11 Tips for Executive Networking with Business School Alumni
11 Tips for Executive Networking with Business School Alumni

The insider perspective of business school alumni is a great resource for executives considering EMBA studies. But how to speed up their research and maximize the benefits of networking?

Professionals with over five years of managerial experience have a lot to factor in when it comes to evaluating the benefits of joining an EMBA programme and selecting the right one. The EMBA experience goes beyond gaining an MBA degree and its network to boost career prospects and competitive advantage. In addition, senior managers focus on personal development, leadership growth, and building a stimulating network of peers that will enable them to become the visionary business leaders they aspire to be.

How to approach top business school alumni

With technology at your fingertips you can explore social networks, but there is nothing like a face-to-face discussion. One of the most natural ways to contact alumni is to join business school networking events. They can take various forms such as an open day on campus, a school presentation in major cities around the world, or business education events featuring alumni. Take every such opportunity, as they are always valuable learning experiences even if initially you might only be considering one particular school.

How to make the most of networking

What questions to ask Executive MBA alumni and when to resort to the admissions directors instead? How to navigate through personal stories of past experiences and the latest developments in the business school world? How to sift out the valuable information from all the advice, opinions, and suggestions?

These tips will enable you to make the most of your time during networking events with executive MBA alumni.

#1. Understand individual perspectives

Alumni speak from their own personal experience and whatever they share should be taken with an understanding of their perspective and context. Actually, understanding the rationale behind what each of the alumni liked or disliked in their EMBA is the really insightful part of the conversation. This will help you realise what matters most to you and open up your mind to EMBA features that you have not considered so far.    

In addition to individual meetings, alumni panel discussions enable you to compare alumni perspectives on the same question, and also to benefit from the questions of other executives considering EMBA studies.

#2. Benchmark and get to know your peers and competitors

Networking events are not just about meeting alumni, but meeting managers just like yourself as well. This environment will give you a feel for what the EMBA classroom might look like, who your peers might be, and who your competitors for admission are.

Of course, you can also take the opportunity for executive networking beyond the EMBA focus of the events. What all of the participants will share is a willingness to learn, grow, and challenge themselves, and this alone makes the community a very worthwhile one to tap into.

#3. Look into what drives successful executives to go back to school

At EMBA events you will hear a variety of reasons from business school representatives, alumni, and participants for considering EMBA studies. Alumni will speak from personal experience about their career progression and personal transformation. Your fellow prospective EMBA applicants will give you a feel for what the latest business challenges call for in terms of skills, mindset, and knowledge to acquire in business school.

#4. Explore how EMBA studies affect your personal discovery and leadership growth

At the stage of transition to senior management positions in the corporate world or a shift to entrepreneurial business ventures, executives are much engaged with their growth. They already have a lot to build on and are looking for ways to refresh, recharge, upskill, unleash blocked potential, and find the way to do what they truly always wanted to do.

What triggered and nurtured personal transformation in business school is a very impactful story to learn directly from those who have already lived it.

#5. Get a feel for what it takes to make the most of the EMBA experience

You have had so much success and achievement so far, so many lessons learned and challenges overcome. You feel you are ready for whatever comes your way. However, it is often the case that the demanding experience of an EMBA programme is initially underestimated by prospective participants.

Actually, there is a lot to take care of in advance, before day one in business school, so that you can succeed during your studies. So, get all the advice available from EMBA alumni, and do not forget to ask what they would change if they were about to start the programme.

#6. Enquire how your life and career will change after EMBA graduation

The EMBA is a truly transformational experience. Discover all its aspects though the stories of the people you meet. Delve into what it is that you should take the initiative for and how the business school can guide you; how to work for your post-graduation career while still at school, and how to keep in touch with your EMBA community after graduation.

Finally, how does life change after EMBA graduation? Should you take a break before you plunge into the next big endeavour? How will you get back to your your work-life balance without the studying?

#7. Learn more about the culture in the business school

Just as organisations have internal culture, every business school and even programme has its own specific environment. What is it? Will you fit or will you be challenged? What is it that you prefer and what will work out best for your personal development and career goals?

Those who have lived in the business school environment for a year or two can best explain how it feels there; whether it is a collaborative or a competitive environment, communication is formal or friendly, etc.

#8. Find out how peers and faculty interact

Part of the business school culture is the communication style and the interaction between peers in class and professors. This will be your direct learning – but also support – environment. Think of your preferences and the most effective way in which you learn and perform and then discuss with alumni whether you can find what you need in their business school.

Face-to-face, online, and group work, individual performance, assessment methods, out-of-class interaction – all of this comes into play when you explore your immediate community.

#9. Discover how work-life-study balance is mission possible

Although EMBA programmes are delivered in a format and schedule that enables executives to work and study, one of the biggest challenges of EMBA participants is to keep up with all their responsibilities.  Although you will certainly be committed to your studies, you should not deprive yourself of your healthy habits and important relationships.

Find out from alumni how you can prepare for this in advance by negotiating with your employer and family. Take advantage of all the tips and advice they share. Get the details on the programme schedule, academic calendar, travel intensity, out-of-class time needed for preparation, etc.

#10. Discuss the pros and cons of employer sponsorship

Employer sponsorship can be a great option for funding your EMBA studies but it comes with strings attached. Learn more about how alumni decided to fund their studies and how effective their strategy was in the long term. It is very much worthwhile discussing with them how they measure the Return on Investment (ROI), as usually they go beyond figures and opportunity cost.

#11. Alumni cannot tell you everything

After gaining insight into the EMBA experience from insiders, you should also find out the latest programme features. At this stage, admissions directors are the best source of advice. They can help you understand how each EMBA programme fits your career and personal development goals. So be ready with your wish list and dream career plan, and initiate the discussion.

Finally, admissions directors are there to make sure that, once admitted, you can succeed. They are not gatekeepers, but rather your partners to help you build an application that reveals all your potential. Take advantage of their advice on your application profile and how to improve your chances of admission. If possible, provide your CV/resume or LinkedIN profile in advance of meeting them. This will enable them to prepare for your meeting so that you can make the most of it.

Last, but not least, admissions directors can inform you about the business school funding options. This will help you diversify your funding sources and optimise your ROI, especially if you can have access to scholarships – free money that you will not need to work for, nor pay back with interest.

 

So, you have more than a dozen sound reasons for taking every opportunity to network with executive MBA alumni.  It is always worth the time investment.

By: Iliana Bobova, Published: 12 December 2018