Building a strong network can be a tremendous asset to people entering the workforce or looking to enhance their career path. I chose to attend Penn State World Campus over a well-regarded private institution in Philadelphia due in large part to its vast number of alumni. Commentators, however, state that one of the disadvantages of attaining a degree online is the inability to build the types of relationships forged by attending universities on campus.
This can certainly be true for those who are minimally invested, but I believe online students can build strong connections in the same ways as traditional students. There are a few suggestions I would like to offer as a means of enhancing relationships with fellow students:
1. Get to Know Teammates
In many of my group projects, we have spent as much time on small talk at our meetings as we have on the goals of the project itself. Understanding what makes your teammates tick can be helpful in developing a cohesive project or presentation, but it can be helpful in the long run, too, by providing a foundation for friendship.
For instance, I find myself exchanging emails with teammates from previous courses when one of us needs assistance because we are comfortable with each other.
2. Reply with Care
We have all seen student replies to other posts that are obvious attempts to simply meet the requirements for the weekly forum discussion. Instead of an apathetic or insensitive reply, why not put a little extra into the conversation with the other student? End your post by asking a question or reply in disagreement if it can promote a healthy debate.
Further, revisit and acknowledge the replies to your posts, and this will allow for a more dynamic conversation. In doing these things, we get to know our peers much better than simply replying in a way that does not keep the conversation going.
3. Use Social Networks
Who better to endorse you for your marketing competence than the teammate who worked with you to achieve an A grade on that big presentation? Oh, and you know that student you got to know during the group project or forum posts? Well, they would be happy to be your Facebook friend or LinkedIn connection, too.
In addition, there are some great LinkedIn Groups like Penn State World Campus and Penn State-Smeal College of Business that provide an opportunity to network with alum.
4. Ask for Help
In a society that prides itself on independence, many Americans see asking for help as a sign of weakness, often to our own detriment. As we have learned in many of our business courses, interdependence can in fact be much more helpful in achieving our goals.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to one of your connections and asking them if they know of anyone who is hiring. Or, maybe you can schedule an informational interview with a friend who works in an industry of interest.
These are just a few pointers in establishing a strong web-based professional network, but there are surely many that I did not mention. Are there any other suggestions you can think of?