Freshman get a crash course in the art of networking—from MBAs.
Networking is an essential skill in the professional’s arsenal, and you can’t get started too early. On Thursday, November 10, the Smith School’s Freshman Fellows learned how to work a room from an unusual source—Smith MBA students. The freshman got a quick presentation on tips and best practices, and then split into small groups to practice networking and present their personal elevator pitch for review.
It isn’t always easy to capitalize on that first opportunity to make a good impression, even for seasoned pros. But it’s twice as hard when you’ve never really done it before. So the advice was very practical: Don’t directly ask for a job or special treatment. Pay attention to the person you’re with—make eye contact, listen, turn off your mobile phone. Don’t talk about sensitive or very personal topics. If there is food, stick to items that aren’t messy or sticky, and make
sure to keep one hand free so you can shake hands or hand out your business card. Don’t drink. This is pretty
standard stuff, but for the 70 freshman in attendance, most of them still teenagers, the suggestions were both novel and helpful.
“Asking people you talk to, to refer you to others, that’s something I’m going to try,” Lakshmi Mellacheruvu said. “I’m the kind of person who usually just stays and talks with people I know, but I’m going to try to really get out there.”
Tim Rogers learned to combine subtlety with intent. “We’re not asking for a job, we’re marketing ourselves. It’s different than going to a party where you’re just trying to socialize,” he said. “Networking is about making the connection and then following through.”
The “Art of Networking” Night was sponsored by the Office of Career Services, the Office of Undergraduate Studies, and the MBA Leadership Fellows, who helped mentor and evaluate the younger students. While the undergraduates were learning basics in elevator pitches and conversational skills, their fellow Terps in the MBA program were developing their analytical and mentoring skills. Both groups took away something meaningful from the evening.
It’s the kind of event that could only happen at Smith, because not many top business schools offer both MBA and undergraduate programs. The broad range of offerings at Smith also allows for rich and dynamic interactions between learners at all levels—undergraduates, MBA students, MS students, doctoral students, and executives from many different industries and backgrounds.
Second-year MBA student Narda Ipakchi, who worked in healthcare consulting before starting the MBA program, was impressed by the freshman. “How many other freshman would be here on a Thursday night, rather than socializing with their friends? It shows a lot of dedication and ambition.” Ipakchi was also impressed that the Smith School was working on helping prepare such young students for the process of job searching—as an undergraduate in the University of Maryland School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Ipakchi didn’t really start thinking about her career until senior year. “There are so many resources available at Smith,” she said. “Students who take the time to use them really get a great head start on their careers.”