MBA Career Advice: Using Second-Degree Connections

In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. 

Just as connecting people in your network to each other is important, so is asking those in your network to connect you to people they know. This is part of how you will grow your network, and very often, someone who can help you is just one or two degrees away from you. You do not have the relationship, but a friend or colleague does.

Let us say you want to work in TechCo for your internship. You do not know anyone at TechCo but learn that your former manager is connected to one of TechCo’s managing directors. The first thing you need to do is get introduced. Ask your former manager to connect you directly. This will be much easier to do if you made sure to establish a strong connection with your manager before leaving the firm.

Once you have been introduced…

  1. Follow up immediately. A good rule of thumb is that if you are the junior member of the introduction, the onus is on you to ‘reply all’ and make the request. Wait at least a few hours but not more than a day or two to follow up.
  2. Ask for something specific: a short conversation about their work, a chat about trends in their industry, some advice they would have for an MBA seeking an internship in their industry.
  3. Propose a specific meeting time, place, and format. Such as…

“I will be near your office this Friday. If you have 15 minutes in the afternoon to meet me in the lobby Starbucks, please let me know.”

“Would you be available for a 15-minute phone call next Thursday or Friday before noon central time? If those days don’t work, please let me know a day and time that would work for you.”

Phone will work best for most people, and 15–20 minutes is the most you should ask for in most cases. Propose a few candidate days and times to make it easy for them, but give them leeway to propose alternatives.

  1. Then, be sure to have a fruitful conversation and give the connection a future. Keep the door open for future follow-up, and do not overlook the possibility that you might be useful to them.

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