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How to network effectively in an Online MBA program

Two students exchange business cards.

For many people, one of the biggest perks of earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is the opportunity to expand their professional network. Success is often a combination of hard work, a good education and knowing the right person. Accordingly, it’s important that Online MBA students make an effort to network during their time in the program with classmates, faculty, alumni and other connections.

Considering that a major selling point for an MBA program is the ability to meet new people, it may initially seem counterintuitive to earn your MBA online. Actually, it’s entirely possible to meet new people and expand your network through an online MBA program—you just need to know how.

Speak up during team projects

Every MBA program, whether it’s on-campus or online, will emphasize collaboration. The ability to work as a team to accomplish a large goal is essential to business success. So, naturally, MBA programs incorporate frequent group projects throughout the curriculum.

Online programs are no different, explained U.S. News & World Report. Though classmates may not be in the same room, or even the same state, you and your peers will be tasked to work together on a project. You’ll collaborate via email, conference calls, discussion boards and other electronic forms of communication.

View these projects as an opportunity to flex your leadership and collaboration skills. Spend time learning about your classmates—don’t spend the whole time completely focused on the project. Suggest that your team collaborate on a video or conference call together so you can have a conversation and get to know each other a little bit better. The Economist pointed out that live conversations, even every once in awhile, allows for back and forth conversation and lets students learn about what they have in common with each other.

Seek out in-person opportunities

Just because classes are held online doesn’t mean all events associated with your MBA program will be digital. Many programs host meet-and-greets so students can network with their professors and classmates. These events may be on-campus or in other parts of the state or country, U.S. News & World Report explained. If you’re able to attend these, do so. Putting a face to a name will only benefit you in the long run. And, the ability to engage in more candid conversation—as opposed to carefully thought-out emails—can strengthen bonds with people you already know through the program.

Some online MBA programs provide students with travel opportunities, which gives them networking opportunities as well as a chance to broaden their horizons. For example, Northeastern University’s Online MBA program gives second-year students the opportunity to travel to countries such as China, Greece, Turkey, Peru and Chile through its International Field Study Residency. These are offered to students who have completed the first 26 credit hours of the Online MBA with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. When you begin your program, seek these opportunities out and determine what you need to do to take advantage of them.

Three classmates collaborate on a project.

Stay social

Having an up-to-date and accurate LinkedIn profile will help you connect with your colleagues in the program, U.S. News & World Report explained. Everyone in your program will be coming from different industries and backgrounds. Having this information available on your LinkedIn profile will help your classmates get to know you better and will show what you may have in common.

You can use social networks to connect with alumni in your program as well. A strong alumni base is one way that students benefit from a particular institution’s MBA program. These former students know the quality of the education you’re receiving, so they may be able to give you career advice or put you in touch with valuable connections.

Some online MBA programs offer their students a unique network where businesses can seek out future employees, and students can browse professional opportunities, The Economist explained. Don’t ignore this helpful tool. It can only work to your advantage. For example, students of Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business can become a part of the Professional Advancement Network. This network can open up opportunities in new cities throughout the nation and the world, as well as highly successful companies. By being active in these online communities, you’re giving yourself a professional advantage.

An up-to-date LinkedIn profile can also make you more visible to businesses that are connected with your university. Employer partners to universities can open doors to students and graduates of a program that may not have been available otherwise.

Students of Northeastern’s Online MBA program can benefit from a network of 235,000 alumni and 3,300 employer partners. Students who have an accurate LinkedIn profile will appear professional and prepared to these valuable resources.

Learn how to network online—and offline

Networking is inevitable with an on-campus program, where students might see their classmates and professors on a daily basis. An online program doesn’t provide the same easy and passive style of networking. Rather, students are expected to take networking into their own hands. If you want to develop relationships with your peers, you’ll need to make an honest effort to do so.

With greater effort and more stress on the importance of networking, you may wind up making stronger connections with people. It may also bolster your online communication skills—never a bad trait to have in business.

Your program may offer workshops or webinars specifically devoted to the subject of networking online. Keep an eye out for these and don’t pass up an opportunity to learn new networking strategies.

Even though you’ll be communicating extensively online, there’s no reason that you need to conduct all of your conversations in cyberspace. If you find that you live nearby some of your classmates, propose a coffee date or a study session, U.S. News & World Report suggested.

It’s easy to assume that an online program will be highly individualized and primarily solitary. However, these characteristics oppose what an MBA program is all about—expanding your knowledge through connections and broadening your network. Because of this, the Online MBA at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business encourages its students to get to know one another, as well as faculty and alumni. There are plenty of chances for you to engage your peers—you just need to take hold of these opportunities when they present themselves.

Recommended Readings:
5 tips to get the most out of grad school
How to be a successful online learner