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The Power of Networking for MBA Graduates

18 Jun
Young woman speaks with another woman and a man at a networking event.

An MBA will set you up for success by giving you the skills you need to be an effective business leader. However, to make the most of your opportunities, you’ll need to build your network. Networking can help you advance your own career path by opening doors to industry leaders, potential employers, and mentors.1

Networking also helps you build a strong support system that will offer emotional and professional encouragement. It can lead to unexpected collaborations and partnerships by introducing you to others with complementary skills and resources.1

This article will explore valuable networking skills and how you can use them to build professional relationships that will add value to your MBA degree and experience.

Building Relationships

Networking isn't simply handing out as many business cards as possible and giving a rehearsed “elevator speech.” It’s about building genuine, mutually beneficial relationships. These meaningful connections can provide support, collaboration and growth opportunities for you and the people in your network.2

Listening to others is the most effective way you can start building relationships. You can demonstrate this by actively listening, showing genuine interest in others and maintaining regular communication. There’s no substitute for being reliable, honest and respectful to earn people’s trust and foster long-term connections.3

Your MBA program, no doubt, will have taught you the value of setting clear goals. You can apply those same principles to build strong networking relationships. Decide on your short-, medium- and long-term networking goals and gradually chip away at them.4

Attending Networking Events to Meet Industry Professionals

Networking events let you expand your professional connections and gain industry insights. They’re also a chance for you to discover new opportunities. Research industry-specific conferences, seminars and workshops to attend networking events that can further your career goals. Alumni gatherings, professional associations and business school events are also excellent venues for networking. You can also check out online platforms like LinkedIn and industry publications to find networking events.5

Before you attend a networking event, do some prep work. Start by setting clear objectives for what you want to achieve, such as meeting potential employers, learning about industry trends or finding mentors. Research key speakers and attendees in advance to identify whom you want to connect with. Prepare thoughtful questions that go beyond, “What do you do?”6

During the event, approach people with confidence and introduce yourself. Show genuine interest in others’ experiences and insights. Collect business cards or contact information and make notes about your conversations to personalize your follow-ups.7

After the event, follow up promptly with a personalized message. Express your appreciation for the conversation and suggest ways to stay in touch. Maintain these new connections through regular communication and look for ways to offer value whenever possible.7

Leveraging Alumni Network Connections

One of the biggest benefits of your MBA program is the connections you can make. Alumni networks are valuable resources for advice, mentorship, and job opportunities. Start with your business school’s alumni networking opportunities. Participate in online forums and discussion groups and attend alumni events focused on networking.

Both in-person and virtual alumni networking events provide an opportunity to engage with former students. When reaching out, be respectful of their time and be specific in your requests. Demonstrate interest in their experiences and ask thoughtful questions to build a rapport.8

Alumni can give you insider knowledge and tell you about job openings that haven’t been publicly advertised. They can also offer valuable career guidance by telling you what’s worked for them. Some alumni may be willing to serve as mentors by providing support and advice tailored to your career goals. As you progress in your career, your alumni network connections can lead to collaboration opportunities, whether they’re research projects, business ventures or professional development projects.8

Once you’ve connected with your alumni network, maintain regular contact to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. Don’t forget to offer support and encouragement to younger alumni. You can pay it forward to the next class of graduates.8

Online Networking Opportunities

Online networking lets you connect with professional contacts you can’t meet in person. You can expand your network far beyond your local geographic boundaries. Through platforms like LinkedIn, X (formerly Twitter), and industry-specific forums, you can build and maintain professional relationships from the comfort of your home or office.9

LinkedIn is the top social platform for business professionals. Create a comprehensive and polished profile highlighting your skills, experience and career aspirations. Include a professional headshot and regularly update your profile with new accomplishments. Participate in relevant groups and discussions to find people who are interested in the same topics as you are. Connect with classmates, professors, industry leaders and other industry professionals in your field. Personalized connection requests with a brief introduction can significantly increase the likelihood that a stranger will accept your request.10

You can use other platforms, such as X, for social media networking and to follow industry trends. Engage with thought leaders by participating in conversations and sharing valuable content. You can also find industry-specific forums and professional association websites that will let you network online through their discussion boards and virtual events.11

Take a structured approach to your online networking by identifying and participating in webinars, virtual conferences, and online workshops that are relevant to your career interests. Actively engage during these events by asking questions and contributing to discussions. When you’re networking online, make sure you communicate clearly, respectfully, and professionally.12

Remember to follow up with new connections through personalized messages. Regularly sharing relevant content and engaging with posts from your connections can also help you strengthen your online network. Leveraging online networking opportunities will help with personal branding and let you gain access to a wider range of career development resources and industry professionals.12

Build Your Network for Career Advancement

William & Mary’s prestigious Online MBA program will help you build a powerful network of successful business contacts in addition to equipping you with the skills and knowledge you need to become a business leader. Our rigorous curriculum and experienced faculty will help you understand complex business problems and develop the problem-solving and critical-thinking skills you need to address them. You will also get the career support you need to succeed.

Schedule a call with one of our admissions outreach advisors today to learn more.