One of the most underrated skills not taught in Indian high schools and colleges is the art of #networking.
From the very first day at the Ross MBA program as an international student was the amount of networking you had to go through in order to be successful. Almost all international students underestimate the significance of this.
What shocked me further was that my American classmates took to networking with a lot more ease and seemed to enjoy the process more. Over time, I figured that not all Americans enjoyed the process either. They were just more comfortable with it because they had a lot more practice.
Whether it is the bar culture (visiting bars, chatting up strangers) or the time they spent networking throughout their undergraduate program, it just made them far more comfortable with the process than almost all internationals. Through practice, I figured that I too could get better. For 8 years since graduating, I have constantly practiced the art of networking. Nearly all my roles since graduating have been because of this.
When working with MBA applicants, I insist every applicant network with at least 5 students / alumni at each target school. I teach them how to send cold LinkedIn notes people will respond to, the art of small talk and how to build rapport, and learn how to ask well-informed questions – leaving an impression that they are “natural” at networking.
Whether you are applying to MBA programs, looking to get into McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Amazon, or simply expand your professional network, learn and practice this craft every day.
Story: Using the Wingman/woman method during MBA networking
Many internationals at US MBA programs are frustrated with networking. They feel they aren’t “natural” at it or not as social as their peers. For those who are struggling, here is a simple “wingman / woman method” of ice-breaker for you to try next time:
Find a partner to riff with before beginning the networking sessions
Find a unique or quirky achievement of your partner (and vice versa)
Break the ice by presenting the other person’s achievement (and your wingman/woman should do the same)
It works like a charm every time.
The hardest thing most of us face is to speak about ourselves without boasting or losing the attention of the recruiter during MBA networking sessions.
During my Ross MBA networking sessions, I happened to stumble upon this technique. In one conversation, I learnt that one of my classmates appeared in a popular US TV gameshow. And, he knew that I was a amateur theatre artist before I began my corporate career.
So, during networking sessions, we’d piggy-back off each other and tell the company representative we had to “impress” about this quirky side of our lives. The point here wasn’t to brag about ourselves, but really wanted to break the ice and make the conversations more fun. And memorable.
While all networking is now virtual, use this technique when you are in group networking sessions with company reps. And most importantly, have fun while doing it.
If you are interested in improving your networking skills, complete the form below