How to Network During an Online MBA

Online networking and connectivity

For many students, networking is one of the main reasons they decided to pursue an MBA. It’s one of the most important aspects of any MBA program and in many cases, can facilitate career progression and success. For on-campus courses, networking is easy. Students spend up to two years working and interacting directly with classmates, staff and visitors, forging friendships along the way. However, for online MBAs, building connections requires more effort.

An on-campus MBA requires students to forgo their salaries, often relocate, and pause their careers for one or two years. Because many students don’t feel they can do this, online and distance courses, which enable students to study in their free time, are becoming more popular. This has tied in with an increase in the quality of these courses, with many featuring in global top-ranked MBA lists such as the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2017. One of the major downsides to an online or distance MBA is that the very nature of them makes it much more difficult to network, with fellow students spread literally over continents and time zones.

It’s certainly more difficult, but it’s not impossible. Follow our tips for networking to make the most of your online MBA:

Make the most of group projects

Schools which run MBAs understand the importance of the networking, teamwork and collaborative aspects of the course. For this reason, online MBAs will incorporate group projects in the same way that on-campus MBAs do. Groups collaborate via video calling, telephone calls, email, messaging systems and shared documents.

This isn’t as simple as working with fellow students in person, which means that a more concerted effort is required. Make the most of this by suggesting an introductory video call to meet and get to know the other members of your study group, and regularly converse to develop solid relationships. Research different online communications platforms and settle on one which suits you all, then make sure to schedule time in to speak - factoring in work schedules and time differences. Spend time getting to know the people you’re working with on a personal level, and if possible meet them in person - this might not always be possible, especially if teams are international or spread across a large country.

Most of your contacts will be online, so make the most of social media and connect with other students. Before starting the course, ensure your accounts (particularly LinkedIn) are up to date, to allow your classmates and others to find you with ease. This will also allow future employers to understand your work and education history, and you’ll be much more visible to any businesses who recruit from your institution.

Take advantage of in-person opportunities

Despite the medium of online MBAs, many programs will still have in-person opportunities across the course. Meet-and-greets and other events will be held to enable students to introduce themselves to their colleagues and professors. Attend these wherever possible - aside from helping you get to know others on your course, it will also allow professors to put a face to a name, making you more personal to them. No matter how advanced digital communication gets, there’s nothing like in-person conversation to solidify relationships.

Students should also consider taking advantage of any travel opportunities available. Some courses will offer international modules or on-campus electives. If possible, take up these opportunities- they’re fantastic experience and they’ll allow you to form closer ties with others on the course.

Students should also find out if any of their classmates live nearby and suggest meeting up for a coffee, or lunch, to speak to them in person. Some institutions will run city-specific events for students, particularly if the course attracts a lot of international candidates. Keep a lookout for these and attend when possible.

Make an effort - it’ll benefit you in the end

With on-campus MBAs the network opportunities are presented directly to students - they’re essentially unavoidable as long as you attend the course. For online MBA students, however, the situation is entirely different. Online students need to make a serious effort to build the kind of relationships which might develop naturally should they be sitting next to someone every day. It takes dedication and resolve, but, for those who are willing to put the effort in, there’s no reason their experience should be less connected than an on-campus student.

Online MBA students also benefit from the fact that they will develop online conversation and networking skills, vital in today’s working world where online collaboration is often required on a daily basis. 

Amelia Hopkins
Written by Amelia Hopkins

Amelia Hopkins is a writer for TopMBA, covering the latest news in business and business education. A graduate of the University of Leeds and Yorkshire native, she enjoys reading, travelling and talking incessantly about the countryside.

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