Next to the term leadership, networking is probably the most common term associated with MBA programs and students.
For the extrovert this may seem like a no-brainer and easy proposition: interact with people from outside your friend group and professional network to identify new connections. These connections may be in an industry of interest, friends of friends or simply affiliated with organizations or people you hope to get to know in the future (ie leverage)
To an introvert this may seem like a nightmare or necessary evil.
At its core networking is simply a way to build a team of people to help you get you where you want to go. You may not have clear direction initially and some people may be more helpful than others at different times, but your network is ultimately your team. It should be obvious, but just to be clear- networking goes hand in hand with LinkedIn. When you meet someone new be sure to add them to your professional network on the platform. As noted earlier, LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful platform.
When you're applying your network may need to expand to those who have MBAs or are affiliated with a program you are interested in. There may already be people in your network who you have not leveraged before who may be able to support your application more than you realize. You should also be sure to network with fellow applicants you meet when waiting for interviews and on tours- you never know where people will end up along the way.
The great thing about networking is that as you watch your network grow, you see connections to industries and opportunities which may not have been clear before. A new friend may have a former colleague who just started a role at your dream company. You old roommate may be connected to a recent graduate of your program. It is all so neat how interconnected everything becomes once you start building your network.
When you are admitted, your network now expands to alumni, your fellow classmates (across both classes) and professors and others affiliated with the program.
When you're recruiting, you can start turning to your already established network and seek out alumni in the industry and other connections to request introductions and insights.
To me, it is all so awesome!
My biggest pieces of advice when it comes to networking:
Talk to everyone you meet throughout this process (and ask for their name and add them on LinkedIn with a note) when there is a guest speaker in class go up and introduce yourself, when you're interning be sure to connect with your colleagues. I am big believer in you never know how someone can change your life
Always be kind. Networking is a two way street- ask for help when necessary (and do so politely and respectfully) and return the favors and good vibes when the opportunity arises. Maybe you won't be returning the favor directly to the same person, but always treat others who seek you out with kindness and respect.