MBA alumni networks can boost your career

Tom Welsh
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FOLLOWING a Masters of Business degree (MBA), graduates might be forgiven for forgetting their school and forging headlong into the workplace. The promises made for MBA study are career progression and increased earnings and students will want to take their new skills directly into a job and see rapid return from their significant financial investment.

It’s equally true that some see alumni networking as at the less exciting end of the cocktail circuit. Recreating the social side of the MBA experience may not appear directly relevant to your job. But remaining an active, proactive member of your school’s network of alumni can provide considerable benefits to career development.

William Wong, alumnus of Imperial College Business School, calls himself a “master networker”. While studying for his MBA, he “knew practically everyone” in his cohort. The relationships he formed “helped him in his wider career” and working with an international cohort encouraged him to think freshly about business.

These benefits extended beyond graduation. According to Nicola Pogson, head of alumni relations at Imperial College Business School, although “connections made while studying are important, and initially the strongest”, alumni events and the tools offered by school alumni programmes can intensify, refresh, and develop new relationships with students from other cohorts. Graduates use these relationships to find work, to gain assistance in a career move, or to simply ask for advice.

Online networking platforms have enhanced these opportunities. Alice Whittington, senior alumni relations officer at Said Business School, notes its online directory, which allows members to specifically “search for and contact alumni using criteria like employer, industry, business interests and city.” Krista Slinn, head of alumni relations at Cass Business School, says her school has a similar platform, an email service which lets “alumni contact other alumni for advice on career progression”. Schools have dedicated LinkedIn pages and special groups for graduates in particular career paths that allow alumni to make targeted contact with those who interest them.

These might seem like yet more professional networking arenas, but Wong thinks the school connection is a key advantage. “Being contacted via the school gives you the benefit of knowing where someone has come from. It’s not like receiving an email from out of the blue.” The common bond of the business school can make networking more effective.

Alumni networks provide more than useful contacts. Social functions will often accompany practical business events. Slinn recalls a recent lecture to alumni in Monaco by the deputy dean of Cass on the longevity crisis. Wong emphasises how convenient and specific these educational events can be – he recently participated in an online lunchtime public speaking workshop for alumni.

Schools are keen to encourage former students to continue their business education after graduation, and offer a wealth of guest speakers, panel discussions and face-to-face meetings with academics. Cass allows alumni to return and take part in an elective programme each year, free of charge.

Business schools engage so actively with former students because successful alumni burnish their reputation. But equally, a highly-rated school only adds to the value of a graduate’s MBA.

Alumni networks are only as effective as their participants are enthusiastic. However much the schools provide, it’s essential that graduates themselves see the benefit in taking advantage of these provisions.

A school with proactive alumni, willing to represent, promote and encourage new talented students to consider an MBA there, and who are keen to demonstrate how their degree has benefited them, has an advantage. And the success of an alumnus’s business school shines reflected glory back onto the alumnus.