I can still remember the very first day on campus, when we were welcomed by the school Dean speaking from the first floor of Harper Center, while we all looked up and admired the sky that can be seen through the glass ceiling of the building. In the middle of the crowd, which seems so weird to imagine nowadays, I could feel the anxiety everybody had not only to jump into their MBA experiences but mainly to meet the person right next to them and engage in the community.
People usually say that the business school experience is split among academics, recruiting, and social activities. However, this definition lacks one of the most useful skills acquired throughout this process…Networking! Networking!! Networking!!! A tool that at some point we all become professionals at.
As an international student and coming from a place where usually networking is not enforced by the schools, but rather happens more naturally, it really struck me to see in those first few days how much strength the school put into engaging the students into a community – LEAD training, small dinners, social chairs within the cohorts, Fall Frolics, and other social clubs just to name a few offerings from the school. Many applicants question how challenging it may be to build friendships without a long-lasting cohort and, in my opinion, it’s only beneficial by giving you the opportunity to meet people from broader sources. Thus, your social side of the MBA is only strengthened, and some people really master this process.
Unexpectedly to me, the academics portion of the MBA is also designed to promote your sociability, in which pretty much all professors allow you to join a group to develop your homework. Usually, that is an additional opportunity to not only meet different people from each class but also learn how to work with people from different cultures and develop different leadership styles in the process. I will never forget some of those groups, such as one from a real estate class in which we had Americans, Singaporeans, Israelis, and me, a Brazilian. We had a lot of fun not only bringing diverse business experiences, but also sharing some cultural differences that brought us together to form long-lasting friendships.
Not to forget the recruiting process itself, one of the most networking intensive, and one of the most challenging to navigate. I recruited for banking and, once more, as an international, the way recruiting happens in American business schools really surprised me, due in large part to its strong reliance on networking. First, within the professional clubs, bonding with your colleagues can make the process easier and relieve some of the stress of the process. Second, networking with the second-year students is key to the process. I did not really understand it at first, suffering a little bit on the early stages. Finally, with the companies themselves. Each industry has a different recruiting style, but, in my case, I had to do “coffee chats” with more than 100 people from different companies before the interviews. At the end, I found it very interesting how the first funnel of the recruiting process was so intertwined with the applicants’ ability to network, leaving resume and technical skills evaluation to the very end and relying on “cultural fit.” I can only say I learned so much throughout these experiences.
As previously stated, at some point, many of us master this process of networking and forming those connections. Which is why I will never forget one of my fellow Brazilian friends who used to plan networking events asking me, “Did you meet anyone new today?” Because in business school the answer is almost always yes, and if it’s not…what can you do to change that?