Here's my card: It's never too early to start networking
Standing on the 13th green, moments after sinking the putt, I decided it was time to ask for the executive's business card.
After all, we had played two hours of golf together in the charity tournament, chatted about our careers and interests outside of work, and joked about our lacklustre golf skills.
"Do you mind if I drop you an e-mail or give you a call if I have any business-related questions?" I asked.
"Of course, no problem," she said. "Don't forget to get my card after the tournament."
After completing the 18 holes of golf, I sipped drinks and ate hors d'oeuvres with a handful of other people who had not been in my foursome. After some small talk, a few asked me for my business card.
My colleagues in business school would have been proud. The school year hadn't even begun and I was already networking. Next summer, I thought, was only eight months away -- and it's never too early to put a few irons in the summer-internship fire.
Having spent more than five years as a business reporter, I was accustomed to networking. It's one of the few hard-and-fast rules of journalism: Everybody is a potential source.
If you hit it off with someone during a media event or interview, ask whether you can call them some time in the future to chat about their company, their thoughts on the competition or on industry trends.
I began business school not long after the golf tournament and was overwhelmed by how many times the importance of networking was addressed in the first few days of classes.
In pamphlets, posters and recruiting e-mails, details for virtually every club and activity outside of the classroom included the line ". . . and it is a great way to get to know fellow students, employers and build your network of contacts."
In conversation, a second-year MBA student who was a member of the business-student's council advised me to become "friends, or least friendly" with as many people in the program as possible.
Those people, he pointed out, are one day going to be managers in a position to hire. "And you never know when you may need a job," he added, boasting how contacts he had made during his first year in and outside of the MBA program have already begun to pass along job opportunities.
Then, a week ago, standing in line to buy a coffee, I overheard a woman say: "I really don't care about my mark on that assignment, as long as I get a passing grade in the course. After all, this is a networking degree. It's more about who you meet than your grades . . . We all get the same degree at graduation."
The latter raises an interesting point, triggering the networking-versus-working hard debate among friends in between classes. Should you put more emphasis on schmoozing a guest lecturer or on that accounting assignment?
One fellow student said he's of the belief that networking means nothing if you don't have the skills to do a job well (so hit the books) while another said it's not what you know, it's who you know (so sign up for every club you can).
But it's a mistake to think you have to pick one or the other, I said. Surely, it's an equal split between book smarts and street smarts: A solid network base is useless without an adequate knowledge base.
While that is the eternal struggle for every MBA student, it is also relevant for those already in the working world.
Should you spend more time making friends with colleagues or securing that sale?
If you network with supervisors in other departments, you may have an advantage when applying for a promotion.
However, if you are not focused on work, you can kiss that promotion good bye.
Alison Doyle, the job-searching expert for advice website About.com, claims that more than 80 per cent of job seekers say their network of contacts has helped with their job search.
"Networking contacts can help with more than job leads. They can provide referrals to or insider information about companies you might be interested in working for. They can provide information on career fields you might want to explore or what the job market is like on the other side of the country. Your network can give you advice on where to look for jobs or review your résumé.
"The possibilities are endless," she wrote in an article.
Thinking back to that August golf game, I realized I haven't yet called that executive.
It just may be time to make use of the number on her business card and see if she's free to grab a coffee some time soon.
And I'm thinking about signing up for some golf lessons.
After all, you never know when a networking opportunity might pop up.
Richard Bloom is a former Report on Business writer who has enrolled in York University's Schulich School of Business to obtain an MBA. He will write regularly on the career lessons he is taking away from the classroom.