When I first started the Corporate Residency MBA program I was approached to take part in the Faculty of Management’s Alumni Mentoring Program. Students are matched with a Dalhousie graduate who has agreed to mentor students on everything from general career advice to salary negotiation. One benefit of the program is that, in many cases, students can leverage the network of their mentor to make professional connections.
I was once surprised at the power of networking to make things happen. As I gained more experience with networking though I realized just how often actively networking can create connections and significant value.
For instance, I recently mentioned to my own alumni mentor (a 2008 MBA graduate who is currently a senior executive at a technology company) that I was interested in a post-grad opportunity with a particular company. It turned out that he had a strong connection to the organization and a long-standing relationship with the recruiter who hires for the position. My mentor put me in touch with this recruiter and I had an initial interview as a result. Serendipity? Perhaps, but I have had enough situations like this one to know that this was just networking paying off.
Marianne Hagen, Alumni Officer for the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie manages the Alumni Mentoring Program. She highlights how “most students find the program most helpful in making connections” and that “alumni really do want to help the students!” This last point, that graduates from Dalhousie are open and willing to help current students is a key lesson. Many students with no networking experience hesitate to contact someone. They worry they are intruding or asking too much. Realizing that 99% of the time the person you are connecting with would love to help you makes the networking process much more approachable.
While formal networking opportunities like the Alumni Mentoring Program are powerful tools, instilling networking as a continual activity which you pursue at every turn is equally important. This is a concept that Adrian Lake, a classmate of mine, has realized and ingrained in his professional life.
He says that “networking is not an event but rather a practice. It is not about getting a new job, a new client, or maybe a new business relationship. It’s about forming relationships with people and maintaining that relationship. The maintaining part is often the most challenging for people.”
This is definitely true in my experience as well. During my time at Dalhousie I have met hundreds of people, many of whom I have maintained contact with to varying degrees. Relationship management is a skill in itself.
Adrian suggests Paul Nazareth as someone to learn from to improve your networking skills. Nazareth “states that there are three things your network has to know about you: who you are, what you do, and where to find you.” Given these three pillars are maintained, networking is really not that difficult and can even be a fun experience. Even better it can allow you to share your skills with others and gain the help of your connections when needed.