The Five Steps to Networking Success

Aly Madhavji

As a graduate of the INSEAD Class of December 2016, I can truly say that your time at INSEAD is transformational.

Reflecting back on my year at INSEAD and looking forward, I would agree with many graduates who say that “Network” or “Networking” is simply one of the most important aspects of an MBA. Not only is it one of the most important aspects during your MBA, I believe that it will continue to be a key success factor in your career, regardless of the path you pursue. Given the importance of this topic and my work having written three books (Your Guide to Succeed in University, Your Guide to Get Into Medical School, and Your Guide to Succeed After Graduation) which explore these topics, I was invited to speak at INSEAD to the 17J and 17D classes on networking, mentorship, and career searching. There was a wonderful suggestion following that presentation, to help prospective INSEADers and future business leaders through this channel with some effective tips for successful networking.

Chat with Aly Madhavji MBA16D - Presentation to 17J and 17D on Networking, Mentorship, and Career Searching

This post will give you an introduction to The Five Steps to Networking Success in order to help you build a more concrete foundation, resulting in more effective networking.

The Five Steps to Networking Success[1][2] can be your starter toolkit to effectively navigate networking with increased confidence and insight before, during, and after your MBA studies.

Step 1: Network up and down, left and right

The goal of networking is to create strong connections and relationships with individuals at all levels, career stages, and fields. For example, networking is useful in an ‘up and down’ context with individuals who are more senior in their career and below your job title and experience but it is also useful in a ‘left and right’ context with peers at the same level or even in a completely different field. Any of these connections could help you by introducing you to new connections, helping you find a strategic mentor, or leading you to your next breakthrough opportunity.

Step 2: Help others, including your “competition”

Helping those individuals who you perceive to be your “competition” may seem counterintuitive. However, this separates you from the masses. For example, if you’re at a networking event (which is very common during your MBA) and you help to introduce classmates, build relationships, and have good intentions, you’ll stand out from the general crowd. You will surely leave a positive impression on other attendees, executives, and even recruiters. More importantly, you will leave that positive impression on your perceived “competition”, which will likely be reciprocated in the future.

Striving to be a network “connector” is a beneficial practice that builds credibility.

Step 3: Make friends not just networks

It is quite common for people to use networking as an avenue of taking rather than for building a meaningful two-way relationship. However, if you start with the intention of building a friendship, the relationship will naturally become a two-way relationship, a give and take, which will result in a more mutually beneficial relationship in the future.

An example of this is work on building a friendship beyond pure work but learning about the others' hobbies and interests. Of course, doing this at an appropriate time is critical and we discuss this in more detail in the books. However, looking beyond short-sighted employment opportunities with an individual or a recruiter is necessary when building a friendship and this will not only help you in the short run but also throughout your career journey.

Step 4: Be yourself and don’t be nervous

Many young professionals get nervous when they meet new people, especially if these individuals are extremely accomplished. However, it is important to be yourself, find common topics of interest, and to consider every moment as a learning opportunity. It’s a continuous learning process, so make sure you reflect each and every day on how you will improve for the next day.

Step 5: Solidify the connection

Solidifying connections you make is always important. Remember to ask for a business card and/or for a way to connect with your new contact to build your relationship. Perhaps even following them on Twitter (make sure you have a professionally appropriate Twitter account!) or through other social media channels may be appropriate but you judge this on a case-by-case basis. If it is a more formal connection, you can send them an email and also connect via LinkedIn. If it is a less formal relationship, you can add them with a short LinkedIn message! Remember that sending a Facebook request may not be appropriate (depending on your conversation, you be the judge).

If you make a connection, for example as part of a group or briefly at a conference, and you would like to get to know them better, you may consider following-up with an invitation for a more in-depth, one-on-one discussion or coffee chat. You can mention a couple of key items discussed during your conversation through an email or even a distinctive handwritten note. This may help your new connection remember your interaction and help to solidify your new connection.

[1] The Five Steps to Networking Success: As adapted and enhanced from the ‘How to Network’ section of Aly Madhavji’s book Your Guide to Succeed in University.

[2] Adapted from an original blog post on LinkedIn by Aly Madhavji

Remember, this is only a snapshot of networking. Feel free to get Your Free copy of Your Guide to Succeed After Graduation! It is available on all major e-platforms (iBooks, Google Play, Amazon, etc.).