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If You Want a Friend in Business, Get an MBA

There are a lot of smiling faces on social media these past few weeks. And with good reason. After all, it is graduation season.

Take a look at social media accounts of business schools and you’ll see all sorts of graduation posts from live streaming ceremonies to commencement speakers to happy graduates holding their diplomas. Here are a couple:


And even some MBA admissions directors are smiling for more reasons than usual this year.

(Congratulations, Teresa!)

For many, this milestone is the equivalent of running a marathon. As we know, prospective students bring high hopes into the program. Maybe they have a desire to make a dramatic career change. Perhaps they are seeking that dream job. Or they want to launch a new business. Even the intention to grow personally brings a strong sense of satisfaction when crossing the graduation finish line.

And those are the goals that business schools tend to focus on in marketing/recruitment materials –  websites, blogs, emails – you name it.

But maybe there are some other objectives that we’re missing.

Some months ago, Poets and Quants started a series entitled “Meet the Class of 2017 (and 2016)” featuring incoming MBA students from more than 30 business schools around the world such as Tuck, Foster, IESE, and Wharton. (The most recent one – UF Warrington.)

I read through the articles to identify patterns and gain new insight on the search and selection process of prospective students.

However, I was struck by the answers to the question on what students would like to achieve. Some students mentioned “the usual” – starting a new business, developing soft skills, or obtaining the dream job. No surprise there.

But what struck me the most was how many students mentioned “friends” among stated goals. Here are some examples below. (And note how this goes beyond “networks” and “connections” to good old fashioned friendships – pure and simple.)

“Most importantly, I hope to have developed a network of life-long friends and colleagues.” – Francesca Ioffreda (VA), Harvard Business School

“I want to acquire professional knowledge, experience multiple cultures, and make new friends as much as possible.” – Jessie Sun (China), Notre Dame Mendoza

“I would like to make lasting friendships with my fellow students…and making memories that will last a lifetime.” – Leslie Kwang (TX), Kellogg

“I look forward to learning from my classmates and know I will make lasting friendships that will extend beyond just business.” – Laura Kornhauser (NJ), Columbia Business School

“At the top would probably be developing many life-long, genuine friendships with other students.” – Krishnakanth Balam (India), London Business School

“But most importantly I’d like to have a network of genuine like-minded friends all around the world, with whom I can forever share my professional journey and the challenges we all would face in our progressive future.” – Reema Arya (India), HEC

“…find great friends, and to create memories that will last a lifetime.” – Olga Abrisuniva (Russia and Germany), Cornell Johnson

“Have strong personal relations with friends from different parts of the world, not only to build a network but also make real friendship with different people.” – Maria Trinidad Pero Vergara (Spain), IESE

“There are a couple of important goals for me. They include:…Finding new friends from all over the world.” – Alexander Abasheev (Russia), INSEAD

“And of course make lasting friendships with my fellow students… and making memories that will last a lifetime.” –  Samantha Skarin (NY), UCLA Anderson

(And that’s just a handful. There were plenty more quotes from students all over the world going to schools all over the world.)

Now think back to key messages in our marketing materials.

Career outcomes. Check. Faculty expertise. Check. Rankings accolades. Check.


I’m not saying that this comes instead of the bottom-line/quantitative reasons for a graduate management degree (new job, salary progression), but why not in addition to?

After all, humans are hard-wired to connect with others and form social bonds. In fact, belonging is one of our strongest and most basic needs.

And it’s vital for well-being – another popular theme in business today!

So, why aren’t we addressing this basic need in our “solution” to prospects?

Need more convincing?

Check out this article, which shows how belonging is one of the top emotional triggers that influence people to buy.

As you plan on developing new marketing collateral for the next recruitment season, be sure to appeal to emotional needs as well as logic. And, most importantly, figure out what matters most to your target audience.

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