We want to talk about the one skill that we believe all MBA candidates need to learn. Learning it can have an immediate impact on your life and over a lifetime continued use and development has the potential to unlock a world of opportunity for you.
Here at Merchant GMAT & Admissions we have taught over 500 students over the course of the last eight years. Over the period of working with us we notice a distinct change in the way that they view the MBA journey.
When they start the journey, the GMAT and getting into business school are seen as the most important parts of the process, with 99% of students making the assumption that once these two things are completed, then they are done. A successful career will come automatically.
This perception tends to change as they move through the MBA journey. When it comes to other stages of the MBA journey like finding internships, getting hired and building a successful life and career, there are challenges, and life can be just as difficult and can be just as stressful.
We encourage our students to invest their time in learning the skills that can help them on every step of the journey, however we tend to focus on them developing one in particular. From successfully navigating the GMAT, getting into business school, finding internships and a job, then building the lifestyle they want with the career they have always dreamed of, this skill can supercharge the outcomes for their life and provide experiences that you might only dream of in the movies.
So what is this skill? Drum roll please….
That may sound strange to those of you that we have not come into direct contact with Merchant coaches but it is a key area of focus for us and our students when they are working with us.
Of course our priority is making sure they ace the GMAT and, or, get through the admissions process successfully, getting into the school they want, however, when we are not talking about these things we will be pushing them develop and practice their networking skills.
Why? Because getting good at networking can help you every step of the way on your MBA journey, and in your life in general. We are only ever one conversation away from the next job or opportunity, a new friend, business partner or romantic interest.
Indeed, Tim Sanders, author and once digital media executive at Yahoo once said.
“Your network is your net worth.” We agree, and we make sure that our students understand and utilise this principle throughout the MBA journey.
“Your network is your net worth.”
Ok, so imagine you are just about to start studying for the GMAT. We will show you how investing in developing your networking skills through each of the four stages of the MBA journey.
Studying for the GMAT is a difficult process and there are challenges.
There are operational questions you need the answers to such as what should I expect from the process of going through the GMAT? What is the best way to study? How many hours do I need to commit a week?
As well as these logistical challenges, there are also other more emotional challenges you will encounter.
In many cases there can be feelings of isolation that come from studying alone and sacrificing socializing opportunities and other areas of your life to focus on passing the GMAT. There can be very few people for you to talk to about the intricacies of the test or to share your experiences with.
The challenge of the GMAT also means that we have to face the fear of failure. If you are a perfectionist or used to success in your educational and work life the GMAT can be a shock to the system. It is a tough opponent and can catch you by surprise, which will stir that fear of not being successful.
But how can networking help here?
Shared experience is a powerful tool and going out and finding communities of other GMAT takers is a great way to learn, have fun and share the challenges you are facing with people in the same situation.
You can do this through group classes, study groups or communities both digitally or in real life. Communities like the Merchant MBA Network have been built! We run regular events both digital and in real life (when there is not a global pandemic) exactly because we want our students to mix and help each other develop.
If you are able to build a group of GMAT compadres, it will definitely help. And added to that, once you are all successful and in business school they will go off and have their life and career. As friends you will enjoy opportunities to get to know each other and there could even be professional opportunities at some point. It is always worth making the effort and staying in touch.
Congratulations you have got the GMAT score you were hoping for! Now we need to focus on getting into business school. That means working out exactly which target MBA programs I want to apply for, writing essays, preparing for interviews and knowing my “why”.
What if you don’t know what you want to do after business school? Or do not have detailed knowledge of the programs you think you want to attend?
Yep, you guessed it, networking can be a massive help here.
Networking can be an incredibly powerful way of gaining this information, alongside the more traditional research methods.
Despite the global pandemic it is still possible to meet new people digitally. Over the last few weeks we attended the MBA Tour in Latin America. Granted it is not the same experience of a traditional MBA event but the same people are there from the schools and other applicants. You can meet the people that have the information that can help you.
As well as events you can approach people directly via platforms such as LinkedIn. One of our clients from two years ago had her heart set on being a CMO after completing her MBA. As a result we encouraged her to find and approach CMOs that had been to business school. She did, via LinkedIn, and the insights she gained from a series of conversations she had contributed to a successful application to business school. At the same time she had a CMO contact at a large FMCG business in Europe.
Now you have completed stage two of your MBA journey and like with stage one, with your GMAT network, you have a new admissions network.
Through each stage of the MBA process you will meet different types of people that have the power to benefit your life in any number of different ways. As we said earlier, you never know what can happen. Do the research, make the time and invest in yourself and other people, it will pay you back.
For many new students their initial expectations about the MBA journey are based on passing the GMAT and getting into school. The assumption is that life after that will flow and their career and life will flourish.
The reality is that they are probably right, however if they think that it will be easier, less stressful and less challenging than the GMAT and admission process, they need to think again.
The recruitment process starts immediately because you have to get an internship organised for the end of the year. For paid internships there will be massive competition and to get the best position for you and your future needs preparation and will take time.
Many students underestimate how prepared they need to be for the recruitment process. At the same time their first semester at business school can take over meaning that they neglect to make a plan time. Especially if the interview process is a long one.
Recently we had a student get an internship with Amazon in the USA and it was a four stage interview process. If you are applying to five or six companies and they all have a recruitment process similar to Amazon, that will take a lot of time.
The internship in question came via career services at Kellogg. Roughly 50% of internships come via career services. Where do you think the other 50% come from?
So when you get to business school make sure you spend the time to get to know your classmates outside of the classroom. We are repeating ourselves but it’s important to remember that you are always only one conversation away from a new opportunity. You never know what can happen if you make the effort.
Also remember to stay in touch with your GMAT network and your admissions network, they might be able to help too. You never know.
Remember that student I told you about? The one that wanted to be a CMO? Can you guess how she set up her work placement?
Yes she spent last summer working in a Spanish FMCG marketing department. A great example of how networking works!
Ok, so we have been through three of the four stages. We started creating our GMAT network, admissions network and now our business school network. Three different groups that with continued investment of your time and efforts could result in lots of different possibilities both professionally and personally.
You have an international business network now, and this will only grow more as you work after your MBA. If you proactively practice networking and taking advantage of the opportunities to meet people who can help your business life as well as everyday life the more you will benefit.
We have shown you why we believe that networking is a key part of the whole MBA journey and can benefit you on many levels. For more information on the topic and to see our Admissions Director, Joe Mashek talking on this exact subject for a Prep Advisor webinar that he did at the beginning of quarantine. Check out the video below.