While important lessons are learned inside the classroom walls at Fuqua, a significant portion of an MBA’s value comes from the people who walk through the door each day. Gaining access to the vast Fuqua and Duke alumni network is one of the most important benefits of my degree and you would be selling yourself short if you did not take advantage of the networking opportunities both during and after the program. However, many people have an outdated view of networking. It’s not a rolodex full of business cards anymore, nor is it growing your total number of LinkedIn connections. Rather, networking has become a complicated array of interactions through a variety of mediums.

Networking opportunities have been woven into my time at Fuqua in many different ways. Here are just five examples of how I’ve taken advantage of them and built my professional network over the last 18 months:

1) Intraclass networking opportunities: One of the most important resources that I gained with my MBA was the 90 people sitting beside me every other weekend. Our class took a very proactive approach to professional networking, setting up a formal classmate networking and career help session—an open forum where anyone could speak to the class about his career goals, the types of opportunities she was seeking or simply ask for advice. Attendees posed questions and gave recommendations, offering to follow up with contacts if appropriate. I personally made a connection through one of these sessions and also helped a classmate earn an interview with one of my previous firms.

WEMBA ’14 class at a mixer with the CCMBA ’14 and WEMBA ’15 classes during Term 6
My WEMBA ’14 class at a mixer with the CCMBA ’14 and WEMBA ’15 classes during Term 6

2) Interclass networking opportunities: During our Term 6 residency, our Weekend Executive (WEMBA) class combined with the Cross Continent MBA (CCMBA) class and we were able to choose our own electives based on upon individual interests. Being surrounded by new classmates presented an opportunity to expand my network internationally since many students in the CCMBA class currently live and work outside the United States. Throughout the two week residency, there were a number of social events that fostered introductions, including a concert in downtown Durham, happy hours after class and coming together for the Duke Basketball experience.

3) Leveraging student assignments: Although still working full time, utilizing my status as a student has enabled more than just student discounts. For example, another way I expanded my network was through an assignment for my entrepreneurship course. I had to interview a local entrepreneur, and I took this opportunity to reach out to a company that I have been interested in and connected with one of their top executives. I’ve found that local professionals are very open to giving MBA students some of their time to discuss their experience. Using my assignment as an “in” was a great way to approach valuable professional connections without the pressure of seeking a job.

Students participating in team building sessions at Triangle Training Center
Our class has been through a lot together including these team building sessions at Triangle Training Center during orientation

4) Admissions and alumni events: These events are more than just free food and beverages. To my benefit, a number of them are held in Charlotte and I have made it a point to attend as many as I can. The admissions luncheons are run as an open discussion in which alumni and current students share their Fuqua experience with prospective students. The benefits are twofold—I have a chance to convince others to take the leap and enroll, thereby becoming part of the Fuqua network and I also get a chance to get to know other local alumni. In addition to admissions sessions, local alumni events provide a great forum for reaching out and finding ways to get involved with fellow Fuqua alums.

5) Social networking: Not to be forgotten is the informal side of networking. Building your core network, with people who will take your call and put in a good word for you, is critical. Many of these relationships have been built over residency weekends, during a drink after class or a group workout in the early morning hours. I’ve also made it a point to sit with different classmates at meals and get to know those that I haven’t interacted with as frequently. I’m happy to say that I now consider my fellow WEMBA classmates some of my closest relationships, both personally and professionally.

With so many opportunities, networking through Fuqua has been extremely enjoyable, enlightening and beneficial to my career development and I look forward to further building my network with fellow Fuquans in the future.