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Network your way to success

Payal Kumar | February 10, 2006

Arti Pandey, a B-School aspirant, was confused about which university to choose for her MBA degree in the US.

She contacted students from various universities and developed a good rapport with many of them, including Ajay, a student from Columbia University's Columbia Business SchoolNew York. His name was listed in the 'Contact A Student' list sent to her by the university.

Through her correspondence with Ajay, she got to know he had been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have breakfast with the current CFO of Citigroup. This may not have been possible had he NOT been in a school located in the financial hub of New York. This information enticed Arti. She applied for an international MBA at Columbia and was accepted.

Another aspirant Prakash Seth, when applying for his MS, began writing to both the alumni and the professors of various universities.

His enthusiasm and commitment came across so convincingly that a professor at the 
University of Missouri-Rolla recommended his name to the financial aid department and he was able to study with a complete scholarship. If he had not clinched the scholarship, Prakash would not have been able to afford education in a foreign university.

Why network?

If you plan to study abroad, be proactive in building up a list of contacts; this gives you access to people you can turn to for advice and support.

You can get first-hand information from students, alumni and professors about school information, student culture, expenses, scholarship information and more.

Post studies, some professions are totally dependent on how well the individual continually expands his network. For example, in journalism, how well reporters are able to gather news from various sources, and how artfully they are able to build up their prized contact books, is what keeps them ahead in the cut-throat competition of bagging exclusive stories.

How to network 

Use e-mail

This is the quickest, least expensive way, be it to a university professor or to an alumni group. e-mail addresses can be obtained from most university Web sites.

Meet face to face

Make it a point to attend information sessions conducted by various universities and schools, which are held in all main cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Madurai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore, where you may be able to meet the alumni of the school you are keen to attend.

Visit education fairs

For information on education fairs, the following sites are useful:

Phone calls make a difference, too

This information may not be readily accessible, as telephone numbers of professors are not posted on Web sites as a rule. It is best to call up the school in question and request the number; else, e-mail the faculty concerned and ask him directly.

Information seekers turn information givers

Many students who had once sought information from alumni themselves willingly provide information to other MBA aspirants.

Take the case of Amit Seth. He had sought a lot of information before joining his B-School in the US. He went to all the relevant education fairs in Delhi, where he spoke to the alumni.

He says, "I found this very useful, as alumni can tell you things that varsity Web sites cannot. They told me exactly what they liked or did not like about a school, which made my decision-making process a lot easier."

Apart from finding a school that would fit the bill for his finance specialisation. Amit was keen to join a school that was 'spouse-friendly'. Newly married, he wanted his wife to feel comfortable staying at the school of his choice.

It was by talking to alumni that he chanced upon Joint Ventures, a group for spouses at Cornell. This was one of the main deciding factors in his choice of school, where 40 per cent of the students are married.

Today, as an MBA student at Cornell University's Johnson School, Amit volunteers to answer any questions that Indian students may have.

Keep on networking, post studies

Harjit Kaur constantly networked with the alumni at
Lancaster University after completing her MBA. It was due to this that she was called for an interview at Morgan Stanley (an investment bank); today, she has landed a lucrative post in this globally recognised company, much to the envy of her friends.

When networking is part of the syllabus

Networking is considered to be an important tool for MBA students; so much so, some graduate business schools in the US are actually integrating this into their syllabus, while other schools are encouraging extracurricular programmes designed to boost this activity.

Some such B-Schools are:

Babcock student Sarah Day says she began her MBA programme as a "lousy networker" but began to pick up the requisite skills after the first semester.

She attributes this to the course, Fundamentals of Career Management, which is a compulsory part of her MBA education.

Andy Dreyfuss, interim director of career services at the Babcock Graduate School of Management, says, "It is apparent that campus recruiting will wane. You can't always count on it, so we want our students to be experts at networking; that's the best avenue for getting jobs."

Make career networking second nature

Follow the 'hunt and gather' principle used by hunters!

Start networking while applying to a B-School, continue while at school and perfect this skill when you graduate. You may not see yourself as much of a networker to start off with, but it is an art that can be learnt.

After all, nobody is a born networker -- it is a state of being that one evolves to.

Payal Kumar is chief editor, Manya Education Private Ltd.

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Ludos to Rediff team which brings such interesting topics for reading. Hope they will always continue to provide us with such great advice.

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