It happens almost automatically; you’re in class with like-minded professionals from many walks of life and multiple lines of business, so you're developing valuable new contacts while simultaneously working on your professional skills. Even after graduation, the MBA itself continually offers networking opportunities.
Getting an interview for that prestigious position you craved for, or finding funding for your startup idea, might just be a lot easier when the person who can make the necessary introductions was sitting next to you in class just a few years ago. When you look at the long term potential, the networking aspect of an MBA might become the most important benefit that the degree bestows on you and your career.
The way it works is quite simple. People who pursue an MBA have already attained a certain level of success in their current profession; they invest in their education to develop themselves and fast forward their career. This means that in any MBA classroom, dozens of like-minded people meet and collaborate closely with each other, frequently working together on projects. Their backgrounds can be really diverse: they may work in different sectors, operate on different levels of the corporate hierarchy, and might even come from different countries. This means that after graduation, when everyone goes his own way again, you take home a valuable business network alongside your degree.
The network you start building during your MBA at Vlerick starts with the friendships you develop in class. These are connections that tend to run deep as you automatically build a close-knit circle of former classmates who continue to look after each other. There are also the interactions with professors teaching each class, who may also have an eye for talent that certain people within their own network are actively looking to hire. But your circle of professional allies can also be greatly enhanced by the international opportunities the programme offers. You'll travel to Ireland, the US and China or South Africa, for a part of the programme where you'll rub shoulders with international business leaders.
Even while in class, networking skills are part of the curriculum. At Vlerick, for instance, specifically developed networking events are part of the programme. Not every MBA student who walks into the first class possesses the necessary soft skills to woo future employers and investors, or has learned how to make easy conversation, to break the ice at a meeting or conference, or to plan networking endeavours over a longer stretch of time. Naturally, you'll not only get lots of opportunities to embrace these skills, but you'll also become more proficient in techniques for building a network, and leveraging it to reach your career goals. It's all part of the way an MBA changes your way of thinking and acting in your professional life: you'll learn to charm and negotiate better, boosting your network and its value on the fly.
To a certain degree, networking has become something of a necessity after you've attained your MBA. Alumni may have become too 'senior' for the usual recruitment channels businesses use: the further they develop their career, the more they will turn to their networks to find new employment or to develop their business. It's no secret that companies look to referrals and networks first when they are trying to fill a certain position, and will only proceed to an 'open' employment channel such as a classified advert for senior staff with a very specific profile. When you're well-networked, you'll simply become much more employable.
No end in sight
The networking opportunities do not end on graduation day. There's lots of alumni activity going on in every MBA course in the world. The Alumni Association of Vlerick organises regular networking opportunities such as post-MBA lectures, debates, company visits and reunions. As well as meeting up with former classmates, it’s possible to interact with 21,000 other graduates from previous or future years, operating in every conceivable sector, and hailing from more than 100 countries in the world.
The international association of MBAs offers even more international networking opportunities, in addition to optimising social networking channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Whichever way you see it, you're part of a certain 'club', from which you continuously reap benefits in the years and even decades after graduation.