For many MBA students, the opportunity to network is one of the biggest reasons to attend business school in Canada. This is one of the most important parts of going to any MBA school; some say it even is more important than the actual MBA designation and the knowledge that you gain during the process.
However, for some students, the idea of building a professional network during MBA school can seem to be very daunting, something that is well outside of their comfort zone.
For example, some students who come to Canada to study business are from engineering. Moving from engineering to management is quite a cultural change. When you are moving from a technical job to one that is much more focused on people, the expectations and the skills that are required are different. When you approach people who have a product management or sales background, they can often be wary of those who come from engineering. This happens because engineers have the reputation of not having strong people skills.
Also, when you move from engineering to business management, you are going to be exposed to financials and accounting, which also is going to be an adjustment.
When you make the move over from a technical field such as engineering to management, networking is going to become much more part of your career and your educational experience. Most engineers are not particularly comfortable with business networking. It is not something that is generally discussed in engineering programs. You might also come from other backgrounds, such as the biomedical field, and there is some networking involved, but it tends to be a rather small field. The level of networking that you need to do in business management is much greater.
After you get through your MBA program, you may not have a clear idea of which direction to go. You will have many different skills in management, but you may not be able to grasp how that translates into a business position in a company. You will not have a good idea of what to do until you start to talk to people who have been in your position, come from a background like yours, and who have the type of job that you want.
Networking is what you need to do to obtain that critical information. You need to learn how to develop that informal contact group through effective networking. Contacting people in the industry in which you want to work is important for career success, just as contacting entrepreneurs is important if you want to start your own company after MBA school.
In your MBA program, you should be able to learn to do this both inside and outside the classroom. One of the key things that many business school students learn i the idea of informational interviewing. This entails just calling people on the phone and asking them about their field and industry. Of course, when you first do this, you are going to have a lot of questions about whether this would work, or how you even get a person’s contact information. Also, you might wonder what you are going to ask them, given that you are calling them out of the blue. And, won’t the person think that you are just a stranger calling and asking for a job?
In some business schools, you can call a list of people that you find from the databases at the school, your own contacts, and contacts from your classmates. You should never underestimate the value of your peers in helping you to learn during your MBA program, or in their ability to help grow your network. They come from very different and complex backgrounds, and you never know just who they know.
After you have your list of contacts, you just need to call them up and ask people to talk about their industry, what is going on out there, who is hiring and who is not, and so on. Most people will be happy to talk about their career and their field, and you may be introduced to people that they know with job connections. You are not calling these people to ask for a job; you are asking about their experiences and their careers, but in the end, if you do it right, it can lead to a job.