Networking is an effective channel for landing new career opportunities. It is a key aspect of the professional realm. Through such relations, you get to meet like-minded people who challenge and broaden your knowledge. 

However, networking while learning online is not as easy as in a traditional learning setup. In this guide, we have compiled a few tips to help you effectively build your network when learning online. 

Set up a professional LinkedIn profile

One of the ways to engage with other online students is through professional platforms such as LinkedIn. On such platforms, you get to share the college course you’re taking and more details about your passions and career path. 

This way, other students taking a similar course or enrolled at the same institution will likely connect with you. You can also use the search function to join your university groups. Another way to interact with online students is by participating in discussions that you relate to. 

Be active in group projects

Online learning involves group work, often done via email, phone calls or discussion boards. Such projects are a great way to meet other students who could turn out to be acquaintances. When working on group work, it is essential to demonstrate your commitment both in terms of time and contributions. Moreover, be keen to learn about other team members, including their names and interests. Also, be open to taking correction and accommodating others’ views. 

Dive into discussion boards

Working part-time makes it easy to work extra hours during your free time, rather than engaging in online conversations. However, setting some time to engage and interact with your classmates is advisable. You can do this by contributing to discussion boards. This will keep you in the loop about what other students are working on or their perspectives on the curriculum. 

Additionally, discussion boards are also effective tools that you can use to connect to the world outside of school. In most cases, you can connect and build working relationships with other individuals who are in the advanced stages of their careers. Through interactions, such personnel can give you recommendations for new job opportunities.

Meet people in person

Although all your classes are held online, this should not prevent you from arranging meet-ups with some of your classmates or professors. As you interact with your classmates online, you will get to know and connect with those who live near your physical location. If they are open to meeting up, then this can be a great way to connect outside the virtual world.

Physical meet-ups enhance connectivity, and you can learn and share more than you would virtually. Another great way to get to meet people physically is by attending events near your region that relate to your career.

Such events provide a way for aspiring students to meet industry experts and also like-minded learners. Furthermore, face-to-face interactions with professionals in your field help you to widen your network and develop meaningful connections. 

Engage in on-campus activities

Being in a college community offers a sense of belonging and a great opportunity to network. In addition to off-campus meet-ups, you can check out the school’s calendar and sign up for events that appeal to you. Activities involving extracurricular activities such as sports are also an incredible way to stay active. Such events do not have to create a career-based network, but the connections could yield long-term friendships. 

Take advantage of social media platforms

While LinkedIn is a great platform to connect with professional individuals, you can also network through other social media channels. Instagram, Twitter and TikTok are among the best platforms where you can link up or follow people with similar interests. You can also connect with your classmates via such channels where you can interact on personal or fun posts unrelated to learning. 

Commenting, liking and sharing their posts are among the ways that you can show interest and strike up a conversation. You should also ensure that your social media accounts are active to increase your following. This way, more people can discover your page. You don’t have to post professional pictures or videos, but staying active is one the most effective ways to increase your network. You can also make your content stand out by adding subtitles to your social videos or captions to your image. 

Observe basic ‘netiquette’

When you join online communities, you should keep in mind that different people have varying ideologies. As such, it is important to respect everyone’s views. Practicing ‘netiquette’ is one of the ways to avoid infringing on others’ opinions and freedom of speech. Notably, never forget that your digital footprint could impact your image. 

Why is networking important?

Online education is growing in popularity, and it is estimated that a third of all students take at least one online course. This is no surprise considering the many advantages of online learning, including flexibility, affordability and convenience. Although online classes may lack the physical connection of face-to-face classes, they still offer a networking channel. 

But why is networking important primarily as a student? Below are some of the advantages of networking. 

Obtaining industry connections

Networking is one of the best ways of forming trust and sharing knowledge with individuals in the same profession. Regardless of whether you are advanced or junior, you should aim to strengthen your relationships with your contacts. This is also another learning channel where you can gain advice and tips that will help you succeed in your career. 

Advance your career

Building a robust professional network makes you visible to industry experts who can help you advance in your career. To get more exposure in the industry, aim to attend as many professional networking events as possible. 

Another way to build your career is by advancing your credentials to help you become suitable for higher job positions. If you have completed a degree in business administration, you can take up an online master of business administration. This way, you will have a better chance of landing managerial positions available in your network. 

Connects you with better opportunities

Networking is a reliable way of putting your foot ahead of your peers. If you have a strong relationship with people in hiring or influential positions, you can learn about opportunities before they are flooded. Moreover, you get to know about the required skills when applying for certain job positions. You can also get assistance from your network on how to create an outstanding resume or career portfolio. 

Multiple mentors

You don’t have to wait until you graduate to start finding a mentor. While you are still in school, you can start connecting with the alumni who have gone through college life and beyond. Evidently, it is hard to find a person who is willing to take the time to mentor you. However, you can still gain from the information that such people share on their pages. You can also follow professionals in other careers other than your specialized fields, such as academic advisors or life coaches. 

Builds your confidence

When you meet with someone new and start a conversation, it builds your confidence in your communication skills. This is a crucial skill that will also come in handy in the employment field, where you will be required to represent your company. Additionally, this trait gives you more assurance that your ideas are varied. It also cultivates the motivation to go for what you want – i.e., you can ask for advice from people in higher positions or inquire about internship positions. 

Develop lifelong friendships

In addition to growing connections related to your career, networking could also lead to some of the strongest friendships. While some may be work-related, you can connect with individuals with whom you end up being lifetime friends. An important tip to help maintain relations via connections is to be intentional about maintaining the friendship. This can be through texting or calling each other often. If you are in a position to meet up, then this is an excellent way to strengthen your relations. 

Final thoughts

Networking is a crucial part of growing your career and should start off from the moment you enroll in school through to your retirement. Through your network, you get to speak and share information with other professional contacts. In return, you get more exposure to opportunities that can build your career. As an online student, many avenues can be utilized to build your network both online and offline. With the tips discussed in this guide, you can easily build a solid network that will propel your career and life. 

Remember, your network is your net worth! So, create a network of people who can build your career and from whom you can learn. 

By Manali