Building a Professional Network: Insights from MBA Student Weam Abdalla

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A headshot of Weam Abdalla

When Weam Abdalla moved to Chicago to start her MBA at Kellstadt, she already had experience in building a robust professional network from the ground up. Born in Saudi Arabia and educated in Sudan, where her family has roots, Abdalla launched her career in the United Arab Emirates. Abdalla’s experience is in human capital; she worked in recruitment consultancies for multinational firms, including a boutique consultancy that specializes in executive searches, leadership assessments and board appointments.

For Abdalla, earning an MBA was a natural next step. Kellstadt’s program stood out because it would allow her to focus on business strategy and decision-making. Abdalla started the program in fall 2023.  

She arrived excited to take her career to the next level – and unsure about what building a professional network in a new cultural context would look like.

Now that she’s in her second quarter of the MBA, here are five of Abdalla’s key takeaways about networking:  

1. Understand the Chicago Market

I kicked off with diving into market research, identifying the key industries and sectors in Chicago. I looked at the startup scene, hedge funds, consulting firms: at their employees and their backgrounds and the exciting job opportunities advertised. Thanks to “LinkedIn stalking,” as they call it, I gained a comprehensive view of professionals in these sectors. This gave me a solid idea of where I’d like to target after the MBA. 

2. Utilize Alumni Networks

A group of students poses in a classroom

One of the networking events Abdalla attended.

Alumni! We already have one thing in common; a shared educational experience! Engaging with fellow graduates helped me gain valuable insights into Chicago’s vibrant business scene. I also reached out to DePaul alumni currently based in the UAE, and they responded positively to my inquires. 

Additionally, I leveraged the incredible alumni network at DePaul University.  There are so many opportunities here. We have Kellstadt Career Management Center events; Kellstadt Women in Business; graduate business students mixers; and more. As full-time MBA students, we really have a demanding schedule with case studies and assignments. But attending these events — even for a short period — is still time spent wisely.

3. Conduct Informational Interviews

Luckily, this activity was emphasized by two of my MBA professors at DePaul. I proactively reached out to professionals in my industry with careers I’d like to emulate. I used these conversations to delve deeper into the local market, gain advice, and expand my network organically. One way I implemented this was by reaching out to Chicago-based individuals at Michael Page, one of the companies I’d worked for in the UAE that also has a global presence.   

4. Be Inquisitive

It can be easy to feel anxious or worry about how you come across. It can also be easy to overly focus on cultural differences and fail to notice underlying similarities. But as Dr. Rubin highlighted in Management 500, “we are more the same than we are different.” Finding common ground is easier than you think it will be! Approach conversations with curiosity, and, more often than not, people will be happy to share important aspects of themselves and their careers. 

5. Be Patient

Two women hold up paintings they've made

Abdalla with one of her classmates in the MBA program.

Building a new network is a gradual process, so don’t rush it – be patient and persistent. Give yourself the time needed to make meaningful connections, and don’t be discouraged by temporary setbacks, such as not getting responses on LinkedIn. Keep your focus on the long-term benefits of having an established network.  


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Posted on

January 30, 2024