If you are applying to business school you have probably heard that it’s important to network. Done properly, it can be very helpful to connect with current students, alums and administrators. However, I have also seen applicants make networking mistakes that have literally destroyed their candidacies. Here are five common errors:
- Being Too Casual
This happens most often when you have been introduced through a mutual friend. Please don’t curse, start emails with the word “hey” or act overly familiar. This is still a business contact, no matter how friendly and accessible the person may be.
Along the same lines, please be respectful of the person’s time. They are doing you a favor, so don’t ask them to meet you for an hour at your office, call repeatedly or bombard them with questions that you could have researched yourself. It’s also extremely important to be polite and appreciative.
- Taking Advantage
Please don’t try to leverage your access in inappropriate ways. For instance, please don’t ask anyone to read your essays, or to give you insider tips about interviews or what the admissions committee is REALLY looking for. You don’t want to put anyone in a bad position, so err on the side of caution. Shy away from any request that potentially crosses a line. This is especially true if you are talking to an admissions officer!
- Being Disingenuous
The business school world is pretty small. It’s important not to lie to your contacts – for instance, telling someone that their school is your absolute first choice if it isn’t. It’s a really bad idea to ask a connection to expend political capital endorsing you if you aren’t really interested in their program. On a related note, it makes a truly terrible impression if you are only nice and engaged when you need something from the connection – but totally rude and unresponsive when you don’t.
- Forgetting the Person who Introduced You.
One of the biggest networking mistakes is disregarding your relationship with the person who facilitated your original contact. By introducing you to their friends, that individual is endorsing you – and activating their network on your behalf. Please don’t embarrass them by behaving badly, and remember to stay in touch and let them know that you appreciate their help.