Networking your MBA

Thomas Arena

By Dr Thomas Arena, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

The University of Sydney’s re-imagined MBA has a clear vision of the changing way we do business. As a logical consequence, the approach to networking our MBA is also changing.

This was an idea expanded upon at a recent activity-based seminar that drew on numerous cohort employment experiences derived from roles including strategy director, senior consultant, account manager, project manager, general manager, engineer, research scientist, accountant, chief financial officer, lawyer and surgeon.

A chief aspect we learnt about networking is this: it’s an art. Anything but a necessary annoyance. It represents a valuable opportunity to develop and grow. The art begins with learning to distil your core competencies and extracting novel insights that can be pitched to promote your best self. But of course, the first and foremost step to pay-dirt networking is recognising whether you’re anxious about the process, then reminding yourself that it’s not all about you. Rather, it’s about the need you have to fill.

Crucially, your network is a complex organism of intricate moving parts that demands a strategic balance of personal and professional values. Give it regular exercise and it’ll maintain pace with the rapid changes of today’s business environment, in which success requires the ability to adapt proactively to emerging global trends. Effective networking also means reflecting on your strengths, clarifying your goals, training yourself to listen, asking for advice and most importantly, following up. As my own network branches have developed and matured over the arc of my professional career, I’ve also learned that the most important thing is not necessarily who you know, but what you can do for them.

As MBA cohort members, we all have a great opportunity to expand our existing networks. In the future, each connection we make with our teachers and fellow students will carry forward into the expansive array of industry. It may not always be obvious while we’re sharing a drink after class, but in time we’ll discover the significance of these moments in consolidating the bonds of a fledgling network. What can be clearly appreciated is that we’re on a journey through an extraordinary chapter in our career advancement.

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