The Power of Your Alumni Network and How To Leverage It

There’s an Economic term called a positive externality, it’s used to describe the positive wider societal impact of an economic transaction that isn’t accounted between the engaging parties. I recount this term, simply because your alumni network represent exactly this. The alumni network is a hugely beneficial positive impact that is outside of your transaction with your training institute. I don’t want to say ignore it at your peril, because that sounds too much like a spammy top 10 post. This isn’t one of those. What I do want to highlight is just how beneficial it has been to me, and how I use leverage this network for mutual positive gain.

I think it would be remiss of me to not talk about that term, leveraging. After all, we are talking about people and to leverage a person or relationship could attract negative connotations.

The truth is, yes, in one element it is about leveraging these relationships, but in order to actually gain any value, you yourself must be an active, positive and available member of the alumni network too. This isn’t a take relationship, it’s a positive reinforcement of ideas, discussions and support. To gain the value that is greater than the sum of its parts, you have to feed into it too.

The Shared Experience – Building Bonds

Whether it is eating chocolate, or engaging in a consultancy project in the middle of a foreign country – as you will have on the UEA Executive MBA, it’s human nature to enjoy experiences to a higher degree when engaging in them together. These shared experiences also build bonds with your cohort that will last, I would hazard, a lifetime. You don’t however have to just wait for large group exercises, lectures and seminars to appreciate these opportunities. Our cohort would take the time to have lunch on campus, meet ups in the library and evenings out to share ideas, discuss concepts and support each other in modules we may not be too comfortable with.

I found it amazing at how powerful reciting models helped to cement them in my mind, so I gained value in doing so, friends in the cohort would gain from the understanding and when it was the other way round, I knew they would help me too.  The diversity of the cohort on the MBA is incredible and you don’t have to be the best at everything, but you can leave the process being much better.

Take the time to create these interactions, ask the questions, support the cohort, and its never too early to start. You may be sitting in on your induction day today, but before you know it your collecting your degree and the experience is over.

Just Drop A Message To Ask WhatsApp

I am sure everyone has at least heard of WhatsApp, and if you haven’t – you have now. The instant messaging service outstrips Facebook Messenger in popularity with its staggering 1.6 billion users – and personally I can see why. WhatsApp helped our cohort out immensely, it allowed us to create an entire cohort group, as well as individual groups for projects, or just message cohort members individually.

My WhatsApp screen shows 7 interactions, of those currently 2 are UEA NBS MBA alumni. There are other applications for business communication of course, such as the tool recommended to me, by another member of the cohort to use on consultancy projects –  slack. The benefit of WhatsApp is that it is personal and whilst this is about building something that can benefit you in business, it should also be at its very core, personal too.

The inclusive and interactive nature of WhatsApp, I feel, has had a huge impact on the continued togetherness of our cohort. I highly recommend setting it up and using it.

You Get Out, What You Put In

When writing this I have an echo from our very first day on the MBA, we were told you truly get out what you put in. Never a truer word were spoken. What I have tried to explain above is that the cohort is formed due to experiences and interactions you have to have, developed through a commitment to being supportive and personal and through time leveraged for the mutual benefit of those who put the effort in.

In the last few months, I have had these tangible interactions from members of my cohort, both benefitting me or the recipient. These can range from catch-ups for a few hours, or just a couple of minutes.

Interactions include:

  • A request for a trustworthy contractor that led to an appointment.
  • Lunch to discuss a new business venture (not mine) and next steps.
  • Advice and genuine feedback on a business who made an approach for employment.
  • A message to highlight a spelling mistake in a published online article.
  • Branding and website advice.
  • A request for a Which? review for a product someone was considering purchasing.
  • Information on an academic model that was relevant to someone’s business today.
  • Information of a consultancy report that another team worked on.

That is just a few of the recent interactions, solely focussed on the business elements. As a management consultant, I understand the value of having competent discussions around business decisions. In fact, I believe in it so much, I offer a 60 minute consultative conversation for free. When you build a great Alumni network, you get access to these micro consultative interactions all the time. The value of the Alumni network is so great, it is no wonder the UEA goes to great lengths to support their NBS Alumni.

Start Now And Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

Creating a great network takes time, but it also takes building a culture of support, and that does mean asking for and giving it. A good friend of mine joined a lunch with an alumni as I knew he was in the city and it was on a topic of interest to him, branding in fact. His response has stuck with me. In a bright and engaging manner he said “I would love to, I am always interested in meeting interesting people and having interesting conversations.”

It is with that I will leave it on a note to say your Alumni network doesn’t end with your cohort. Leverage your UEA relationships too, as there are shared experiences both in the NBS and wider school. I may well see you at a Norwich Business School Event, or feel free to contact me via Akcela if you would like to discuss building your Alumni network.

About The Author

James Adams is the Director and Founder of Akcela – Management Consultants for Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. James has worked for a Fortune 200 U.S company where he completed consultancy projects in China, USA and Europe, working with companies in including Illinois Tool Works, McDonalds, Starbucks, Vauxhall, Tesco and Yum! Brands. James completed his MBA at the University of East Anglia and is a member of the Institute of Consulting.

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