At the end of a recent MMM event, I found myself surrounded by 5 to 6 incoming students, all of which had tons of questions for me. What should we take in the first quarter - Turbo Finance, Finance I and II or Marketing? Who is a good professor for Marketing? How was recruiting last year? I was like - woah relax, so many questions! Why are you so anxious? And then I realized - they were exactly like I had been one year ago - eager, anxious, full of questions, and ready to take on the first year of MBA.
One topic really stood out. I told the first years that in order to do well in recruiting, it certainly helps if you network with the companies ahead of time. Which immediately created fear and apprehension, especially in some of the international students. What is networking? How do we network? What do we say to the recruiter? I assured them that Kellogg does a fine job of preparing you for networking via sessions, workshops etc. Which was of course, the wrong answer.
So what was the right answer? What the first years were doing right there and then, was in fact, networking. They had done their research about Kellogg beforehand. They were asking me intelligent questions. They were enthusiastic and interested in Kellogg. They could easily share what they did before Kellogg in a concise manner. There is nothing else that they really need to do with recruiters - in fact, trying to impress recruiters might be counter productive. Of course you need a pitch ready for the interview, and perhaps, also for the networking session. But in the first session, all the recruiter is likely to notice is whether you are like-able, interested in the company and job, and have done your homework.
I have found one book particularly useful when it comes to networking (and have mentioned it on this blog before). Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It doesn't offer that many tips and tricks about networking - instead it gives a holistic view of networking, of looking at networking as something natural you do to build relationships and help others as much as to help yourself. It has certainly helped me relax at networking events and not be worried about trying to dazzle others at networking events (instead, i just underwhelm them :)). But seriously, the book is worth a ready for everyone. Just do it. And add your feedback to this post.