Networking Matters – Of course but only when you do it right.

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

– Sundeep Patnaik, FT MBA 2012-13

From India to Dublin

It’s almost six months gone by and today we are in the second month of the second semester… and yes, I survived. Nonetheless I’ve come out stronger. Time flew and when I reflect back on the days spent on campus, it has been a hell of a ride. Lectures, presentations, group submissions, reports, continuous assignments and what not were the order of the day. The saga still continues but as the say in the old mafia way, I guess we have “made our bones” and are much better positioned to take on the world.

As we progress in to the second semester, it’s time for a reality check. Finally, why did I come to Smurfit School to do my MBA, in an unknown terrain, far away from home and with most basic factors working against me like the weather and food to name a few? Have I taken the right decision?

Well, the answer today is a thunderous YES. I was happily cruising along in life with a well set job but being in the field of human resources, I was convinced of the idea that a master’s degree could add to my future prospects. After completion of the application process, I had offers from universities of global repute but I finally zeroed in on the Smurfit School as a few facts stood strongly in its favour. First, the reputation of the college itself which has been ranked consistently in the top 80 in the world (we jumped 22 places this year…hurray!!), second the location, Dublin, the European tech capital and the last and most important, people around here who are warm, friendly and just make you feel at home. I cannot forget the date, 2nd Sept 2011 when I first stepped into the class. I was facing a cohort of 34 members representing 14 nationalities and I must admit, I was nervous for a while but as time moved on, it is this active group of fellow class mates who rode the highs and lows with me and I think my biggest learning’s have been from these turbo charged set of people who all, I am sure, will make a mark someday.

Life is not limited to study alone in Smurfit. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Rugby, a sport lesser known in India, has been an instant attraction. UCD, having won 10 out of the 11 finals of the world rugby championship is the place to be if you aspire to master the art of this game.  Drawn to the game, I can be occasionally be traced to the rugby field in Belfield campus. The Smurfit School is home to a great student cultural scene as well. Socializing and networking activities are regular. The recent Vietnamese social night was an opportunity to learn more about their culture while we couldn’t stop grabbing their delicacies.

Another exciting event is knocking at our doors, the international trip and me and my fellow mates are travelling to Brazil on an exchange program and are hoping to make the best of it. Brazil is an emerging economy like India and I am keen to have a first-hand experience of what life in Brazil is like. The study trip will help us appreciate the cultural differences between regions, culture being at the core of any major internal and external business decision makings.

The advantages of an international qualification, studying and living in a multicultural environment present an opportunity to learn even outside the classroom. While the MBA curriculum in the Smurfit School has, in what I believe, contributed to my professional development, the wholesome approach of the school combining the multifarious aspects of student life has indeed summed up in personal development as well resulting in a total learning curve. It has been a wonderful experience in so far whose benefits and value stand undisputed.

Sundeep Patnaik

– Sundeep Patnik, FT MBA 12/13