Nearly 60 percent of MBA candidates rank accessing a strong network as a major factor in their decision to pursue their degree.1 They want knowledge, skills, better job prospects, more financial stability—but networking is considered a major benefit to an MBA program. However, with the rise in popularity of online MBA programs, many students are concerned that they will enjoy the convenience of remote learning at the sacrifice of forging critical business contacts that could help propel their careers forward.
That’s not necessarily true. You can choose an online MBA program and still access those valuable networking connections that truly make the experience worthwhile.
Network in Real Time in Your Online MBA Program
Online MBAs are enticing, particularly if you work full-time. They provide you with the opportunity to stay committed and engaged at work, while fitting lectures and assignments around even your busy schedule. Completely asynchronous programs can be especially appealing—at first glance. However, if you choose a program that requires no face-to-face live interaction with your professors or peers, you miss out on one of the first and most important means to network in your online MBA. While posting to online forums and discussion boards will give you a sense of your coursemates and instructors, it does not compare to the swift exchange of ideas and repartee you can experience with real time lectures and face time conversations. If you want to hone your critical thinking skills and meet with sophisticated minds in pursuit of excellence, you need to be present in the moment.
Network with Your MBA Professors
Even before your first class or assignment, get to know your professors. Find their faculty listing on the university website, read some of their publications, check out their LinkedIn profile. Pull their syllabi and note their office hours. Introduce yourself via email. Make a good first impression and you’ll be off to a good start for your class, your program and your career. Your professors can introduce you to their networks in the academic and professional world.
Participate in Your Online Classes
In your undergraduate work, you may have simply slid into a seat at the back of a classroom and hid behind your laptop. It was likely a wrong-minded strategy then, but it can be a fatal error if you intend to reap real networking benefits from your MBA program. Come prepared for each class and be an active participant in live and asynchronous discussions. You’ll get positive attention from your professors and your classmates.
Network with Fellow MBA Students
You’ll be required to work with your classmates on assignments and group projects. Always bring your best efforts to those interactions. Then, reach out to your peers outside of class time. If any of your fellow MBA students live near you, consider meeting in-person to work on those group project. But you can also connect for coffee or lunch or find out what you have in common and plan an activity around share interests.
Connect with Your Career Center
Many MBA programs offer well-structured career centers; some even provide their MBA candidates with career coaches. Take advantage of the resources at your university and be sure to ask for advice specific to networking opportunities. Career coaches who understand your interests and goals can guide you toward the right groups and even introduce you to people in their networks. They can also keep you abreast of job opportunities and help you build a professional and polished portfolio.
Attend Business Networking Events
Seek out opportunities to attend in-person networking events. There are general business and industry specific clubs and organizations you can join, but you can also attend ad hoc events that spark your interest. Your career center can provide examples, based on your career goals. Reach out to your professors and peers and find out what events they attend or ask them to join you at yours.
Connect to Business Professionals to Network on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a powerful networking resource and a valuable personal branding tool. More than 610 million members and 30 million companies are on the site.2 If you are not already on the platform, get on it. But follow the site’s recommendation to make sure your portfolio is complete and easily found by peers, colleagues and employers. Then connect with the members of your cohort, your professors, your career coach. Join industry-specific groups active on the site. And make a habit of regularly visiting LinkedIn to accept connection invitations, update your portfolio and discover job opportunities.
One of the true benefits to your MBA program is the ability to forge relationships that can last a lifetime. Make sure to take advantage of all you can. At SMU Cox, we built the Online MBA program to ensure networking opportunities would be an important component. In addition to synchronous learning, career coaches and professors who actively mentor students, the immersion experience allows you to travel and meet professionals from around the world. Discover the Online MBA from SMU Cox.