Ask an average person in the street, which are the most powerful alumni networks in the world and I suggest they will reply with one of the three following answers: McKinsey, LinkedIn or Harvard Business School.
They are each a leading professional network of their type – corporate, social and academic. Yet what is it that makes each of these alumni networks so powerful? And more importantly, can their respective sources of power be used and emulated by other networks? Let’s look at each one in turn.
1. McKinsey & Company
In some respects the above picture of three McKinsey alumni, as published in the Financial Times, says it all. The McKinsey alumni network is quite simply one of the most prestigious, professional and powerful alumni network in the world as an article by Duff McDonald points out. Given its size of just over 30,000 people,
It is extraordinary that so many alumni are in senior leadership positions around the world including 150 who are CEOs of companies with revenues exceeding $1 billion.
Moreover McKinsey has a reputation of providing a powerful alumni networks for life that actively facilitates the careers of its members both inside and outside of the firm. In short McKinsey’s network power is based on its culture and ability to provide members with access to the world’s ‘movers and shakers’.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with 330 million people and growing. LinkedIn’s huge networking power is based upon its size and how easy it has made it for people to reach out to almost anyone they need to meet.
To get an idea of its sheer size, if LinkedIn was a country – it would now be the 3rd biggest country by population in the world – ahead of the United States and behind just China and India.
It has revolutionized the old networking world dictum of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ and connected people professionally like no one else before it. Could you now even contemplate professional networking without LinkedIn? It faciliates literally thousands of alumni networking groups.
3. Harvard Business School
And last but not least, Harvard Business School. Your alma mater, even if not HBS, probably has something special with which to compete. Its alumni network as opposed to most corporate and social networks, (McKinsey potentially an exception) is built with a significant ingredient of emotional commitment. As such, a school’s alumni network is often based on a different dictum to the previous two networks.
A school’s alumni network dictum is ‘not just who you know, but crucially how willing they are to help’.
I believe this power comes from the fact that it’s not just an exclusive professional network but also a social one. Don’t we all strive to help friends and family in life first?
So three powerful alumni networks, but each with a slightly different source to that power.
Clearly for most organizations, be it a school or a corporation, the interesting question is not simply which is the most powerful network of the three, but how can we incorporate what is amazing about each of these three networks into our own networks?
There seems to be similar themes emerging that we can all try and apply to our own professional networks:
The need for an exclusive and trusted brand, the need for a clear professional value proposition, the ease and ability to provide access to the right people, and finally the need for an emotional commitment and willingness to help one another.
I would welcome your thoughts.
Which do you think is the most powerful alumni network today?
Can all organizations really incorporate and replicate some of the strength of these networks?
What in your opinion is the real source of power of alumni networks?