How to network as part of an online MBA community

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As you’re working toward a Master of Business Administration, you can develop your knowledge of business operations, skills at using technology and leadership abilities. However, one of the most important parts of your educational experience is the people you meet along the way. Your instructors and classmates in MBA courses, as well as alumni and business leaders you may encounter, can be crucial resources in your future career.

Enrolling in an online MBA program can be a good fit for busy people with full-time jobs, but you may wonder whether it’s possible to get the benefits of a robust professional network. While you won’t be sitting in the same classroom with your instructor and peers every week, that doesn’t mean you can’t get to know these people and gain all the advantages that come from finding new contacts. Students earning a Villanova University online MBA meet individuals from a variety of backgrounds who may provide vital leads on open positions, rewarding partnerships or the latest innovations in your industry.

Learn networking skills

Whether taking classes remotely or in a traditional classroom, you can make the most of your time in an MBA program by expanding your skills as a networker. Like any aspect of business, forming productive relationships with the people you meet through classes or at school-sponsored events involves strategy and practice. By thinking ahead prior to a networking opportunity, you improve the chances of making a good impression on contacts who could prove valuable down the line.

Harvard Business Review suggested several key considerations to make linking up with these professionals easier. Try to focus on the useful information and skills you can learn from each networking opportunity, considering how the right conversations might move you toward long-term career objectives. Look for areas where your interests and objectives line up with those of the people you meet and figure out what you have to offer them in return for their advice, even if that’s just a sincere expression of gratitude.

Participate in online discussions

Students earning their MBAs online from Villanova go through the same curriculum as those taking courses in traditional classrooms, taught by the same professors. Gaining this advanced education by viewing recorded presentations and interactive case studies in an asynchronous environment is a benefit for students who are unable to participate in the program on campus.  However, that arrangement does mean fewer chances to talk casually with fellow students or address questions to an instructor in person.

Still, online students won’t miss out on getting to know people as long as they proactively seize their chances to interact. In fact, they may be able to meet peers who work across a wider geography than would be possible in a physical setting.

Villanova’s online courses include certain synchronous elements, such as online discussion sessions and virtual office hours, that allow for talking about class materials and professional interests in real time. Sharing some of your experiences from the workplace and listening to what others have to say during these times may turn out to be the first steps toward finding common ground with your peers.

Make the most of your campus residency and practicum experiences

Though the vast majority of the Villanova online MBA program can be completed from your computer at home, the curriculum does include one mandatory trip to campus. Within the first two semesters of enrollment, students are required to participate in a Leadership Challenge weekend residency. Along with working on your skills in cooperating with others and guiding the way to complete a project, you’ll be able to speak directly with other students and faculty.

Another major time for networking comes as part of the final capstone course, the Global Practicum. Students have the option to take part in a weeklong international immersion, traveling to an emerging economy. Once abroad, they become involved in the local business culture and apply the principles they’ve learned from classes to working on real projects, getting to know numerous fellow professionals along the way.

Find ways to get more involved

Beyond the synchronous and on-campus elements of your curriculum, you can discover further opportunities to collaborate and share ideas with your classmates. Often, students will form online groups to discuss their assignments, trade tips and chat informally. If some of the other students live or work close to you, it may be feasible to meet up in person from time to time and talk about your projects or just share a table at the coffee shop while you work.

You might also be able to get involved in student organizations at your school, even if you take courses remotely. Look into the possibilities and find out if there is a group that fits your personal or professional interests. You can meet new people who work in different fields, and it might turn out you have a lot to contribute.

Connect with alumni

Alumni associations are an indispensable part of networking for MBA graduates. After completing your education, you become a part of a community that can last for the rest of your career. This group includes people who have areas of expertise and face challenges that are similar to your own, meaning it’s often your best resource for seeking out knowledge in particular areas of business.

By consulting with fellow members in an alumni association, you might find substantial resources for growing your business or locating your next job. Once you’re finished with the program, join up with the organization and stay involved over the years ahead to continue reaping the rewards of this network and helping others in return.

Choose an exceptional online MBA program

One of the most important things you can do to ensure you find chances for productive networking is to be selective about your program. All online MBAs do not offer the same quality of education, and your choice of school will affect the connections you make. Attending a school with a strong reputation for its expert faculty and hands-on learning means it’s more likely that you will meet people with a great deal to offer.

Villanova University online MBA students learn from highly knowledgeable instructors and have many chances to communicate directly with people who share their professional interests. Taking classes remotely can be excellent for networking as long as you make the most of the opportunities available to you. To find out more and see how you can apply, visit the program page.

Recommended Readings:

Sources:

Learn to love networking by Harvard Business Review

Build a campus network as an online student by U.S. News & World Report

For ways to offer good networking opportunities to online students by The Economist

The best MBA networking strategies by Poets and Quants