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a baker-holic, choc fanatic, dessert-freak.. yeah and i'm south asian :). A happy member of the Fuqua Class of 2011.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

'Networking'...what is it really?

So I remember when I started my b-school process, a few words I heard a lot were 'networking'. B-school teaches you the art of networking, or so I heard. And thats when I thought, okay, thats great, I go to b-school, do whatever's expected of me, and I'll have acquired the art of networking. Only problem is I never knew what networking really is. Is it having the recruiter remember your name (because it may be that it's hard to pronounce, oh wait, he/she will forget it immediately then!), or is it having the comfort to do the "small talk" with recruiters - and that comes to sports, the National Championship, or the weather? No idea, really.
So I started out, not really knowing what exactly networking is, but knowing that somehow, someway b-school will teach me how to network. And thats when I started noticing what was going on around me.

So my observations of the various "types" of networking:

1. The sycophantic networker:
The scene? A company presentation - think of the big names - the top 4 consulting firms, or the big shots in the social media/ computer industry in today's age. Yep, you got it. And so, what plays out is this: You hear the company presentation, hear why company BigShot is so awesome, what kind of people are they looking for, and thats that. And then, the real stuff starts. You'll have say 5-10 company representatives, and within a second (and I literally mean a second), you'll have those 5-10 mini-hubs or SIP circles as they were called. (I'm assuming SIP means something like situational informational or something. hm?) Anyway, so yes, there we are with those 5-10 mini hubs. And now, here's the funny part. If you're the "outsider", just try observing the expressions of those 10 individuals (read sycophantic networker) gathered around that company hotshot. The expression is one that reads: I need a job, give me one; I don't care why you're here, all I know is that YOU can get me a job. Hence, my admiring expression.

So the problem is, I couldn't see myself playing the sycophantic networker. I thought it seemed ridiculous to try to sneak in a 2 minute "star story" or "why I love your company soo much", when surrounded by 10 other people, each trying to prove they deserve this more than you. Seriously though, from a recruiter's perspective, doesn't it get tiring? Or maybe, its just flattering.

I will say one thing though, any time I saw the circles developed, one and only one thought always came to my mind: "Like moths gathered to a flame".

2. The "I dont-give-a-damn networker":
This is the type of person who thinks they're too cool to meet recruiters, talk to them, and that your star-studded resume will get you the job you want. So, all you have to do, is fill in the application, send in your resume, and bam you're done. Thats how it worked before, right? So why shouldn't it work now?  

Well: (and this comes after working as a I dont-give-a-damn networker for a good 5-6 months, and then realizing why my approach may be wrong):...the point is, things are different now. Think of how many top b-schools there are in the US. Think of how many MBA grads come out every year. Add the ones who may still be looking for jobs from the previous years. Think of the other extremely qualified individuals, who may be non-MBAs and yet even a better fit for the job than you are. Think of the companies who don't even believe in the value of an MBA. 

And that makes you realize precisely this: You are a small fish in a big pond. You cannot change that. Remember it, acknowledge it, and re-strategize according to where you are.  Find your own comfort level in networking, you'll improve, slowly, but definitely. 

3. The "I network-with-reason" networker:
And so that's the final one. Thats the path I decided to take, and am glad I took. I realized (luckily not TOO late), that we all need to network at a certain level. What level and what type of networker you decide to be, is totally up to you, and thats fine. 

When I realized I really did need (and more than that want) a summer internship in the US, I started thinking seriously about what kind of companies interested me. Who could I reach out to? Who might be interested in speaking to ME given my background, experience and prior skills? I started thinking a bit about how to relate what I had to what company x really might need. So when you start thinking along those line, you'll be more comfortable in reaching our, expanding your professional network and learning from other's people's advice on your career. 

That: for me, is what defines networking, really. Being open, finding new avenues, expanding your horizons and actually taking an interest in why person x at company x is at that role - how has their career been shaped? What advice can they give you (given their lessons in their professional life)? Treat them like mentors, and you'll develop a longer "networking relation", rather than a bland "I need a job" relation.

As I started reaching out to my friends, friends' friends and so on, one person made a comment that had an impact on me. 

He said, "Choc Heaven (well obviously replace with my real name), Linked In is your friend. Use it."  That is very true. Right after that, I joined LinkedIn, and tried to see what the fuss is all about. Linked In is an amazing tool & can be your friend too :) Let it be one!

So..enough philosophizing, but here's hoping you're a step closer in understanding what to expect from b-school networking, and what you want to achieve from it!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

First year @ Fuqua over...


my first year at Fuqua is officially over.. damn!  But..it has been a truly great year.. and the best part is, this year has led me with many opportunities. To have the ability to dream, and see opportunities - I feel - is one of the luckiest feelings one can have!

I thought I would dedicate this post to my internship search and how it progressed. I feel like I did some things right and others wrong. But in the end, I think it paid off... To give you an academic calendar of my internship search , here's how it went:

August: School started, no idea what this whole internship search stuff involves.

Sept: Started attending company presentations after company presentations. Wisdom # 1: Do NOT attend the company presentations you really don't give a damn about. It doesn't matter if they hire ' a lot of internationals' or that they pay so well. If you're not interested, thats that.

Oct: Again, just trying to follow the crowd. Not sure why I went to all those presentations at this stage, and what I achieved from it all.

Nov: Missed out on the Week-in-Cities. Thought I was "too cool" to follow the herd, and go network by going on a 'Week in Cities' networking trip. Instead, I took it easy.

Dec- Jan: Didn't have any luck in the on-campus internship search. Finally realized why everyone said you need to 'network' (and what is that exactly? For next time) to get an internship.

Jan - Feb: Started thinking about which companies interest me, and how I am going to go about doing my off-campus internship search. Off-campus means that these companies do not come to Duke to recruit for internships, rather I have to contact them on my own, make an impression, and learn about the internship process.  Harder? Yes.  Less competition? Maybe, maybe not. Does having Duke / Fuqua alums in those companies help? Yes, but its not a pre-requisite. 

Feb - April: Started doing an aggressive internship search. Sending out emails to prospective employers, Fuqua alums, trying to learn more about the opportunities present, how they related to my past experience, where I wanted to be going ahead et al.

May - received my 1st internship offer: for a non profit in NYC. :) Work sounded great!
May - received another internship offer: for small and medium business consulting in Phillipines.
May- received the offer I finally decided to accept - headed to Bloomberg for this summer in NYC! Yay! Bloomberg sounds like a great place, and excited at the opportunity!

Lessons learnt from my subjective experience....

Don't give up hope. Stay positive. Be yourself in interviews. Be natural. Be genuinely excited about the work, company, culture. The markets are definitely better this time, compared to last year. Numerous, and i mean many many of my "international" students friends at Fuqua have gotten amazing summer internships. Its been a great year for all of us.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Being voted #10 in Clear Admit's BOB!


a little shout out to celebrate the e-victory of being #10 in this year's top student bloggers at Clear Admit's Best of Blogging contest! :)

its the second last day of my 1st year of MBA today, and I cannot even begin to explain how fast this year has gone by!
apart from other summer plans, I do vouch to fill in the silences by highlighting some recommendations fori ncoming students, news, and student life at Fuqua!