5.1.3. Networking

Networking is particularly useful for foreign MBAs – knowing the right people can make the difference for a company between going through the trouble to hire a foreigner and not. However, it is the most often overlooked resource – foreigners tend to believe it is only for Americans, since they don’t know anybody (they do not have family or friends in the US). This is not true. Here is a list of people you can use to networking.

– Alumni (especially those from your country!): Alumni are usually happy to hear from their school, and will be willing to spend some minutes of their time helping you. This is especially true for smaller or less known schools trying to build a presence all across corporate America (of course, these schools have the disadvantage of a smaller network). Finding people who are both, from your school and your country, will give you even more to talk about!

– Other people from your country: It is very likely that a few hundred or even thousand fellow countrymen are at any moment working in the US in prestigious positions. Although finding them might be tricky, it is worth the effort. Try trade publications, searching databases, and region-specific network groups. (? Networking/Registered users – you will probably find a few members from your country, attending or wanting to attend B-School. Keep in touch with them, and exchange leads and ideas.)

– Your peers: Most people in your MBA class have several years of working experience, mostly in the US. Although the majority does not plan to go back to their previous job after graduation, they usually keep a few good friends and contacts in the company. Talk to them and have them introduce you or simply point to the right person with a referral.

– Your professors: Most of your MBA professors have very strong links with corporations, from previous employment, research, executive education, or simply acquaintances. On top of that, some are constantly contacted by companies requesting recommendations for strong candidates in their area. Start by excelling academically and then discuss with your professors about a potential recommendation. The relationships between professors and companies are increasing, and many professors are spending more time serving as consultants, advisors and directors of startups.

– Your school’s clubs and associations: Most clubs and associations are contacted by companies for recruiting or other purposes. Additionally, most clubs contact companies for sponsoring, recruiting or social reasons. Volunteer or try being elected for these activities, as they will put you in touch with a few influential people. In addition, if you manage to convince one or more companies to sponsor or contribute to any cause, it will look very good in your resume or in any interview.

– Cultural and religious affiliations: Don’t miss any opportunity to meet people outside of school. The easiest way to do so is by joining any group with an interest in common with you, such us: religious congregations, cultural groups, professional affiliations, sports teams, and non-profit volunteer activities.

– Unimaginable contacts in your country: This may sound obvious, but many people don’t know whom they know. Keep in contact with all your friends and family, and keep them informed of your intentions. It is also an effective way to develop good references.

– Presentations, job fairs, conferences, etc: These events are created mostly for networking purposes. Even if you are not highly interested in the company or the subject, try not missing them, as you don’t know who you can meet. When you decide to attend, however, do your research and be knowledgeable: it will make your conversations with people more fruitful.

– Just anywhere (be prepared): The right contact can show up just anywhere, often in unimaginable places. Numerous stories have been around about influential people met on an airplane or in a club. Keep at hand a copy of your resume and a few business cards. Have a web resume, so you can access it from anywhere in the world. Most important, be alert!

According to sixdegrees (http://www.sixdegrees.com), “everyone on the earth is connected to everyone else through a path of six people or less”. That means there’s a whole world of contacts out there that you never realized you had”. Explore all your contacts, not only for who they are but also for whom they know.

Remember that networking is a process, and anyone can develop a network in a relatively short time. In the US, a network needs not be a longstanding relationship, and is not necessarily based on family or status (although it very often is). So start today!

Sit down in a quiet place with a blank sheet of paper. Write the names of everybody you know. Begin with your planner or PalmPilot, e-mail address book, family and friends back home. Next, think about B-School – your professors, peers, and so on. Keep brainstorming until you reach a thorough list of people you know – you will be amazed!