Networking beyond the classroom — encounters with Goizueta alumni
Two years ago, when I was considering where to pursue my MBA, one of my top priorities was to attend a school with a strong alumni network. At the time, I was primarily focused on how a strong alumni network would benefit my post-MBA life — how the network would facilitate job opportunities and executive-level industry connections. I had little understanding about how much the Goizueta alumni network would come to enrich my time during the program.
The daily life of Goizueta is fueled by alumni engagement. Alumni serve as guest speakers, case competition judges, sponsors and mentors. Alumni share their expertise, confess their professional mistakes and look to Goizueta when open positions arise at their companies. The abundance of alumni engagement — the willingness for so many individuals to devote time, intellect and resources to our school — is a clear indicator of the long-lasting impact of the Goizueta experience.
As a fairly shy person, I tend to get a little timid when interacting with alumni. However, nearly every time I’ve put myself out there, I’ve discovered interesting connections. Here are a few of the top lessons I’ve learned from my alumni encounters thus far:
It’s not a one-way street
One of my alumni mentors is 30 years my senior and is self-employed. She has been a wonderful resource whenever I have questions about personal branding and entrepreneurship. During one of our meetings, she shared her frustrations with digital marketing — she was feeling overwhelmed by having to oversee email campaigns and social media platforms to promote her brand. She looked to me for feedback and insights about how to improve her digital marketing strategy. Initially, I was taken aback to be the one sharing my “expertise”; however, our relationship was strengthened by the fact that our mentor/mentee relationship did not have to be unidirectional.
It’s okay to be vulnerable
During my very first lunch with my Goizueta alumni mentor, I opened up about a relatively private medical situation. As soon as the statement came out of my mouth, I cringed, worried that I was being unprofessional by sharing my situation with this brand-new acquaintance. But lo and behold, my mentor had also experienced the very same situation and we formed an instant bond. That common connection allowed us to speed past some of the seemingly requisite idle chit-chat, and instead we accelerated into an intimate, honest coaching relationship.
[A word of caution — not every alumni interaction is the appropriate setting for a deep heart-to-heart. Use your best judgment].
Ask silly questions — discover shared passions
A recent guest lecture by a Goizueta alum featured one of the most beautiful PowerPoint presentations I’ve ever seen. Each slide was carefully constructed, taking advantage of layout, colors and sharp images to effectively tell a story. After the presentation, I thanked the presenter for her insights, complimented the slide design and then stumbled my way through what I worried was a dumb question — “What is the name of that font from your slide deck?”
Seeing the giant smile on the face of the presenter, I instantly relaxed as she shared recommendations for fonts and graphic design freelancers. My seemingly silly question actually sparked a mutual passion for design. We met a week later for further conversation about design, marketing and strategy.
Interacting with Goizueta alumni may seem intimidating, but have no fear — the Goizueta alumni website is honest when describing its 18,000-member community as “engaged, influential and supportive.” Goizueta is lucky to have such an incredible network of caring alumni. Be sure to take advantage of it during and after your MBA experience. Perhaps more importantly, be sure find your own ways to give back once you become an alum yourself.