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GUEST COMMENT: Don't network like this if you're a pushy MBA

I do not want to know that you have been on this beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a job. This makes me desirable – especially to those who’ve spent a stupid amount of money on an MBA. In the past few months I’ve been subject to some pretty clumsy networking approaches from MBA students. They want me to help them and they seem to think I owe them a hearing.

However, just because we worked together once and you put together a few pitch books for me does not mean that we are best buddies. Nor does it mean that I am keen to help you out.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’ll always help out someone who I like, especially if I know they do good work and won’t make me look bad if I introduce them to a business contact. That’s the quid pro quo which makes networking work best.

You can be forgiven for not being a natural networker, but since MBA’s don’t come cheap I’m surprised that MBAs students aren’t taught how to network better. Instead, their clumsy attempts to extract favours, referrals and inside information on the job market have totally backfired.

Someone I used to be neutral on, I now feel very negative towards. Their sycophantic business school professors have replaced any professionalism they used to have with the idea that they are Masters of the Universe - part of a new MBA elite.

If you’re an MBA, read and learn. This is what has turned me against you:

1.  Copying and pasting emails: Do you now how infuriating it is to get a long-winded generic email from someone? A generic, long-winded email, moreover which I know has been sent to 80% of your Linkedin contacts? I don’t care which courses you’ve been really enjoying. I don’t care which non-profit you worked for last summer. Get to the point. Demonstrate that you have at least checked my own profile and tailored your accordingly before sending it. How exactly do you think I can help you?

2.  Linkedin profiles that don’t tell me anything about what you’re doing now. Open-ended descriptions of some short-lived venture you’ve started up as part of your Entrepreneurship module won’t impress me. What are your goals? What have been your achievements since we last met?

(To give a positive example of this, someone I know wanted to work in leveraged finance, and had interned in a microfinance programme. Even though a Bangladeshi textile worker isn’t the same kind of credit as a multinational company, it’s real business and shows you have positive intentions. Working in a developing country demonstrates a host of impressive soft skills too.

3. CCing an ancient email address. If you also sent your email to that old Hotmail account I stopped using three years ago then the fact that you don’t have my current personal email will be a reminder that you and I really haven’t been in contact for some time now.

Golden rule: use my work email address and CC my current personal email. After all, this is a work-related request so it falls into the “job” part of my life, but there’s a small possibility that I’ll get to it on a Sunday afternoon when I’m bored.

4. Telling everyone you're busy working (new ventures / non-profit initiatives) and then boasting about travel. Yeah, you had a great time in Bali last summer, but don’t shove it down by throat.

5. Your lack of flexibility. If I agree to meet you to see how I can help you to find a new job, you ought to bend over backwards to accommodate my schedule. Don’t tell me that you can meet me next Wednesday between 10 and 11 in the morning, when I know thatyou’re not working and aren’t as busy as I am. Even if you have a busy schedule of networking meetings, I’m still doing you a favour. You can fit with my plans, don’t expect me to fit with yours.

The author has worked across a number of investment banking roles.

AUTHORAnonymous Insider Comment
  • bo
    16 November 2012

    awesome article..very well written....I agree with the guy "the more you give the more people take"...if the guy decides to meet you in order to help you out then, you have to be flexible and go to the meeting even if you have to miss a lecture...

  • re
    10 November 2012

    The writer is saying in essence - if you want him to take time to help you you need to:
    1. Show enough interest in him to have an idea of who he is and what your shared interests are.
    2. Communicate through linked in and other channels what you do well, who you can help and gives evidence of your past acheivements in doing so.
    3. If you want to add a personal touch, make sure its really personal, and not an act.
    4. Show that you are serious about moving ahead with your job search. Tout your relevant internships and volunteer work - not your vacations etc.
    5. Be respectful and flexible. Let him set the time and venue for meeting.

    These are minimal ground rules for effective networking. I have used them succesfully for 30 years.

  • Se
    9 November 2012

    Be nice to people you meet when you are climbing to the top, you may come across the same people on your way back to the base... it works both ways.

  • AC
    8 November 2012

    If and when this author is looking for a job... I hope he gets rejected from people he is trying to get help from.

  • JJ
    8 November 2012

    Awesome article. What I hate about networking is when people feel you owe them something and it is a one way relationship. Even more annoying is when they do not get what they want (eg a particular job) and they start being ungracious about it. Too many people are focused on the short term and damage relationships that way

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