Earning an MBA online is more than adding a credential after your name. Postgraduate study has the power to propel your career, evolve your leadership capacity and instantly boost your MBA network—by thousands.
If you’re wondering how to maximize your MBA experience, start with expanding and strengthening your professional network. A LinkedIn survey found that 73 percent of respondents have been hired because someone they knew made an introduction or a connection. Taking the initiative to expand your network also prepares you to add greater value to your company. The Business Network International (BNI) reported that 98 percent of businesses rely on referrals to gain new clients and partnerships.
If you’re trying to figure out how to maximize your MBA and when you should start networking, be encouraged: there are a range of entry points for building your MBA network. This is, in large part, because technology has continued to develop, and more professionals who grew up with access to the internet are climbing up to positions of leadership. These shifting norms have broadened the scope of networking, which makes it more accessible for busy professionals.
How Has Networking Evolved?
Gone are the days of “professional networking” referring solely to happy hours or industry mixers. Not only have many of these event hosts themselves begun to offer online opportunities, but many more new opportunities have emerged.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this shift, as people turned to technology almost exclusively as a means of connecting with others. According to FinancesOnline, 80.2% of event professionals have been able to reach a wider audience with virtual events. 66.5% of event organizers said that they plan to use hybrid as their go-to format even when in-person events are commonplace again. Virtual networking is here to stay.
A higher prioritization of soft skill development, philanthropy, and social media in the business world has broadened the scope of professional networking in recent years. It’s a good thing, too, because networking is a vital component of professional success. 84% of people prefer remote meetings and 70% of all jobs are not advertised on job sites. Networking is only growing more virtual and more important.
How Can You Build an Effective MBA network?
The list of effective ways to network only grows longer and longer in our cultural moment that’s defined by an interest in innovation, collaboration, and leadership. Online MBA programs like Suffolk help students network in the virtual synchronous classroom, thereby making authentic connections, building confidence, and growing together. From honing your soft skills to attending industry events, and leveraging social media to volunteering, there are things you can do to take a robust approach to networking, which will lead to a vibrant network. Take a look at six ways you can expand your network.
Attend Virtual Networking Events
The boom in virtual networking events has made it relatively easy to do a web search for your professional networking interest—say, “MBA networking” or “professional association for MBAs”—to find an event to attend. Once you’ve registered and added the event to your calendar, how can you ensure that you’ll get the most out of attending?
Glue Up lists 10 Tips for Successful Networking that can elevate your virtual professional networking experience from passive to active. Get started with their first five suggestions:
Craft a great attendee profile: take time before the event to provide a bio that highlights your skills, interests, and experiences. If you can link your social media accounts, do it!
Introduce yourself: whether in the chatbox of a large event or during your unmuted few seconds during a smaller Zoom gathering, put yourself out there with a warm, concise introduction.
Leverage social media: use the event hashtag in a post or tweets that share some of the tidbits you’re learning in real-time.
Reach out to other participants: did someone’s profile catch your eye? Did you like the question that another attendee asked? Connect with them on LinkedIn or strike up a side conversation.
Take part in discussions: speak up at least once when event hosts ask for questions or input. Setting a participation goal can help you overcome nerves that may prevent you from sharing or help you give others a chance to speak if you tend to share heavily.
Develop Your Communication Skills
While theory and instruction are important components of becoming a better communicator, nothing is more valuable than simply putting communication into practice. The Suffolk University MBA Online, for example, features synchronous, interactive, collaborative sessions that give students opportunities to communicate with one another about real-world issues and challenges. Through conversations and presentations, students aren’t just enhancing their communication skills for future professional networking. They’re building a network with each other as they grow in rapport and respect for one another’s ideas.
Whether you’re pitching a concept, leading a team, or negotiating a deal, communication skills can make or break your business career. In addition to putting yourself in situations like an MBA program where you can develop your skills with guidance from experts, improve your written communications by practicing ten skills recommended by Indeed:
Clearly state your purpose.
Use concise language.
Know your audience
Organize your ideas thoughtfully.
Use the active voice.
State facts instead of opinions
Keep your writing free of errors.
Use simple formatting.
Maintain adaptability for different types of writing.
Keep Up with Industry News
Meeting new people and networking with unfamiliar groups can feel overwhelming and awkward. But having common knowledge and topics to discuss can go a long way in breaking the ice. Set aside time each week to read industry publications and catch up on the latest social media posts from your favorite thought leaders.
You can also use Google Alerts or Google Trends to keep track of industry news that’s customized to your interests. If you come across an article, post, or press release that makes you think of someone you know in the business world, pop the link in an email with a quick “thought of you when I read this! What do you think about [xyz that the piece brought to mind]?”
Sending a short, conversation-starting email to a colleague, classmate, or professor can be a great way to cultivate your relationship while building a network and learning more about how people work within your industry.
Collaborate on Social Media
When it comes to MBA networking tips, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a modern businessperson who doesn’t value the role of LinkedIn. LinkedIn offers several ways to expand your network as you present yourself and connect with others. Features like endorsements give you the chance to highlight the unique skills of the people in your network and prompt them to do the same for you in return. You can also ask those who know you especially well to write recommendations for you in their own words.
Make sure you’re following the leaders in your field. When they make public posts on topics of interest, hop into the comments with a question, conversation starter, or word of insight. You may not hear back from the original post author, but you can strike up a conversation with others in the comments, who you can then continue to connect with in the future.
Set yourself apart by proactively thinking about collaboration as something that can happen in the same room, to be sure, but also on the same social media post. Suffolk University’s MBA program focuses an entire course on collaboration, teaching students critical thinking and problem-solving skills in the context of collaboration, focusing on leading teams and managing projects.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to keep professional skills sharpened. Consider how your skills and interests may align with the needs of a local nonprofit. Are you an expert budgeter? An idea person? A top-notch project manager? Whether it’s a charitable organization in your local area or a purpose that resonates with you online, create an opportunity to connect in your community and share your abilities.
If your schedule isn’t flexible, you can always offer yourself up for at-home projects like a budget review or research. Volunteering is another chance to think creatively about your skills and the needs around you. As you find ways to match those up, you’ll likely find yourself surrounded by like-minded people who are now part of your professional network.
Open Doors with Suffolk University’s Online MBA Program
Are you ready to build your network through an innovative, hands-on approach to learning? The Suffolk University MBA Online features live interactive learning sessions where you can collaborate, communicate, and create actional solutions with fellow students, guest professionals, and leaders from premier companies in Boston and around the world.
A current student in the online MBA program, Meaghan Cloherty, says that she has loved “learning by doing. I get to meet with actual clients from around the Boston area in my classes, hear their current dilemmas, and then work with a team to present solutions. This has proven invaluable to me because of the real-world application. I get to practice the actual skills I need for my career, and it gives me the opportunity to continuously grow my professional network!”
Join fellow business professionals like Meaghan, engage in thought-provoking conversations, and work with supportive and business-minded faculty in the online MBA program at Suffolk University. AACSB International accreditation, held by only 5% of business schools, is a key indicator of program quality and the value it holds to businesses throughout the world.
Hone your skills, pursue your interests, and grow your professional network with an MBA Online from Suffolk University.