The value of the INSEAD network and how to leverage it effectively

This week marks the return to classes on a different campus (Fontainebleau), as well as the end of a really exciting summer both on the professional and personal level. I spent the last eight weeks in Manila working to start a mobile application business in the Philippines. I have never visited this country and had no relation to it whatsoever.

Luckily for me, people there are very warm and sociable. Even if Metro Manila counts approximately 20 million in population, the business community is relatively small and permeable to foreigners, which has allowed me to network effectively and develop interesting relationships. I ended up making friends with INSEAD alumni, but also with other MBAs from schools like Harvard, LBS and Wharton who work in Manila. As part of the larger INSEAD experience, meeting these individuals has shaped my views of the world, of opportunities, of what INSEAD is about and how lucky we are to be part of this special institution which represents a global standard of academic excellence wherever I go (based on empirical data).

Given that a large part of the value in an MBA comes from “the network” (whatever that means), I want to quickly share here a few experiences from meeting all kinds of people this summer, which I hope can be applied by other INSEAD students and alums.

#1 The Alumni Network

First off, the INSEAD bond is very, very strong among alumni. 90% of the time, an alum wants to listen to you and help you out. So it's really easy to reach important people, but you just have to make sure that you approach them with a short and clear message (“I want to discuss XYZ with you because ABC”) and lay a clear course of action for them (“I can Skype you on Wednesday at 10am”).

#2 The LinkedIn Network

Secondly, I have been using LinkedIn a LOT recently, and it’s a really great tool for recruiting and getting in touch with new people, even without a link or an introduction. I think any student who is seriously looking to meet new people for jobs or for any other reason should invest a few dollars each month into a premium account and spend time screening and contacting people with common interests.

What I did was to spend three hours every other day to send a standard InMail message introducing myself to interesting senior executives. During those three hour-blocks, I challenged myself to contact as many relevant people as was humanly possible.

Ultimately, this email push naturally resulted in tons of meetings and consequently allowed me to meet really exciting people who made my summer very special. All of this as a result of sending a quick intro message. This networking technique is very powerful, especially in the long run. The trick is to keep doing it consistently each week, and within a few months you won’t believe how much more significant your network has become.