Posted by: Francesca Di Meglio on April 28, 2009
With the economy in turmoil, many MBA graduates are finding the job search tough going. To give readers some insight into the strategies they’re pursuing and the difficulties they face, BusinessWeek has recruited four out-of-work MBAs to write about their experiences for a new feature called “The Hunt” that will appear periodically on the Getting In blog. Comments, as always, are welcome.
By Grant Garcia
Networking has always been a large part of my life. The reason for this is because I began developing a large network of relationships long before I had ever heard the term networking or understood its meaning. I grew up in a relatively small town, and I was raised by outgoing parents who are deeply involved in the community, a combination that naturally lends itself to many relationship building opportunities. It was normal for me to be in social settings, and I became comfortable interacting with others. The result was a genuine interest in meeting new people and forming sincere relationships. But, it wasn’t until much later that I truly realized the power and importance of networking.
As an undergrad at the University of Richmond, I completed a government affairs internship in Washington, D.C. – the city I consider to be the networking capitol of the world. During this time I had the opportunity to meet Keith Ferrazzi, a highly-regarded “Master Networker.” Keith is the best-selling author of the book Never Eat Alone and the CEO of a consulting firm focused on building relationships. During my conversations with Keith, I realized we both shared a similar passion and skill-set in relationship building that could be further developed when studied as an academic discipline. Keith has spent years studying the importance of networks and regularly speaks to audiences about why networking is crucial for success, especially in business. He was able to put into words my exact thoughts on networking: what distinguishes highly successful people from everyone else is the way they use the power of relationships.
From that point forward, I became committed to learning more about networking and improving my networking skills through personal awareness. What I found most important about Ferrazzi’s advice is to network so that everyone wins. Networking is about generosity and commitment to helping others. An excellent networker always offers to give more to others instead of searching for personal gain. From my first job as a golf caddie to recent finance internships, I made an effort to offer whatever I could to make the jobs, tasks, or lives of those around me much better. This creates a network built on sincerity and trust. People in your network will be more willing to come to your assistance when they know you value the relationship, not just the contact.
This attitude toward networking is also applicable to finding a mentor. I have been very fortunate to have many mentors in my life who vary in age and profession. They have guided me through tough decisions in life and career planning, but most importantly have been key advisors to my success. Mentors make up the core of a well-developed network.
I cannot emphasize enough to other MBA candidates the importance of finding a mentor during business school. Having the ability to seek advice and guidance from someone you trust is extremely important, especially when searching for a job during challenging economic times. I have turned to my mentors countless times during my job search, and ultimately I believe it will be because of the help from a mentor that I will find my next job.
To that point, my network of contacts has played a key role in my job search and professional development. I realized early on that securing a job in any industry or profession requires diligent research, determination, and of course networking. When I come across a position that may be a good fit, I work to “connect the dots” from a networking perspective. I first try to establish contact with someone in my network, but often I find an appropriate contact in the organization and make the cold call. I’ve found that in most cases people are willing to help me or at least send me in the direction of someone who can. Bottom line is by maintaining a broad network of relationships you have multiple resources to help you with your search.
I’m passionate about forming meaningful relationships and networking. I believe networking is an essential skill for everyone, but especially for MBA students. It’s never too late to begin or add to a network of friends and colleagues and all it takes is simple effort and organization to get started. Maintaining a database of contacts and using Websites like Facebook and LinkedIn are great ways to maintain a strong network. I recommend that MBAs also pick up the book by Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends & Influence People. This has been the standard for networking success for over 70 years and is still a bestseller. By using the tools and advice readily available, I strongly believe that MBAs can quickly improve their networking skills and use the power of relationships to have success in their careers.