need to network your way to find investors, partners, and customers. Establishing good networking habits now will help you immeasurably in every step of your career going forward.
1. Leverage LinkedIn: check out our LinkedIn resources here. Regularly participating in groups, providing recommendations, and updating your profile will keep you at the forefront of your connections’ mind.
2. Utilize other networking tools: while maintaining your LinkedIn presence is a must-do, there are many other sites and apps out there that can supplement your online networking efforts. Meetup, Reddit, and even Facebook can be useful tools!
3. Become an alumni leader: getting involved in and, in turn, becoming a leader for your business school’s alumni association will do much more than allowing you to give back to the school. It serves as an opportunity to reach out to the school’s most prominent alumni, along with giving you great bullet points for your resume.
4. Volunteer at work: getting involved in volunteer committees (whether providing pro bono services to the community, or giving something back to the company) will provide excellent opportunities to reach out to individuals in the organization you might not otherwise have an excuse to meet. Further, these committees can provide great face time with other partners and clients who can help reinforce your network going forward.
5. Volunteer in the community: serve as a mentor, coach, or tutor; help out at your favorite non-profit theater, library, or park. Whatever your passion, find a way to use it to serve as a volunteer. This will both broaden your network and help your ongoing resume-building (you may even eventually parlay a volunteer experience into a board position).
6. Pursue social educational opportunities: if you’ve always wanted to study a certain language, become a CFA, or even just learn how to make a perfect soufflé, find yourself a class that will allow you to meet others with similar interests. This is valuable even – especially – if you don’t think the people you meet will be on the same professional path you are; broadening your network to include a variety of types of positions and companies can only help you going forward.
7. Find relevant professional organizations: beyond groups focused on your industry, there are many opportunities out there to network based on various personal affiliations. For instance, Ellevate focuses on connecting businesswomen, and the National Society for Hispanic MBAs provides opportunities well after business school graduation. Whatever your personal background, there is likely an organization to help you network and build your career.
8. Keep in touch with MBA colleagues: in addition to being an active alum in an “official” capacity, make sure to keep in touch “unofficially” as well! Stay connected with your classmates and favorite professors. Not only will they help you stay sharp, they may help connect you to the right opportunity down the road.
9. Don’t forget your Advisory Board: these people helped you get through business school, they will be incredibly valuable going forward as well. Set up regular check-ins to ensure that you continue to take advantage of this resource.
10. Develop a system: these are a lot of moving parts to keep track of. Come up with a means of standardizing your updating process – set yourself reminders regarding who should get regular emails (your Advisory Board should be quarterly, whereas your former professors can probably be annual). You can also set reminders to update all of your networking apps, and take a good look at your calendar to identify when and how much time you can devote to activities such as pro bono projects and alumni events.