By John Stayton
Executive Director of Graduate &Executive Programs
School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University
You are connected to a network of prominent leaders in business, government and non-profit organizations representing every sector of our economy. You have access to a pool of high-potential managers with advanced business training, many of whom are open to new employment opportunities. You are tapped into a reservoir of expertise in every business discipline and in numerous industries. Are you actively engaging the Sonoma MBA alumni network of resources? If not, what is going on?
I am in the privileged position to know many of you quite well, so I know the value of this network and use it regularly. This post explores five reasons why some of you may undervalue this network, and makes the case for reconsidering this situation.
The MBA Alumni Forum is a game-changer: Prior to January 2015, there was no organized and consistent MBA alumni engagement effort or organization at SSU. Most of our MBA alumni graduated prior to this, and if you are among them, you may not have a strong identification with your Sonoma MBA alumni status. We initiated the MBA Alumni Forum with three aims in mind: to facilitate networking, to provide post-graduate educational opportunities, and to facilitate alumni support for our current students. It is now an initiative that is independently managed by the awesomely dedicated and talented MBA Alumni Forum Leadership Team, under the umbrella of Sonoma State's Alumni Association. Every event, mixer and workshop has been exceptionally well-organized. It is possible that your awareness of your network may not have caught up with this new reality.
Free is not without value: You have access to our MBA alumni network as soon as you become an MBA student. You paid for that access by joining one of our MBA programs, and after you graduate, it is free. We tend to associate "free" with "having no value". But let's take a quick look at some of the intrinsic value of this network. Companies regularly pay thousands of dollars for access to networks of business leaders in a community or industry. You have this for free. Have you tried to hire a mid- to senior-level manager lately? Employers will pay tens of thousands of dollars to a corporate recruiting agency to find the right person. You have access to a pool of skilled managers and leaders for - that is right - free. Companies pay hundreds of dollars per hour for access to expert advice. Meeting with a fellow MBA grad for some advice might cost you something - the price of a cup of coffee.
Think like an investor: You have access to a highly undervalued asset. Investing a little of your time and energy into it could pay huge returns. It will continue to appreciate every year as more and more important contacts graduate - in the past year about 70 new MBA alumni joined the ranks. You have an MBA degree - you should know a great investment when you see it!
It requires energy to overcome inertia: In our increasingly complex lives, we often feel like we do not have the energy to do anything additional. When it comes to participating in an activity like an alumni mixer or workshop, it can seem like a low priority in the moment. If you recognize the value of this asset, you might find the energy to commit to and attend a mixer. And you might find that the mixer winds up giving you more energy than it took to overcome that initial inertia.
Making awareness and access easier: You may not know how to make contact with your fellow MBA alums. How do you connect into your network? If you are not already receiving emails from the MBA Alumni Forum about mixers, workshops, community service projects and other ways to connect, please let anyone in our Graduate and Executive Programs Office (GEPO) know. Some of our alumni are working on an online platform that will allow you to find out more information about who our Sonoma MBA alumni are and how you can reach out to them directly. Meanwhile, if you have job opportunities for students or alumni, you can send them to the GEPO. If you have the desire to participate as a communications ambassador with your MBA classmates, or want to volunteer in other ways, contact the MBA Alumni Forum leadership team.
Your fellow Sonoma MBA alumni are not the only members of the network that you inherited with your MBA degree. SBE faculty and staff can be very helpful and love to hear from their former students. We are connected to the wider business community through many channels. And when you count your second-degree connections (the contacts of Sonoma MBA alumni, faculty and staff), your network is truly vast. Top-notch MBA programs have valuable alumni network, and we are pleased to join those ranks. Your participation is welcome!