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.