Networking, or talking to anyone and everyone about business school and the MBA admissions process, is more than just an exercise — you can use it to test out your own ideas and then open yourself up to new ones. It has been said that the best ideas are talked about. Good ideas are inspired by, and refined with, conversation.
Right in Your Own Backyard
As you are mulling over your business school plans (Can I? Should I? When? Where? How?), you may start with friends and family, and then move on to a wider circle. If you can talk about
it at work, find people who have gone down the route you are contemplating – recent MBAs, or my current favorite, people who might be in your town or your company for the summer. They are the ones right in the middle of it all, they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid of that particular school and are exploring or have decided upon an industry. What a fount of information!
Talking around is a great excuse to meet new people too. Many business schools have alumni ambassadors who make themselves available to prospective students. Columbia Business School even puts student names and email addresses on its website, so you don’t have to go through the admissions office to connect.
Getting the Real Lowdown
Current or recent students are great resources to help separate fact from fiction. Certainly each school has its own marketing machine, and as I have said since the beginning, admissions offices are increasingly transparent about what they are looking for. But they cannot tell you about whether the career office is any good or not, or if the school felt too competitive, remote, lonely or overwhelming at times. Students can tell you whether the famous professors or the $150,000 price tag are worth it, or if all consultants are boring. Recent MBA graduates, or professionals in your target industry, can tell you whether it is as fun and interesting as you hoped it would be. (Is private equity really that sexy?)
Talking around also has the benefit of teaching you to learn to think on your feet – a big part of business school and business training. You may even learn how to put together your own personal elevator pitch.
Hobnobbing for Fun and Profit
Another bonus is that you may meet new people simply for the fun of it. I know people who have, through networking, met romantic partners, buddies or roommates, been introduced to new hobbies, learned about new shops or restaurants, all while expanding their Linked In network! There’s really no downside to getting out; in fact, it’s good to get away from the computer now that social networking is all the rage. Yes, I have met friends through Twitter – my mentor, Doug Barg, a of GeeMatters, is one, and we now have a solid group of friends and resources we can both use in our businesses. Indeed, a handshake is stronger than a tweet, and a lot more memorable!