However intimidating (or exciting) we find it, networking is a huge aspect of part-time business school programs. Getting to know our fellow classmates is a large reason we specifically chose to come to Booth, and while we all know the value of the Booth network, it’s tough to find a balanced way to informally connect with our peers. Throughout the years, we’ve all been given hundreds of networking tips, but they are often better suited for corporate happy hours or recruitment fairs than the midway break in class. During our time at Gleacher, everyone wonders how we can best create professional bonds in very little time, but hopefully these tips help you better get to know “that person from Financial Accounting who always pops up in my LinkedIn feed who I think works for a VC, but I’m not really sure…”
Tip #1: Keep it Casual
We’ve all been in that situation where we want to connect with a classmate who works somewhere that interests us, but how should we approach them about it? Should we be cool and calm or put on our best interview face? From experience, it’s best to be casual when approaching a peer for the first time. Our days at work and in the classroom are often rigid, so why make networking a chore as well? There’s no need to make a quick introduction any more complicated (or awkward) than it needs to be!
Tip #2: Be Direct
Being casual is important, but also be mindful of the other person’s time, especially if it’s during break or after class. We all lead busy lives, and while we’re happy to help each other out, it doesn’t help to beat around the bush. In the first thirty seconds, you should: make an introduction if you haven’t spoken before, remind them what you do, and let them know why you’re interested in chatting. This will go a long way in ensuring that you make the most of the conversation rather than talking in circles.
Tip #3: End on an Action Item
Whether your conversation lasts two minutes or two hours, make sure to keep it going after you part ways. Next steps could be as simple as checking out a website and catching up next week, or a larger step like updating and sending over your resume. Whatever it is, make sure you determine the best way to keep the conversation alive beyond that moment.
Tip #4: Offer to Return the Favor
There are few feelings worse than being used, so if you choose to network with a classmate for a particular purpose, make sure that they know you’re also open to helping them out. Your classmate may never take you up on it, but it’s great for them to know that you’re a resource as well if they need it. No one knows where we’ll be one, ten, even twenty years down the line, but it’s important to build rapport and keep in touch with fellow Boothies that can help us, and that we can help in return.
Editor Mike Sharifi is an Evening MBA Student and Director of Business Development at Built in Los Angeles. His hobbies include running, volleyball, and exploring local restaurants.