Students network to create a pool of contacts that help gain insight into an industry, a company, or a career path. So how can you create a powerful network? Never forget that as a student at a leading university, you have a range of resources at your fingertips – a network of peers, alumni, faculty and corporations. It’s a phenomenal resource and one that gets stronger over time.
While I always knew networking was important, I really learnt what it meant and developed that skill at Business School. I was graduating in a recession and there weren’t too many companies hiring, and even fewer hiring international students.
So I networked because I had to. And I found that leveraging the Columbia Business School network gave me access to people I wouldn’t normally get, information about jobs that wasn’t widely available, insight into companies that could help win a position and finally the credibility that comes from being recommended by a Columbia Alum.
Urban Legend: The Warren Buffet Story
Now this story has become an urban legend at Columbia Business School and so I am no longer sure which of the facts are totally accurate and which ones are exaggerated, but I do know that the story line is true. And here’s how it goes. One of my classmates was very clear about what his dream job was: to work with Warren Buffet. For those of you who do not know who Warren Buffet is, he is the world’s wealthiest investor and currently the 3rd richest person in the world.
One share in his company, Berkshire Hathaway, would cost you USD 120,000. He is also an alumnus of Columbia Business School. Apparently my classmate, who had solid credentials, felt he would need to do something to get Buffet’s attention. So my classmate wrote to him and told him he would be willing to pay him to do an internship – and even enclosed a cheque to cover the first week of the internship.
He got a letter back which apparently said that Buffet may have a project for him and suggested that he stop by if he was ever in Omaha…. and of course he was kind enough to return the cheque. My classmate visited Omaha. He managed to meet Warren Buffet, get a project, impress him and finally get his dream job!
I don’t mean you should be sending off cheques to potential employers. But do think about what you can say or do that in that specific case will get their attention or impress them.
My networking Story
So, what was my story?
I managed to get two job offers I really liked. And they both happened in rather different ways.
I found out about the first job through one of my professors. I was very interested in his class and spent a lot of time talking to him about potential business ideas and asking him for advice about career opportunities. So when he found out that one of the companies he had brought in to talk to his students was looking to hire, he introduced me to them.
Strength of alumni
The second job I found was through a Columbia Alumnus – or actually 3 Columbia Alumni. I had reached out to an Alumnus to set up an informational interview. The informational interview went very well and the alumnus in question, now a close friend, offered to introduce me to other alumni he knew in other companies. The next day, I picked up the phone and called one of his contacts who worked at another company. The call went well and he mentioned that his company actually may have a job opening. So this Alumnus, let’s call him Alumnus number 2, suggested I first meet with him before he introduced me to other people. Basically he wanted to informally interview me before he recommended me to anyone else.
After we met, he checked to see what job openings his company had and handed over my resume to the hiring manager – Columbia Alumnus Number 3 whom I had spoken to several months ago and had had a great conversation with– so she immediately recognized my name and called me in to interview.
After an informational interview, an alumni recommendation, and a really great interview, I landed my second job offer.
What is central to successful networking?
So an MBA can help you get the network, what you do with it is up to you!