As an online learner, you may be seeking skills and certification for personal development, career advancement, or to boost your business. As you try to juggle studies with work or managing your business, you may find it difficult to have time for other activities that are not related to work and school, some of which may actually give you an advantage and help you to achieve your set goals faster. One of them is networking.
While networking is important for both on-campus learners and online learners, online learners do not have access to the kind of physical networking opportunities that in-person schooling provides on campus. However, there are a number of effective ways to network as an online student. In this article, we look at the importance of networking for online learners and 15 ways online learners can effectively network to achieve their personal, career or business goals.
6 Top Benefits of Networking to Online Students
1. Personal Growth
Networking can lead to personal development. Interactions with professionals from diverse backgrounds and experiences can broaden your worldview and help you develop new perceptions of the world. Also, networking can help to build your communication skills and confidence, as you begin to interact with different people in different settings.
2. Access to Opportunities
Another advantage of a strong network is that it gives you access to new opportunities. New connections within your field can introduce you to potential clients or partners and offer you valuable advice and guidance. They can also recommend you for job openings, even if you are not actively searching. Building relationships with other people in your industry will increase your chances of finding new opportunities that you may otherwise miss.
3. Learning and Development
Networking provides opportunities to acquire new knowledge and develop new skills. Connecting with others in your field will enable you to share your knowledge and experiences, attend conferences and events and participate in industry groups and associations. When you interact with those who have different experiences and perspectives, you can gain new insights and learn about new trends and best practices in your field.
Furthermore, networking provides mentorship opportunities. When you connect with experienced professionals in your industry, they help you identify areas where you can improve and offer useful tips and guidance that will enable you to navigate challenging situations and boost your professional growth.
4. New Business Opportunities
Through your professional network, you can find new business opportunities. A strong network can connect you with potential clients and partners who may expand your business or help you to find new revenue streams. Having a strong network can help you stay informed about industry trends and critical changes that may impact your business.
Through networking, you can identify potential partnership opportunities and potential collaborators for new projects. By building relationships with people who have complementary skills or expertise you can find it easier to develop new products or services, enter new markets, or find new ways to grow your business.
5. Professional Support
You can gain valuable professional support from your network when you come across obstacles in your field. A strong network not only provides mentors and peers who can offer support and guidance when you face challenges but also ensures you do not struggle to find people who can be your references and vouch for your skills when applying for job opportunities.
6. Increased Visibility
A strong network can enhance your visibility within your industry. When you attend events and participate in online forums and groups, you can make connections with people who can help spread the word about your work and achievements. As a result, you may be more likely to be approached with new opportunities or be recognised for your contributions to your field.
Moreover, networking can help establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. By sharing your knowledge and expertise with others, you can build a reputation for yourself as someone who is knowledgeable and passionate about your work. This can lead to speaking opportunities, media coverage and invitations to participate in industry panels and events.
15 Ways to Network as an Online Student
Having seen the importance of networking for entrepreneurs and professionals, find below 15 ways you can build a strong professional network for business or career success.
1. Join social media
You can build your professional network by connecting with your classmates on social media. Following their posts and engaging them in the comment section can help you know them better. Social media will enable you to know your classmates beyond school and work settings.
2. Connect on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows you to connect with other professionals, showcase your skills and experience and access job opportunities. Creating a LinkedIn profile can help you build your professional network and enhance your career prospects. Be sure to set up a professional, accurate, complete and up-to-date profile and connect with others with similar interests.
Include a professional photo, personal summary, overview of your skills and belong to groups related to your industry to stay informed about the latest developments in your field. When making connection requests or sending personal messages, provide context to show that you are interested in establishing a genuine connection.
Participating in LinkedIn discussions related to your course or industry can help you build your network and establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. It also provides an opportunity to share your ideas and insights and gain valuable feedback from others.
3. Make the first move
Instead of waiting for others to reach out to you, take the initiative and introduce yourself to your classmates and professor in the introductory discussion thread of the online course. Share relevant personal information, such as your job title, industry, degree and reasons for taking the course. Don't hesitate to mention your hobbies or interests to create a friendly atmosphere. You might discover that your peers share your interests, giving you the opportunity to establish a connection.
4. Attend Online Mentoring Programmes, Conferences and Events
Online mentoring programs provide an opportunity to connect with experienced professionals who can offer guidance, advice, and support. Participating in such programs can help you build your network and enhance your professional development.
Online conferences and events provide an excellent opportunity to meet and network with industry experts and professionals. Participating in such events can help you gain valuable insights and expand your professional network.
5. Attend Webinars
Like mentoring programmes and conferences, webinars are online seminars that provide an opportunity to learn from industry experts and professionals. Attending webinars related to your course or industry can help you gain valuable insights and expand your professional network.
6. Attend Virtual Career Fairs
Virtual career fairs are online events where job seekers can connect with employers and learn about job opportunities. Attending virtual career fairs can help you build your professional network and enhance your career prospects.
7. Participate in Online and Offline Workshops
Online and offline workshops provide an opportunity to learn new skills, gain valuable experience and meet others in your field or industry. Participating in online and offline workshops related to your course or industry can help you build your network, enhance your professional development and stay informed about the latest trends and developments in your field.
8. Join Professional Associations
Professional associations represent and serve professionals in a particular industry or field. Joining such associations can help you connect with other professionals, access valuable resources and stay up-to-date with industry trends and developments.
9. Embrace Videoconferencing
Utilise video conferencing tools, such as Zoom and Skype to network face-to-face with your classmates and professors, no matter where they are in the world. Video chats enable you to establish more meaningful relationships with your classmates and professors and can be particularly useful for situations where in-person meetings are not feasible.
10. Participate in Online Hackathons and Volunteer for Projects
Online hackathons are events where individuals come together to collaborate on a project or solve a problem. Participating in online hackathons can help you connect with other learners and professionals and gain valuable experience and skills.
Volunteering for online projects can help you connect with other learners and professionals, gain valuable experience and skills, and enhance your professional development. It also provides an opportunity to make a difference and contribute to a worthwhile cause.
11. Connect with Alumni
The educational institution you opt for holds significance not just due to the excellent academic training you receive but also the associations and bonds you develop. All colleges possess a community of former students with whom you can connect.
Many college students fail to recognise the immense value of an alumni network. Alumni possess the power to facilitate career entry or transition by linking you with influential people and opportunities. As seasoned professionals, they are a valuable addition to your professional network.
It's important to note that you are currently investing time and money in becoming an alumnus yourself. Don't hesitate to reach out to them. Start by introducing yourself, explaining your purpose for connecting and cultivating the relationship from there.
These groups are advantageous as they comprise individuals who have had similar experiences by attending the same university and share comparable interests in their professional domain. The alumni network can offer guidance and connect you with individuals and organisations, leading to potential career prospects.
12. Join Online Study Groups
Joining online study groups can help you connect with other learners, exchange ideas and learn from each other. Online study groups help you to know members of the group better and build stronger relationships. It equally provides the opportunity to showcase your abilities and build your reputation. In addition to providing an opportunity to build your network, it also enhances your learning experience.
13. Connect with Faculty
Building relationships with faculty members can be extremely beneficial as it can help you expand your professional network and create valuable connections in your field. Faculty members are often experts in their field and can provide valuable insights and advice on industry trends and career opportunities.
Also, when it comes time to apply for jobs or graduate programs, having strong letters of recommendation can make a big difference. Faculty members often have connections within their industry and can introduce online students to other professionals in their field. This can lead to new job opportunities, mentorship relationships and other valuable connections.
14. Collaborate on Group Projects
Collaborating on group projects with other learners can help you build your network, gain valuable experience and skills, and enhance your learning experience. It also provides an opportunity to work with others and contribute to a common goal. In the process, you build stronger affinity and rapport with the members of the group.
15. Participate in Discussions on University Social Pages
Participating in online discussions through your university's social media pages can be just as beneficial as utilising LinkedIn. Don't overlook platforms like Facebook, Google Plus, or other university-specific social media sites. Some institutions even host Twitter chats with alumni, offering job advice and resources for students.
Although social media is not typically associated with professional networking, it has become a significant hub for alumni, instructors and students to connect. Therefore, it's crucial not to underestimate its potential.
Networking plays a crucial role in career success, and college presents ample opportunities to capitalise on these connections. Ensure you're utilising every available resource by keeping your LinkedIn page updated, identifying individuals to connect with and initiating contact with those around you.
Join us to build your professional network and achieve your career goals
Establishing a robust network is imperative for anyone striving to excel in their profession. For more than a decade, MSBM has been helping professionals and individuals build strong networks and achieve their career and personal goals. Through our network of accomplished professionals, esteemed faculty members, alumni and industry leaders, you can establish crucial connections to advance your career.
Our community provides a supportive and knowledgeable environment, enabling you to access new opportunities, enhance your skills, increase your visibility in your field and receive invaluable professional guidance. Join us to unlock new prospects for personal growth and business expansion.
Our programme attracts students from diverse regions of the world, who collaborate on individual and group projects. Let us help you build a strong network for your personal and professional growth. Enrol in our online business course to become a part of our global professional network and realise your career dreams.