I'm starting a program this fall. How do I start networking with my new classmates?

May 16, 2011
Tags: Academics, B-School

Written by David W. Frasier, Assistant Dean, University at Buffalo School of Management

For a committed MBA networking is like the nervous system in your body.  It keeps you in touch with all that is going on around you and is a constant systems check on your professional environment interfaces.  Networking is critical to your career and professional development. You have all heard the cliché that it isn’t what you know, but who you know, that makes the difference.  Well, you actually do ultimately need to know a lot if you are going to perform effectively as an MBA, but you also need to know a lot of people throughout your career. 

Your new network starts with your classmates for the next two years and it is never too early to begin connecting.  They will be your future suppliers, customers, consultants, partners (business and matrimonial), employers, and much more. Buffalo, like many schools, has chat groups, blogs and Facebook and Twitter sites to facilitate networking.  You can connect with students and alumni and learn about program activities.  Our students use these sites to meet virtually, search for housemates or to organize a gathering of classmates before they start the program.  Get in touch with fellow students you met at open houses or preview events, find out what their plans are, when you might meet, and even exchange resumes now.  If you are going to a program in a city you do not know, ask local students for tips. They will have great insights on where to live, shop or play and, of course, where to hang out on weekends, when you’re not studying. Many programs have orientations that provide networking opportunities – take full advantage of them. You not only get to meet your incoming classmates but very likely alumni and prospective employers as well. 

Develop the perspective that networking should be mutually beneficial. Don’t just look for what another person can do for you, but try to discover what you can do for others.  One of my greatest joys is connecting people in my extended network.  My assistant director and I recently connected an alumnus who was looking to replace an employee who moved with a graduating MBA student.  That connection resulted in a great job match within a few weeks. 

Arthur Rubenstein reportedly said that the way to get to Carnegie Hall was “practice, practice, practice.”  The way to a successful MBA career is: “network, network, network.”  Start now.