I’m not a huge fan of the word “networking.” If you genuinely care about getting to know a person, it comes through more effectively than having an ulterior motive. People will always be welcome to an informational conversation, and there are many different types of contacts at business school:
Second-Year Students – If you’re hesitant about reaching out to contacts when you’re first starting school, then second-year students are the perfect people to practice informational interviews with. They were just in your shoes, so they understand what you’re feeling, especially with how busy first semester is. Pinpoint those who either interned at your target companies, or came to school with that background. They’ll always be happy to get coffee or lunch with you, and share their experiences and advice.
Alumni – Use the career services office and LinkedIn to find both recent and more established alumni to speak with. Your success rate won’t be 100% like it would with current students, but many alums could still be up for a phone call, if not a quick in-person meeting at or near their place of work. Do your homework and understand the company and that person’s job responsibilities as much as possible. This is not the time to be asking for an internship or giving them a resume, unless they ask for one. This is a vehicle to understand what it would be like to work there, not to ask for a job.
HR at Target Companies – Not only is it important that you know who the recruiters are, but it’s crucial that they remember you too. Establish relationships with them whenever they visit campus, so that they’ll think of recommending or connecting you to a position whenever it comes up.
Employees at Target Companies – You can establish contact with employees in multiple ways, including information sessions at school, diversity fairs, career events, industry conferences, and on-campus and off-campus recruiting. In fact, you should be making efforts to attend all of these events, to make as many meaningful relationships as possible. Companies will take note of your passion to get to know them, and your desire to work for them.
Make sure to always thank people within 24 hours, and customize your note to include what you talked about and what you appreciated from the conversation. You might even make more connections from communicating your interests. Maintaining genuine relationships throughout your two years will help you long past graduation.
Khue Hoang, Class of 2014
Forté Fellow & MBA Candidate
USC Marshall School of Business