However, many students still worry that not opting to study on campus means they will lose a significant part of the business school experience—networking opportunities.
Just because you’ll be interacting with your cohort and professors virtually doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the chance to build strong connections that will benefit your career.
It really comes down to how proactive you are during your Online MBA, and how much you leverage the opportunities to collaborate with your classmates on projects or connect with your business school's alumni network.
Here are five ways you can network successfully during your Online MBA.
1. Build personal connections with your Online MBA cohort
Networking doesn’t solely have to be focused on what you can gain from one another professionally. Often, creating personal connections with the people in your cohort can make a big difference in increasing the strength of your personal network and its longevity.
Shilah Jenkins is a current Online MBA student at the University of Oklahoma (OU) Price College of Business. She decided to study the program to enhance her skills in her current role as sales department manager at Pioneer, a telecommunications company based in Oklahoma.
While studying for an Online MBA, Shilah realized how important it was to make a concerted effort during live virtual classes to connect with her cohort.
“Reach out during sessions to ask your classmates questions or find similar personality traits,” she advises.
By making the effort to know her cohort, Shilah has connected with peers from diverse professional backgrounds.
“The people I’ve worked with [on the MBA] have taught me so much more about all the different sides and levels of the business world,” she says.
Shilah adds that working hard to build these more personal, empathetic connections with her cohort eases any challenges she faces when balancing her studies with her work and caring for her three children.
“My peers have been very patient with me. If my kids are sick, then I can choose how I work, which could involve getting the spreadsheet ready ahead of the meeting, instead of meeting my classmates virtually,” she says.
2. Take advantage of the alumni network
Your business school alumni network is a gold mine.
Reaching out to the right people will give you insider advice about how to get your foot in the door in your dream industries and companies, what the culture is like, and the skills you need to be attractive to recruiters.
The University of Oklahoma has a 250,000-strong alumni network, while the Price College of Business boasts over 40,000 alumni.
Current Online MBA student Javel Gramling is confident this network will benefit him throughout his career as he pairs his technical skills as a software engineer with a connection to and understanding of the business world.
“I know the network represents individuals who live all across the world working for a variety of organizations, who are more than willing to assist and help me to join their company,” says Javel.
3. Attend a mix of online and in-person networking events
Online MBA students can still take advantage of in-person networking, with many schools running an extensive networking events program for alumni and students across different countries and regions.
Javel lives in Dallas, Texas—not exactly local to the University of Oklahoma. However, when the school held a local networking event in Dallas, Javel got the chance to meet OU alumni and forge professional connections.
“I was able to meet with individuals from companies such as Charles Schwab and Deloitte, who were able to give perspective on their experience on the program and how it helped them get to where they are today,” he says.
The flexibility of OU’s Online MBA program also means students who live close by can take advantage of all the on-campus facilities, including the gym, student health center, and joining student organizations.
“I have the option to go on campus and even sit in the class. I can still utilize all the resources that an on-campus student would have,” says Javel.
4. Reach out to career services
Even in an Online MBA, students have full access to the school’s career services. This can be a lifeline when it comes to knowing how to effectively map the pathway to your dream career and make the right connections to get there.
At OU’s Price College of Business, the Center for Graduate Student Success helps Online MBA students connect with the right people to accelerate their careers. This can include alumni and recruiters at target companies.
Students can also work with the career team to gain training in vital skills like developing a LinkedIn presence, and preparing for interviews.
However, careers services don’t focus solely on what happens after university. At OU, the careers department also offers virtual coffee chats for remote students to help guide them through their studies.
“I try hard to jump on those because sometimes it's about stress and anxiety or planning out your month—you do feel like you walk into a storm sometimes,” says Shilah.
5. Find like-minded people in your Online MBA cohort
When studying for an Online MBA, you’re all in the same boat. You’ve committed to the challenge of juggling your studies around your professional and personal lives, and want to get as much as you can from the program.
Both Javel and Shilah emphasize the strength of the Online MBA community at OU's Price College.
“Part of what helps us stay connected is that we share that similar belief and that similar drive to not only get by but to thrive,” says Javel.
Sometimes, you might be surprised by how strong connections with your Online MBA peers can help you professionally—as Shilah has found.
“There's one student who works at my company’s competitor, but we're able to relate and ask: ‘What do you guys do at your office?’ If you’re not open-minded, you wouldn't see all the benefits everyone brings to the table,” says Shilah.
Interacting with your cohort and professors virtually during an Online MBA can be just as effective for building a strong network as studying in person. Make sure you take advantage of all the opportunities your business school offers, be proactive in group projects, and connect with a diverse group of people.