Posts Tagged ‘Networking’
I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages.
When I was in the middle of my MBA last year in Smurfit, there were some fellow students who viewed networking as a dirty word, something that makes you uncomfortable, an activity that is all about using other people to get what you want or to get ahead in some way. This is not networking. Yes, networking is about self-promotion and trying to get ahead but it is about so much more. Networking is meeting new people, hearing their stories, exchanging information and ideas. When you are a student this exchange is somewhat unbalanced because as a student you do not have as much to exchange. But guess what, the people you are talking to were also in your shoes at the start of their careers. And another truth is most that people want to help, to pay forward the help and advice they received at the start of their journeys.
Personally I love networking. The reason is simple, I love talking, telling stories and I love meeting new people. I also happen to be trying to sell the MBA World Trophy to everyone who will listen. There’s nothing wrong with finding out who is going to be attending a function and thinking about what you would like to talk to them about. Doing this is showing that you respect other people’s time and understand that their time is valuable and they probably don’t want to be stuck talking to me for any length of time. Fundamentally networking is just an extension of selling. One of our speakers at the MBA World Trophy, Vivek Wadhwa wrote a fantastic article about the importance of networking that is well worth reading. If you are a student you should remember that no matter what job or situation you find yourself in you need to put forward the best version of you at all times.
In another life I was a TV producer and my first boss in TV gave me great advice, when you arrive in someone’s house with a film crew you have a responsibility to ensure that you are remembered for the right reasons. Having a TV crew in your house is a highlight for the vast majority of ordinary people. So no matter what is going on in your own life, no matter how terrible you feel, you have to make sure you leave a positive impression. This has stuck with me and is something I try to achieve no matter where I go. I’m not always successful at it. The same thing applies to networking. Another important thing to mention is the power of LinkedIn. This is an awesome networking tool. Personally I believe you should always include a personal message when sending someone an invitation to join your network.
Finally, and I’m not biased when I tell you that this year’s MBA World Trophy and StartUp Dublin will be like networking heaven. So if you are interested in the lineup please join us. We would love to meet you.
Here’s a list of my networking do’s and don’ts
- Be approachable.
- Be polite.
- Be yourself.
- Don’t immediately head for the corner after scoffing some free food/drink. It’s ok to be nervous/uncomfortable, 90% of the people in the room are feeling the same way.
- Try to find out who is attending in advance and find two people you would like to talk to about you.
- Don’t overcook talking to your targets. Get in and out quickly. You can always talk to them later that evening. Remember they more than likely have other people that they want to talk to.
- Always follow up with everyone you meet.
- Don’t take no for an answer, I’m not saying to be pushy, just get creative. And finally, my favourite.
- Every single person in the world will meet you for a coffee (except TV celebrities).
- Stephen Smith, MBA World Trophy team and FT MBA 2012
Red: the MBA World Trophy Competition and the StartUp Dublin Innovation Conference takes place in Dublin 16-18 May 2013.
Your Net worth is directly proportional to your Network.
Kingsley Aikins from Networking Matters, who we met during the course of the first semester, stressed on the importance of networking driving home the point that in a real world scenario, your ‘social capital’ could be your catalyst of change. Is that true? Let’s see.
Everybody in the class aspires to land up with a good job with a great pay and people had started networking actively from the beginning of the second semester although we have the career office, which we are hopeful, will weave the magic wand someday. Our approach to networking is quite straight forward.
‘Spray and Pray’: This happens to be the most common and preferred way of networking. The modus operandi is quite simple. Through your active connections, references or LinkedIn, get in touch with ‘somebody’ who generally would be a professional at a management level in a brand well reckoned and then plan a chat over coffee. You go for the meet with the halo of Smurfit shining right behind and expect ‘your man’ to open a few doors instantly for you. With optimism running high, you kiss good bye and get home to tick one more box in your to-do list and the story ends. What happens there after, I have no idea but is this networking? Not the right way.
Networking is a tool well utilised only when you learn to weave it the right way. Now, having been a recruiter all my life, here’ an approach that I advocate:
- Be clear about what you want: Chart out a career map and if not an exact one, at least know what you want to do in life. That’s a fair expectation I would have from an MBA grad. Only then you would know who to connect with.
- Start small, start easy: Your peers are your primary contacts. Based on your canvas, look for people with similar backgrounds in the class and connect with them. Talk about your aspirations and be cognizant about theirs as well. Look at common goals and initiate self-help group to do things like sharing information, jobs, events etc. Expand your reach to the EMBA’s as they could be a better bet given the fact that they are current in the market.
- Use a ‘warm’ handshake: When you zero in on a company of interest, look for contacts who would know a ‘somebody’ up there. Owing to the sheer might of references and in this globally connected village, I am sure you would find an alumni, friend’s friend/girlfriend or your earlier employer who would know somebody there. Use the contact to initiate a warm handshake rather than cold calling.
- Do not meet everybody and anybody: The ‘spray and pray’ attitude might actually boomerang as people might start seeing you as desperate and that will dilute your brand. Also, you might end up with making too many connections that might not be of great use to you, not to mention the time and resources lost.
- LinkedIn: It’s a great tool but is a doubled edged sword. Initiate contacts and try meeting up people locally. Be careful as your profile is public and as you keep adding contacts, the rest in your network would know who you are connecting with. Example, do not add the ‘recruiter’, recruitment manager’ and ‘head of resourcing’ of, say ‘ABC’ in a short span of time. The first guy to accept; say the ‘recruiter’ will also know that you have added his boss and his boss’s boss to your network. You do not intend to give him ideas, right? For connecting with people who are out station, use ‘InMail’ which will cost you but will also leave the impression that you are serious.
- Consultants: Do a market research to see who are the specialized search firms or consultants who hire in the space that you want to get into. Once you have a list ready, start connecting and try meeting them. Top notch search firms say an ‘Egon Zender’, ‘Hendrick Struggles’ ‘Spencer Stuart’ might not be open to see you as they work on active mandates and will be hesitant to meet a ‘student’. By the end of May 2013, you should have built a network of consultant who should be able to relate to you and will be open to pitch your profile for any suitable opening which might come up there after.
- WIFM factor: When you meet somebody, the person who is sparing time to meet you might be a well-wisher and can be of help but also remember, there is nothing called free lunch. The guy on the other side of the table will always be interested in “What’s in for me”. So to evince interest, send the message beforehand that the meeting could be a ‘mutually beneficial’ one. You will see better responses.
I go back to the example that Kingsley had given about the guy he worked for, Tony O’Reilly (I hope I got the name correct) who used his rugby connection to build a business spread across those countries that he played in. Networking is an art just that you need to know who to tango with. That million dollar job that you aspire for will not get advertised but will get finalized at a golf course or at a black tie dinner table. In the words of Ashutosh Sinha, my senior colleague in Deloitte, Be ‘IN’ it to ‘WIN’ it.
- Sundeep Patnaik, FT MBA 2012-13
UCD Smurfit Rugby Team has brought home the MBA World Cup Trophy for 10 out of 11 years – well, the men’s team has. This year will be the second year in a row that the MBA program will also send a women’s team to the USA for the world cup, a feat that has only happened a handful of times before. As an American in Ireland, I had never even really watched rugby on the television let alone played a match in my life. And yet here I am, six months later, heading up the UCD Women’s Rugby Team (with a good friend, also a Smurfit MBA, who has extensive rugby experience). This year, we have one goal, which is to bring home a MBA Rugby World Cup, not only for the Men, but for the Women’s team also, which would be a first for Smurfit!
When asked to write an entry for our MBA Blog, it took me quite a while to come up with an experience to write about. Everything has happened so fast and intensely that it was a little overwhelming to come up with something to write about, since there seems to be so much going on in my head at one time! However, since Rugby has lately taken over my Tuesday and Friday nights, along with my Saturday and Sunday afternoons (we will call Saturdays and Sundays as studying up on the sport of Rugby by watching the “professionals” play in the 6 Nations).
Upon starting the MBA, the different representatives of all the MBA clubs (there are a lot of them) were paraded in front of us, where they told us about the opportunities offered by the different interest areas. Of course, when the Rugby Club came up, ears perked up, mainly because Smurfit has been the team to not only compete, but win the championship cup for so many years. Of course, it’s “great craic” as our friendly speaker insisted, but he also talked about the opportunities it opened as far as networking with other top MBA programs and the friendships and camaraderie you get as being part of an athletic team with other Masters students in the Smurfit School of Business.
Today, about one month away from our trip to the states, I can say that my experience has not been a disappointment! I have met great guys and girls while participating on the team, and have also been able to achieve another of my personal goals in coming to Ireland, which was to learn more about a different culture, and learning about rugby (not only how to watch, but how to play) has given me an experience in Ireland. I am happy (albeit surprised) to say that I am the only non-Irish person on the women’s team (our coach playfully refers to me as the American rugby spy), and being a member of this team has given me a deeper and more real look into a pastime that is very important in the country. Almost like someone learning and getting understand the teams and the game of American Football if they go to the states. In class, I learn about business in both Ireland and other areas of the world (from an Irish perspective), and from my classmates I learn about the social norms of Ireland and Irish culture, but never can you truly be immersed in the culture until you take it on yourself to truly become involved in something that is of that country, outside of the contrived state of the classroom. I think I have done that with not only joining the Smurfit Rugby Club, but in being part of its leadership committee. I can’t wait until where the next month takes us as a team, and me individually, but I look forward to it and can’t wait to write a second entry in one month’s time detailing how we won!!
- Heidi Hart, FT MBA 12/13
As China gears up to overthrow the U.S. as the leading superpower in the world one can only expect things to heat up on the world stage. It has become almost impossible these days to not find a mention of China in the leading business newspapers of the world. As some of us are gearing up to visit China next month as part of our course module “Doing business in emerging markets”, the School decided to play host to Michael J. Enright, “one of the world’s reigning strategy guru”. Michael is a leading expert on the regional strategies of multinational companies in the Asia-Pacific and he shared his insights on China’s business environment.
Michael explained the magnitude of opportunity that exists in China for businesses to exploit. It has become one of the largest markets for numerous consumer and industrial goods. As per the data provided by China Statistics Bureau, 25 provinces in China had a GDP of over $100 billion for the year 2011. The two major drivers of consumption have been economic growth and growing urbanization. Clearly, China is an opportunity which global heavyweights can’t afford to miss. In fact it needs to be an integral part of the strategy of these companies. Though, China is based on different values but it has still been able to prosper, which is a fact many people in the democratic part of the world find hard to digest. The government has played a dominant role in China’s economy until now and it seems it would continue to do so in future as well but off late it has been taking steps to enable the private sector improve its contribution to the economy.
The challenges of operating in China are as big as the opportunity. Companies are discovering that many industries are in the nascent stage of growth and this rapid growth is sometimes not turning into profits. Also, consumers are not that brand loyal in China. Communication can also be a big issue for foreign multinational companies operating in China. It’s not being right, but being on the right side and having effective communication. Though it can be a difficult market to crack for businesses, the potential rewards can be enormous. In the words of Michael, “China changes, China adjusts.” The lecture provided us with valuable insights which not only helped us understand the Chinese market but also understand the nitty-gritty one can expect to encounter in an unfamiliar environment. These are lessons for lifetime and I would be looking forward to more such intellectually stimulating lectures.
- Rahul Jindal, FT MBA 12/13