In my professional opinion, as an expert in managing and advancing the careers for EMBA candidates and graduates, an EMBA is a prestigious high-profile degree that can generate significant financial and career rewards. Connecting with others is key, but how do you network to optimize your EMBA?
As most people know, a job does not fall into your lap. It is often a full-time job to find a full-time job. Networking in person and online can bring massive benefits to your career progression. It can be hard for many to find time for networking with a demanding schedule so be prepared before you start. Preparation for networking is critical as you need confidence to tell a compelling story when navigating a room full of new faces. By nature, an extroverted person will find it easier to embrace networking over an introvert. But here are some strategies that I think are relevant to both personality types and can be modified to your level of comfort.
1. Set a Goal
Networking at a venue with new people is not a competition to see how many people you can meet. It is about interacting with specific persons who can bring value to your career, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to meet someone with whom you can share information to help them on their way. Quality over quantity is paramount. Set yourself a target of receiving between four and ten business cards at each event. When conversing with someone after receiving their business card, if you feel it is mutually beneficial, ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn. Remember to initiate this as soon as you return home. Also, try to arrange a coffee meeting or lunch with that person if you believe it will be useful for both of you to communicate further.
2. Uncover Your Target Audience
Career management revolves around career goals and marketing yourself to a defined set of people in a defined industry in a defined geography. Don’t vary from this strategy. A 360-degree approach does not work and brings little rewards. Many networking groups today offer an attendance list prior to the meet. Review this list and seek out the persons you want to communicate with. Do your research using Google, LinkedIn and Facebook before the event so that you can swiftly open up constructive dialogue. This also places you in a confident position to control the conversation.
3. Plot your Path to the Perfect Networking Venue
There are many networking events today. However, an EMBA needs to be selective – you need to attend industry or skill-specific conferences or events. Utilize the massive and growing Meetup.com website to select events that will bring you value. The higher you go up the career ladder, the fewer the opportunities there are available for networking.
4. EMBA Alumni Events
Upon graduating, a whole new world opens up to you. Each business school has a large pool of alumni. In my view, this is like the gold book of contacts for you. It is an exclusive club where collaboration and sharing are openly accepted. Many previous EMBA graduates are most likely working in high corporate positions and will be glad to share their contacts with you. Don’t be frightened to use alumni networking meetings as an excellent platform to capture leads.
Why attend a networking meeting if you have no intention of following up? What a waste of time. A short message by email or via LinkedIn thanking the person you met for their time is both professional and critical. Here you can ask for another in-person meeting if you think you want to build a business relationship, but only pursue this with people who show a genuine interest in you.
Finally, be clear and don’t hold back. Practice your pitch ahead of time to ensure it is concise, resonating and professional. Go for it! Good luck and happy networking.