To be clear…this entry has absolutely nothing to do with TV, top chef competitions, or celebrity cook-offs. Rather, it serves as analogy between an activity that intimidates a lot of us and my most beloved thing in the world. Yes, in a lot of ways, I think it is wise to approach networking in the same way one approaches food. Stick with me, I promise this will make some sense.
As many of us know by now, networking is a huge part of the MBA experience. It plays a large role learning about industries in which you are interested, meeting professionals with vast amounts of knowledge, and putting yourself in the best possible position to advance into your career of choice. Basically, it is so important that you need to do some form of it everyday…much like eating. Make sure you are well fed ladies and gentlemen.
Some of the most meaningful meals I have had in my life took a long time to prepare. Likewise, the best networking relationships are formed over time. In a perfect world, we would be able to send a brief email to a particular professional and get all of the information we needed along with that coveted internship. But we can’t eat Ramen Noodles and Hungry Man microwaveable dinners all the time. In reality, it takes a lot of time and effort to build the trust necessary for someone to really support you professionally.
Think about it: would you be more impressed with a three-course meal or an Oscar Meyer Lunchables? If you said Lunchables, I would have agreed with you about twenty years ago.
Now, not all of your grand meals will go according to plan. I can’t even count how many times I have set off the smoke alarm in my kitchen or gotten an underwhelmed reaction from someone I cooked for. But you get better each time. You learn when to add seasoning, how long to cook something, and what foods best complement each other. In networking, you aren’t going to get close to everyone you talk to. Slowly but surely, however, you learn when to send emails, take people out for coffee, and what approach works best for you. It is a process and just like everything else in this world, it takes practice.
I won’t say that you can’t have a Pop Tart every now and then. But pay attention to your networking diet. Proper sustenance is the key to getting your career off the ground.
In the words of Wim Taylor of the KCCD, “You’ve got to put that thing in the oven, let it bake for a while, check on it, let it bake some more, and finally you will have something good to eat.” You have been shopping for the necessary groceries all of your life whether it be through work or academic experience. It is up to you to fine tune your networking recipe and create a feast fit for a king. Bon appétit!