How To Successfully Network In The United States and India

by Jaineel Aga

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Getting Consulting Jobs In India.

Most business schools of the world will emphasize the value and power of networking.

The first day of orientation, we were repeatedly told that networking was the key to landing a job.  To be visible to any recruiter, you need to spend considerable time talking to them, understanding the company, and understanding the company's fit for you. While you're networking with them, they are evaluating you in their head, with a checklist of internal questions - Does this person have a personality?, Does she have good communications skills?, Can I put her in front of a client?

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Most business schools of the world will emphasize the value and power of networking.

The first day of orientation, we were repeatedly told that networking was the key to landing a job.  To be visible to any recruiter, you need to spend considerable time talking to them, understanding the company, and understanding the company's fit for you. While you're networking with them, they are evaluating you in their head, with a checklist of internal questions - Does this person have a personality?, Does she have good communications skills?, Can I put her in front of a client?

Let's understand what networking means. Networking doesn't mean going up to a person and asking for a job. Networking doesn't mean asking a question for the sake of it, asking about something that could be found by doing a quick Google search.

Networking is twofold: it's partly your way of understanding if you fit in  the company. Your fit in the company depends on what you want to get out of the job. Are there any specific questions that may be a deal breaker? For example, the issue of H1-B visa sponsorship, which allows United States employers to hire foreign workers, is a deal breaker for most international students on US campuses. This is something you want to clear up front.

Here are some common questions potential applicants have asked me during networking sessions:
  • Is it easy to move across offices?
  • Is this a company which has an "up or out" structure?
  • Does the company need an MBA to climb up the ladder?
  • What's the partner to consultant ratio?
  • What kind of mentor programs exist?
  • Will the company sponsor my MBA?
The second half of networking is to be able to pitch yourself as a strong candidate for an interview. Have an elevator pitch ready for those 2 or 3 minutes that you have with the recruiter. This is your chance to make an impression and "wow" the consultant. Maintain a mature yet interesting conversation without sounding like a braggart. They're looking for driven people who have excelled but they also want to hire people they can work and hang out with at a bar after work, so make sure that you're able to sell yourself well through a well structured elevator pitch; check the arrogance at home.

Networking events happen round the year on most campuses abroad and are also now becoming increasingly popular on Indian campuses.

So how does a networking event work?

Let's say Parthenon is hosting an information session on your campus. Most consulting firms have long-term relationships with certain campuses and internally dedicate a team to each campus.  For example, we have a LSE team, an IIT Delhi team and a NUS team. Each team is responsible for recruiting at its respective campus. A team comprising of associates, principals, and a partner or senior principal will be present at recruiting events (the guys at the Indian School of Business (ISB) this year even got a chance to meet the Parthenon Vice Chairman at the ISB - Parthenon networking event)

Hyperink Note: The Parthenon Group is a management consulting firm with offices in Boston and Mumbai. Consulting firms often recruit from campuses like LSE (London School of Economics), IIT Delhi (Indian Institute of Technology Delhi) and NUS (National University of Singapore). Calendar events' time and location are listed under MBA or Undergraduate careers of consulting firm's websites. Take advantage of these online networking resources.

Typically, a huge seminar hall booked for the event for 2-3 hours. There's usually a 30 - 45 minute presentation about the company while brochures and company memorabilia are handed out. The partner sells the company/office and tells you about the exciting opportunities that this job will expose you to. This is your chance to take notes and get the inside scoop on the company. In my experience, talking to 3-4 consultants and keenly listening to the presentation is good enough to form a first impression about the company's culture. When I met people at Parthenon on Duke campus, I knew it was the company I wanted to work for. Generally, a round of questions follows the presentation. Make sure you have some smart, insightful questions ready for the company. After the general Q/A round, the room breaks up into smaller groups for more personal interaction with the consultants.

During the smaller group breakdown, take these 4 steps. Introduce yourself with your full name, prepare and ask insightful questions, stay for a maximum of 10 minutes, and leave by shaking the consultants hand and asking for a business card. Sample questions include asking about their background, reasons for why they joined the firm, and projects that they have worked on.
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