Here’s something which might help if you are unsure about networking. It came out of a 1:1 coaching call last week with someone who is due to start his fulltime MBA course in the UK in September 2018, but is already (June 2018) preparing for life after business school in October 2019. (Now that’s advance planning…)
He’d read something I’d written elsewhere about how important it is to make contact with people who already work for the consultancy firms you want to join, before making a formal application. (Why? Because you’ll learn more about the firm from an insider than you will from a website or recruitment brochure. And you create the opportunity to make that insider an advocate for you with their hiring manager.)
He’d already drawn up a list of around ten target consultancies in London, and was Linking In with anyone he could find on the LinkedIn site who worked for these firms. I suggested he refine his search: to contact only those with whom he had something in common – people who had gone to the same high school, or undergraduate college, or were alumni of the business school, for example. Or shared his leisure interests, his Faith, his cultural background, etc. I encouraged him to use other social media apart from LinkedIn such as Facebook, Twitter and sites where there is a shared interest. In every case, it is because something he and the contact have in common is more likely to make the contact reply.
Then what? If the connection with the contact is strong already, just pick up the ‘phone and (re)introduce yourself. But it’s more likely that the first approach will be by email. The subject line should not say you are looking for help, advice, or a job. And make your message short – three of four sentences, tops. Make it easy for the recipient to say Yes, or respond positively. Close with a question or a ‘call to action’.
I recommend giving the recipient a week to respond. If no answer, then another email, but this time giving the chance to decline (“ I know how busy you must be in your role…”). If still no response, log the result and move on to another.
And when the response is positive, get back to them within 48 hours. (As the recipient of frequent LinkedIn messages and emails asking for help and advice, I find it very discourteous if the sender then takes three weeks to reply to my offer of help.)
Treat the whole exercise as a courtship. Don’t ask for everything in your first email exchange. If you are using Twitter, for example, follow them and retweet their posts for a time before contacting them personally.
This is just one of the tips and techniques I share with my university and business school audiences to help them get roles in strategy and management consultancy. If you have a tip to pass on, please let me know, via firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post it up.