A little networking can go a long way

What’s good and different about the NIU MBA program are all the tools and skills we’ve been provided to expand our professional footprint.  Examples include the invaluable conversations on building and retaining relationships and weaving networking into our professional plan.

Our team reached out two top industry leaders — Maggie Bowman, Director of Sales Communications at Constellation Brands and Dennis Viellieu, CEO of Michigan Orthopedic Surgeons — to get their thoughts on the importance of networking.

Make the most of every opportunity.

“Getting an opportunity is one thing. Making the most of it is another,” Bowman shares. She remembers a time when she was working in an entry-level marketing role at the Chicago Tribune Company. She tried to back out of a promise to attend a networking farewell event for one of the company’s leaders.

“We’ve all been there. We make commitments and agree to things in advance because they sound good in theory ahead of time, but then the day rolls around, and we talk ourselves out of it.” But Bowman pushed herself and went to the networking event, and that night changed her life.

At the event, Bowman was approached by the general manager at RedEye about a special project. She immediately followed up with him the next day. That special project led to a full-time marketing role as leader of ‘Mash,’ a teen publication. This new job provided opportunity to increase her skills in running a small business and managing people and ultimately led to her promotion as General Manager of Tribune Local. But that’s not all that night of networking led to; Bowman also met another individual who became her future husband.

Make every interaction personal.

“A vital aspect of networking success is to follow-up and connect with people on a personal level.” says Viellieu, who is widely viewed as an industry pioneer with a coast-to-coast track record of success. The best piece of advice he shares is to simply get to know about the people you interact with each day. “I made it a point throughout my career to know something personal about everyone.” He stresses that whether it means doing research on LinkedIn or remembering personal information from past interactions, it all matters. “An example is that I can pick up the phone tomorrow, call you, and ask how grad school is going.”

Maintain relationships.

Developing and maintaining relationships will reap the most benefits in supporting your career journey.

  • “Maintain regular contact with your network.” Viellieu advises. “Don’t wait until you need something to reach out to others.”
  • “Always follow-up, regardless of the seniority level of the person you interacted with,” Bowman says. “Many professionals fear that reaching out to those more senior to them might be perceived as a burden.”  Viellieu agrees. “It’s just the opposite. It’s appreciated,” he says.
  • Both of our industry leaders agree that all professionals should continually check-in with their connections via email, text, or social networks and remember that nothing replaces in-person touch-points when possible.

Article written by Class of 2019 NIU Chicago MBA students: Riley Blevins, Devlin Gray, Ciera Hester-Smith, George Osuji.  The students are featured in the photo. The photo is courtesy of the NIU MBA Program.


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