Before we get to the test, let’s talk about why networking matters. You know it does, right? If you are reading this, you are a future (or current) business leader. You have big aims and lofty goals. You want to change the world. And if that’s the case, you know you aren’t going to do it alone.
Nothing happens in this world without collaboration, and the people you work with will have just as much (more?) impact on the quality of your life over the next, say, 30 years, as will the type of work you end up doing. Because let’s face it, even if you’re doing tasks you find enjoyable, working towards an outcome you find meaningful, if you hate your boss, you’re still going to have a miserable life.
Relationships really matter.
They are a key input into happiness and to opportunity. Check this out:
What my highly scientific and statistically significant graph here is meant to symbolize is the fact that the more you advance, the more you depend on others. The more people you manage, the more people have to trust you to do that job well. As your salary and the downside risk of your failure grow, so does your need to be relationship savvy. People need to believe in you. They need to trust you. They need to like you.
So you would be a fool not to start right now building real relationships with the people around you: The people you work with, the people you do your MBA with, all the people you meet in the admissions and recruiting process (even if you don’t end up going to their school or working at their firm), and pretty much anyone you meet in a professional or pseudo—professional context.
Sidebar: A good friend of mine from B-school is an absolute ninja with the dating-professional bait and switch. She turns first dates into career-long corporate contacts. It’s an art unto itself. Whether you decide to try that particular strategy or not, there is no question you need to get great at relationships.
Relationships Start with a Meet Cute
Meet cute is the Hollywood term for that first scene when the romantic leads make eye contact. There have been many great ones in the history of cinema. And also probably in your life. People happen to be everywhere, so everywhere sets the stage for a possibly meaningful first encounter. But for an adult professional, the number one place your meet cutes will happen is at networking events. That’s why you go to them and will continue to do so for the rest of your life. Because they are the best way to create social churn and meet new people that you would otherwise not encounter in your day to day routine.
But we’re talking about actual relationships here. And that means that when you are trolling networking events, you’ll be best served with the right approach.
So let’s take the test and see what yours is.
Imagine you are at an MBA networking event. Maybe it’s a corporate sponsored event or the cocktail hour at a career fair. Jot down your answers to these two questions:
1. At this event, do you consider it your primary objective to find the people that can help your career and make a memorable impression on them?
2. Are you confident in your ability to talk about yourself professionally to important strangers?
Be honest, no one else will ever know your answers.