To some of you, networking feels like second nature. To others, a necessary evil. Whether you love it or loathe it: enough studies have proven networking’s long-run benefits for greater career success. While in some cases, the chaos and secret inner workings of the universe may bring people to their destiny, things don’t usually happen by accident. Much planning, preparation, and path-paving takes place before you reach your holy grail. Networking and its “effects” are no exception. The relationships you forge and impressions you make early on may come back to either help or haunt you later. Whether you love it or loathe it: enough studies have proven networking’s long-run benefits for greater career success. Dig deep to find the right people to reach out to. As a business school student or alum, you already have a leg up when it comes to networking. The treasure trove that is your alumni base is a great place to start. The barrier is generally lower than trying to speak to someone who doesn’t share common ground with you. Also, let your friends know of your objectives, and see if they happen to be connected to a desired contact. Finally, searching for said contacts on LinkedIn may prove fruitful. Create a spreadsheet where you keep track of these contacts, your reach-out initiatives (with dates), and their results. Once you have identified who is on your reach-out list based on your objectives (e.g., speaking to professionals in marketing because you’re thinking of switching into that function), then check LinkedIn to see if you have a connection in common, because people are usually more receptive to introductions made by a mutual contact. If you are reaching out directly to an alum, check your online alumni directory for their contact info. Quite often, people who have their contact info listed in these directories are open to hearing from folks in their alumni network. People are usually more receptive to introductions made by a mutual contact. As you solicit these connections, make sure to note any common ground you may share, and start with a “soft ask” for some of their time to learn more about their industry / profession / company. It may be too direct or too much of a large ask to dive right in to “help me get a job, please!” Once you have built a rapport, you can be more forthcoming with your objectives. At the end of your conversation, ask them who else they may be able to introduce you to. One person leads to another, and more doors open. Don’t forget to follow-up with a Thank-You email. Gratitude for one’s precious time is a widely accepted form of currency. As you continue along this journey, remember three more key things: 1) It’s never too early to start (the sooner you do, the greater the “snowball” effect of more doors opening); 2) It’s important to stay the course – in other words, keep making new connections as well as maintaining existing ones during periods of “peace & prosperity” because you never know when those connections will become crucial; and last but not least 3) Give back. Someone may be on the other end and will want some of your time. They may end up becoming a good friend or your star employee. Karma can work wonders! Amanda Gharghour received her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), BA in Economics and French from Dartmouth College (Cum Laude), and Certificate in Graphic and Digital Design from Parsons – The New School. Amanda enjoys helping people reach their goals. In addition to her time as a media/tech/digital consultant, Amanda helps MBA applicants as an admissions expert at Admit Advantage and on their admissions social community, Admit.me. She also volunteers as an interviewer for Dartmouth College, a Stanford GSB Chapter Leader for alumni activities in her area, and a Co-Leader of a GSB alumni Women’s Circle.