I already hear a few of you cringing at the thought of this. A few weeks ago, I spoke on a panel discussing “The Art of Networking.” When attendees were asked to raise their hands if they thought they were good at networking, barely any hands came up.
There truly is no need to panic, sigh, cringe, whine, or have any other negative reaction to this “networking” word.
No matter where you are in your MBA process – discussing with prospective schools, meeting current students, attending MBA conferences, looking for internships or jobs, etc. here are a few tips that could make your next networking session seamless:
1) Think Dialogue! It is not about the details of the MBA Program or the Company; it is a conversation with you and the university representative/ company employee/ potential mentor. Details about MBA programs and companies can be found on the website. Genuinely be interested in what they have to say, their experiences, their passions and inspirations; and be ready to share the same about you.
2) Listen! Yes, this is how you keep the momentum in the conversation and it opens the door for a good come-back questions. Besides, when you follow-up with this contact, remembering and noting highlights of the conversation, will be a good way to remind this new contact about the discussion.
3) First Impressions! Don’t forget the strong handshake. Portray confidence and make eye contact. Make sure you are dressed for the part; it will be easier for the contact to envision you in the role you are pursuing.
4) Hit or Not! Not every contact/ person you meet will be a hit. Sometimes differences in personalities can make a conversation go great or stay flat. In such situations, be true to yourself and your personality; make sure you learn as much about the contact and have a few key questions in your arsenal that you can use to reinvigorate the awkward pauses that could arise.
5) Remember to Relax! This person wears their pants the same way you do. They could be your parent, sibling, friend or colleague. Remember to have a conversation, be yourself and maintain the momentum with good come-back questions.
Oyinade Ogunbekun, Forte Fellow
Class of 2012, Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis