The Benefits of MBA Alumni Networks—Before, During, and After the Degree
Posted May 17, 2016 by Giselle Weybrecht
- Author, Advisor, and Speaker - Sustainability and Business
An MBA is a valuable experience for many reasons—the development of skills and knowledge and better career prospects post-graduation. But the value of the MBA doesn’t need to end at graduation or the day you start your first post-MBA job. Perhaps the most valuable part of the MBA is the alumni network.
Regardless of whether you were friends with specific students during the program, once you become part of the alumni you join a select network of individuals who have all lived the same experiences at the same school. They have graduated with a commitment to representing their school as alumni and becoming an invaluable resource for each other.
You can tap into the alumni network in a range of ways at different points of the MBA experience.
Before the MBA: Perspectives That Matter
- Determine whether the MBA is for you. The MBA is not a decision to be taken lightly. It is a significant investment in terms of both money and time. Speaking with alumni from a range of schools and especially with similar professional backgrounds to yours can help you decide whether or not to pursue an MBA in the first place by offering some much-needed perspective.
- Find the right program for you. Speak to alumni from the schools you are interested in to learn more about those programs. They can tell you honestly what the culture is like on campus, how a particular MBA brand is valued post-graduation, and the kinds of opportunities you may have access to.
- Seek advice on the application process. Given they have already gone through the process themselves, and successfully, alumni can give advice on what a particular school is looking for in their application essays and may even be able to give you pointers with your interview. In fact, many schools use their alumni to conduct entrance interviews.
- Learn what to expect when you start. The MBA is an intense degree. Having spoken to some recent alumni or even current students and keeping contact with them throughout the program can help you be better prepared and get more out of the experience.
During the MBA: Building Connections
- Explore career options. One of the most important uses of the alumni network during your MBA is for career advice. Once you are a student you will have access to the list, and often CVs, of all alumni from the school, including contact details. Connect with alumni who are working for companies that interest you or have chosen career paths you are considering.
- Seek help with course selection. Once you connect with alumni working in fields you are interested in, you can also use the network to get recommendations on which courses were most useful for choosing from the ever-growing list of electives, extracurricular activities, and other opportunities schools offer their students.
- Look into mentorship programs. Many business schools offer the possibilities to be paired up with an alum who will act as a mentor during the MBA program and often beyond. Once you graduate, you, too, will have the opportunity to be a mentor to a current student.
After the MBA: A Network for Life
- Join a network of networks. The alumni network is an incredibly valuable resource. Alumni are often organized into local networks that meet often socially, organize both social and professional events, and frequently connect with alumni networks for other business schools.
- Ask for advice or connections. Whether you are looking for a lawyer in China or advice on how to start a business in Peru, or even a good daycare in Rome, your alumni network might be able to make these connections for you.
- Gain support. Thinking of starting a business post-graduation? Chances are your alumni network will be one of your most valuable resources, providing you with opportunities to promote your business, gather new insights, and hopefully sell!
- Get involved in activities. Whether you just graduated or have long retired, you can still engage in committees, international alumni boards, organize events, and more through your alumni networks.
- Enhance your career prospects. Although most schools now give alumni some access to career services throughout their careers, many grads find that the alumni network is most beneficial in helping to direct them to new career opportunities.
How to Access MBA Alumni Networks
You won’t officially have access to a school’s alumni network until you are at the very least a current student. So how can you already start?
- Ask around. In this age of social media, chances are you already know someone who has completed an MBA, or someone who knows someone who has completed an MBA at a school that interests you.
- Contact the schools themselves. If asked, many business schools will connect you with specific alumni who either had a similar career path to you before the MBA or has gone into a specific industry post-MBA.
- Attend events on campus. If you already live in the city where your desired program is based, attend school events that are also open to current students and alumni. This is a great way to not only get a feel for the school and make some important connections.
- Connect with local networks. Alumni from each school often organize themselves into local alumni groups that meet regularly. Connecting with these local networks before applying may result not only in an invitation to one of these events but also a lot of great advice to help with your application.
Ultimately the MBA should not just be seen as a one- or two-year program but rather as a network that you join for the rest of your career and life, which can benefit you both personally and of course professionally. It is a network to use but also one to help build. The more you put into the alumni network before, during, and after your degree, the more you will get out of it.
Giselle Weybrecht is an author, advisor, and speaker in the areas of sustainability and business. Her bestselling book, The Sustainable MBA: A Business Guide to Sustainability, brings together all the pieces of the business and sustainability puzzle in an easy-to-understand format. Weybrecht presented a TEDx Talk, "How to Make Anything More Sustainable." She is on Twitter @gweybrecht.