By Damola Pedro, MBA ’24 | MBA Career Peers
During my first year in the MBA program at MIT Sloan, I cultivated valuable professional relationships at campus career events. How did this happen? It all began with my innate curiosity. Discovering shared interests, reaching out for guidance, keeping networking contacts updated on my journey, and expressing gratitude after presentations — these actions were authentic reflections of myself.
Initially, campus career events at MIT Sloan felt daunting. The pressure to stand out, forge genuine connections, and leave a lasting impression amidst a crowd of articulate peers was overwhelming. Yet, within this challenging environment, I discovered a natural approach that transformed these events from nerve-wracking experiences into invaluable opportunities. The outcome might not always be a job offer; sometimes, it results in finding an advocate, a trusted advisor, or a mentor.
Your Questions Showcase Your Candidacy
During these events, company representatives share insights about their organization and experiences. It is crucial to jot down the names of panel members and take detailed notes about intriguing aspects of their stories. The Q&A segment of a campus event provides a chance to ask genuine questions, establish connections, and make a lasting impression. For those confident enough, I highly recommend seizing the opportunity to ask a question, preferably being one of the first while others are still easing into the conversation. Asking questions that provide valuable insights into the role or inquiring about day-to-day responsibilities demonstrates genuine interest and helps employers see your potential as an integral team member.
Lead With Your Genuine Interest
For those seeking mentors or looking to expand their knowledge and network within a specific industry, asking questions about panelists’ perceptions of market trends, strategies, or major company announcements can be highly effective. These inquiries not only showcase genuine interest but also facilitate meaningful discussions that could open doors to mentorship and valuable industry insights.
Insightful Conversations Can Lead to Opportunities
Some events take the form of networking cocktail sessions, offering an excellent opportunity to gain deeper insights into companies and present your candidacy effectively. During one such event, a close friend at MIT Sloan connected with the co-founder of a FinTech start-up. Sharing her background in working for the largest bank in Africa and her journey leading the treasury team in a FinTech start-up, she leveraged her expertise in the largest FinTech market in Africa to discuss key industry statistics. Drawing on her knowledge, she provided insights on overcoming challenges faced by FinTech start-ups in various parts of Africa, talking to some of the predicaments the company was currently navigating. The co-founder was so impressed that he offered her a short-term consulting opportunity.
The Value of Authenticity and Shared Connections
Strategic connections often flourish when based on shared backgrounds, whether as MIT Sloan alumni or from the same country or industry. Genuine connections flow naturally when rooted in authenticity rather than forced networking. Instead of competing for attention, observe your peers’ questions and conversation styles attentively. Focus on your unique story and experiences; your seemingly ordinary experiences can be invaluable to someone else.
Follow Up to Build the Relationship
Building relationships doesn’t conclude with the campus career event; it’s just the beginning. Real connections happen afterward. It’s essential to sustain engagement, and one effective way is through email communication. After attending one of the company events, I was deeply moved by a senior executive who, like me, was Nigerian. He candidly shared his life story, growing up in Nigeria within a family of entrepreneurs. His narrative resonated deeply with my own background. In an email, I expressed my gratitude, appreciating his impactful introduction to his company and his willingness to share his personal journey. I shared my own story as the daughter of a Nigerian entrepreneur, emphasizing how it prompted profound reflections on my career motivations as I prepared for the next phase of my professional journey. This initial email marked the beginning of our mentorship relationship.
These campus career events are more than career opportunities; they are pathways to meaningful connections and future success. Employers seek the unique qualities MIT Sloan students possess – analytical acumen, intelligence, adaptability, and entrepreneurial spirit. While my experiences are unique, I have heard other success stories from classmates who turned campus career events into job offers. Although our paths differed, the core principles remain consistent. Embrace your uniqueness; it’s your greatest asset. Be genuine, support one another, and remember, there’s room for everyone to succeed. Stay true to yourself and navigate these events with authenticity and integrity.