Building your network can be one of the longer lasting impacts of an MBA. It can create strong friendships that could prove handy in business, it can help you explore different career alternatives, and it can even help you make a connection that will land you a job.
Activities outside of the classroom are just as important as what you learn inside the classroom, with a range of events and activities run by MBA Clubs that allow you to meet people with similar interest and make professional contacts.
For candidates looking to make those all-important career connections, here are four ways an MBA will boost your network:
1. Strong, well-rounded leadership skills
While an MBA curriculum teaches concepts of leadership, it’s outside of the classroom where students really get a chance to put soft skills into action, through taking charge of the learning experience that MBA clubs offer.
At NUS Business School in Singapore, MBA student clubs are organized and run by teams of students. This involves everything from planning networking events to arranging for outside speakers to come into the school to talk with students, positioning students well to sharpen their leadership and management skills.
Chief among these is the NUS MBA Students’ Council, which brings together the leadership teams for each of NUS’ 12 MBA student clubs, as well as five executive committee members. This is led by a president and vice-president.
For current NUS MBA Student Council President Manav Narang, the position gave him an insight into what it's like to lead an organization.
“This role has helped me learn that there is no single defined way to lead or manage. You need to adapt your managerial style that is best suited to the situation and people. You can’t please everyone so you learn to pick your battles and focus on the bigger picture,” Manav says.
2. A chance to explore different career pathways
Not everyone goes into an MBA with a clear idea of where they want to end up. The appeal of a business degree program is that it will help you determine which career paths would be a good fit for you.
At NUS Business School, MBA students have access to a rich and diverse ecosystem of student clubs, a platform for events and activities which build on the learning experience, enabling students to enhance their knowledge and skills in a particular industry or area of expertise, and explore various career pathways.
Exploring these different career paths and interests is an important part of the learning experience, whether this is through meeting leaders in investment banking and venture capital at Finance Club panel discussions, or participating in hackathons with the Entrepreneurship Club.
Case competitions and challenges can also give you applicable leadership and business experience. The MBA Energy Club, for instance, hosts a Cleantech Challenge. Over six months, student teams form and pitch business ideas that are innovative, have a positive environmental impact, and are sustainable. Finalists head to the global final at London Business School, with $10,000 up for grabs for the winning idea.
Kris Sidharta, head of marketing at Akamai Technologies, has been involved in the MBA Marketing Club for several years, hosting informal coffee chats with students interested in exploring marketing as a profession. More recently he’s seen a desire for students to explore more diverse career options, beyond typical MBA graduate professions.
“The current situation is driving people to look at other options. People want to participate in everything rather than just go for what’s in front of them,” he says.
3. A way to build connections and pursue career opportunities
An MBA is an opportune moment to meet potential employers and start making connections that can help you land your dream job.
NUS works with corporate partners from all areas of industry, including Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan in finance, Microsoft in technology, and BP in energy. Involvement ranges from student mentoring to sponsoring MBA consulting projects.
Greg Unsworth, digital business and risk assurance leader at PwC in Singapore, has worked for several years on MBA consulting projects. The company offers several research topic areas for groups of MBAs to work on, from the future of blockchain, to responsible artificial intelligence.
It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, he says. For PwC, students bring fresh perspectives and new ideas, which can often shed insight on an alternative approach.
For students, it’s a glimpse inside an organization like PwC—”The projects are grounded in practical real world experience. We have a vested interest in making sure the reports are useful, relevant, and meaningful, as well as wanting to give MBAs a good experience.”
Even more, Greg adds, the experience working at the company can result in internships and even new hires.
4. Lifelong friendships and a solid network
At business school, some of the best experiences happen outside the classroom. Being engaged in student life and MBA clubs can help you build lifelong bonds and friendships, and is one of the best reasons to study an on-campus MBA.
Student clubs are also a great way to connect with alumni, who can share their insights and expertise, and become important mentors during and after your MBA.
Addy Kaul graduated from the NUS MBA in 2014, and is now the head of digital and affinity partnerships at Allianz Insurance Singapore. Having been MBA Student Council president during his time at NUS, he understands the great benefit of the student club ecosystem, and is keen to give back as an alum.
As well as helping with the interview and admissions process at NUS, he regularly offers advice to current students. More recently, many have sought advice about their post-graduate careers, particularly given post-COVID uncertainty.
“I’ve always said, the crisis will abate at some point, and you’ve just attended a global premier university, that's never going to go away. Hang in there, push through, leverage whatever kind of support you can, and reach out to us [alumni] and we’ll do whatever we can to help,” Addy says.