In the Kellogg Executive MBA Program, we constantly hear about the power of networks, and many of us chose Kellogg for the incredible network it offers through students, faculty and alumni.
Truthfully, this was one of the reasons I always resisted business school. This idea of going to school for connections seemed so calculating and contrived to me. While intellectually I understood the power of networks, the idea of going to school just for connections had a Machiavellian quality that was not at all attractive to me. I vowed when I decided to come to Kellogg that I would stay true to who I am and resist the “pressures of networking.”
It turns out I was totally wrong about all of this.
Each and every weekend, I find myself talking to classmates during breaks, during lunch, dinner and social hour. We discuss assignments, classes, materials, work, spouses, children, world events, faith and philosophy. It turns out I can’t wait to talk to my classmates — who are truly my friends — every weekend to find out how their kids’ performance went last week. I can’t wait to share the latest book or article that I want to discuss with someone. It is almost every weekend that I seek out someone for advice and vice versa.
I love these discussions, and I find it wonderfully rewarding to know I can help out a fellow classmate. When I needed help assessing an investment opportunity, I turned to my classmates who had experience with angel investments and M&A activities. Between professors, staff, classmates and alumni, I’ve yet to meet a single person that isn’t eager to help out in some way. The surprising thing is, there is nothing contrived about it at all!
Networking at Kellogg is not “tit for tat” — you do this for me and I’ll keep score somehow so I can collect on this in the future. I’m delighted to find that everyone I’ve met here is genuinely interested in everyone else’s success. We all sympathize with each other on the difficulties of juggling family, career, school and life in general.
We are all here to somehow elevate ourselves, of course. But we also find it just as natural to see what we can do to help elevate others. To me, it is not about networking, but relationship building based on genuine interest in one another’s whole being: successes, failures, confusion, frustration, triumph and everything that is life. When you share it all, relationships — deep, bonded relationships — form naturally. That’s what Kellogg networking is about.
I’m happy to stand corrected.
Anna Kan was the president and CEO of Golden Island Jerky Company, which was sold to Hillshire Brands in 2013. After 17 years of leading the family business, she stepped down from her role in 2014 to enjoy her family, school, life and mission to clean out her garage.