An international MBA is a transformative experience; you must have heard this quite a few times. But, why is it so? Why sets this particular degree apart from every other?
It’s not just the curriculum or the cultural experience of a foreign B-school. Rather, it’s the fact that you will be sitting in a classroom with the future leaders of various industries and this is your moment to truly become one of them. This is why networking is one of the primary offerings of the MBA experience, and it begins even before you have filled in your application!
Applicants to an MBA are expected to have gained knowledge about the institution and course they are applying to. So, when you are asked at the interview, “why did you choose this particular institution” or something similar, you are not expected to provide a list of points from their website. Rather, you should have spoken to existing students and alumni, various departments, etc. and found out reasons that resonate with you.
So, as we can see, the networking process during your MBA is multilayered. To make the understanding process easy we divided it into multiple levels – let’s go through them quickly!
Understanding the B-school Networking Process
Level 1: The classroom is your ultimate source of networking. This is not your time to think about why someone is performing better than you or be caught-up by cultural differences. This is your once in a lifetime opportunity to build relationships that will last your entire professional career.
Level 2: The second level of network is of course the batches before and after you. Don’t just be limited to your own classroom, establish relationships and learn and help them learn.
Level 3: Your professors and mentors should also be considered as a part of your network. They are here to teach you and will happily provide you guidance if you seek it.
Level 4: The alumni of your B-school are a networking opportunity that you should never let go of. These are already professionals in high industry positions, so, being able to open a line of communication with them will provide you with great opportunities.
Level 5: Any person of industry or academic position that you meet during your MBA journey, such as guest lecturers, internship coordinators, speakers at conferences, etc. are also people with whom you should have a networking approach.
Level 6: You are likely to attend many events during your MBA which will involve students from other B-schools. This is once again a great opportunity to widen your networking circle.
These are some of the major types of networking that takes place at any top B-school. But, if you already know this you must be wondering why does a campus visit matter to these forms of networking? Let us look into it!
Why Campus Visit Matters
Most of the aforementioned levels of networking can begin even before you have filled in your application, and the best way to do this is by visiting the campus of your target B-school!
Be it the admissions committee members, professors, fellow applicants, or alumni – you have a much better chance at reaching out to them during a campus visit. There is a huge difference between sending an email to an AdCom member and shaking their hand and asking them a question. The case is also quite similar for finding alumni members, whereby an existing senior student can easily refer you to someone who has graduated recently. Anybody that you think is a potential network target for you are always exemplified.
If you are someone who has the capacity to visit a B-school then always do it. If you don’t make it, these relationships will certainly help you when you re-apply. A campus visit is also considered as a sign of your dedication towards the MBA journey!
So, if you are planning to go on one you need to put your best networking foot forward, and here’s how you can do it –
- Spend time with the AdCom
The admissions committee is not just a few heads who decide the final applicants. Rather, the entire admissions lounge is brimming with AdCom members and student volunteers who will be more than happy to discuss relevant aspects of the admission process. The questions you ask during your campus visit are highly crucial, and we will discuss them later in this article.
Once you are back from the trip make sure to get back in touch with the people you have connected and carry on the conversations. If you are able to establish these relationships early on during the admission process it will be hugely helpful.
- Visit the classroom
International B-schools classrooms are likely to be widely different from your regular college. So, this is an experience that you should get beforehand if you are on a campus visit. Even more important is the fact that you frame genuine questions regarding the classroom experience and also self-reflect on how you can perform your best in that sort of an environment.
- Catch social activities
While the admissions centre and the classrooms are your primary locations of building networks, if you can catch a weekend social activity then you will be able to meet a host of other important members of the B-school circle such as alumni, or a member of a student’s club you are interested in. Also, take a guided tour of the B-school and ask as many questions as possible.
Are you unsure about how to start a conversation with your future peers or the AdCom members? The cultural differences itself can set you back. Try these simple questions to begin with and let the conversation flow naturally-
- What does the outside classroom engagement look like?
- Are there any particular classroom norms?
- How does the Career Management Centre operate?
- What does someone do here to have fun?
- How is the B-school involved in creating benefits for the local community?
General Pre-Admission Networking Tips
It is fairly understandable that a campus visit is not possible for everybody. But, this does not mean networking opportunities are unavailable to you. Here are three easy ways to build networks for any international MBA applicant.
1. Connect on social media
Apart from connecting with alumni members on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIN, you should also follow all your target B-schools on their social media channels. Not only will you come across a lot of relevant information, but you will also find networking opportunities in the comment section and more. If you get through, then you will be one step ahead of most others in terms of networking. Just make sure to actually meet the people you have conversed with once your term starts.
While social media can be an unbound platform, it is important as an applicant to exercise some caution. Always approach formally and politely, and ask if they have the time to have dialogue with you. You should not be, under any circumstance, throwing questions at AdCom or alumni members without having a basic introduction first.
2. Talk to current students
Most applicants spend their networking energy on AdCom members, who are difficult to track down online, and alumni members, who are extremely busy people with professional lives. Rather, it is the current students who are much easier to talk to, and they are most likely to know the answers to your queries. You can even connect with existing foreign students are talk at length about their experiences.
3. Attend online events
Most top B-schools host webinars and other online events during the admission process. Attending these events will expose you to important information and also allow you to ask direct questions to the AdCom. Attending these events is also like doing your homework for the application process and it shows your dedication.
So, networking, or B-school networking in particular, is something that you really need to pay a lot of attention to! If you truly stay at it, it can make a world of difference for you especially as a foreign applicant!
And when it comes to the campus visit, you need to ensure that you utilize this opportunity to the maximum. Make sure to talk to as many people as possible and always ask meaningful questions. Make sure that you are creating a difference by being there and not simply taking it all in.
Hope you make it to your dream B-school!