Networking is important in most careers, providing professionals with useful contacts who can offer guidance, emotional support and new opportunities. One of the best places to engage in networking, especially early in one’s career, is the classroom, which tends to be filled with like-minded students eager for connections that can bring success. Yet, when a professional engages with online education, do they lose access to their networking prospects?
No! It is entirely possible to network through online short courses. Here are a few ways to continue to cultivate a powerful business network through online education.
Become a Presence in the Online Classroom
It is all but impossible for a professional to be successful in networking when one’s peers are unaware of one’s existence. Thus, the first step to networking in the online classroom is becoming a noticeable presence. Students looking to make connections with their classmates must be active in their online classes in every possible way, from posting questions regarding lectures to engaging professors and peers on the course discussion boards to starting comment threads of their own to prompt conversation. With consistent activity, a professional’s name will become well-known to their instructors and fellow students. Then, when the professional reaches out to their professors and peers to form relationships, their contacts will recognize them and be more willing to engage with them on a deeper level.
Create and Engage With Course Social Media
Humans are social creatures, and many students in online courses are eager to have social interactions with their classmates. However, few elearning platforms facilitate the creation of student communities — so professionals looking to network might need to turn to other platforms, like social media, to engage with fellow students on a more personal basis.
Perhaps the best social media service for this purpose is the Facebook group functionality, which allows specific social groups to restrict access to recognized members and keep communications private. Within a Facebook group, students can feel a sense of community that encourages the development of strong connections. Professionals should search for groups related to the online courses they have enrolled in, and if they cannot find any, they can create their own groups and invite their classmates over email or through social media.
Connect With Fellow Students in the Area
Online education can occur anywhere, which is a significant component of its allure. Still, some students enrolled in the same online course may not live in the same area — especially if that area is a major metropolitan zone. Through their social media community, professionals should reach out to their classmates to discover anyone located in the same area. Students who do reside near one another can meet up in person for study sessions in neutral spaces, like libraries and coffee shops, where they are more likely to form more meaningful and lasting connections.
Develop a Relationship With the Instructor
Students often strive to network with fellow students, as they tend to have more in common, which assists with interpersonal connection. However, professionals eager for powerful network contacts should not overlook the opportunity to develop relationships with their online instructors. Professors in advanced online courses tend to have decades of experience in their field, providing them with expert-level knowledge and skill as well as a strong and bounteous network of their own. Students who can forge a bond with their professor could earn themselves a mentor who can provide value to their career for years to come.
Building rapport with an instructor can be difficult, especially in an online course. Students should take every opportunity to interface with their professors, like visiting their instructors during virtual office hours or responding to comments on assignments and exams. Professionals should be gracious for their instructor’s time and curious about their career history and fields of study. Most importantly, professionals must strive to maintain the relationship after the conclusion of the course, which means reaching out to their instructors through email or social media.
Professionals at every level benefit from networking, and online courses present an excellent opportunity to form useful connections with like-minded individuals. By reaching out to peers and professors throughout their online education, professionals can expand their network in valuable ways.
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