Networking: The Unexpected but Highly Valuable Benefit of Online Graduate Programs

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott, Student & Alumni

I believe that one of the things that holds individuals back from pursuing an online degree is the fear they will miss out on the kind of interactions that result in treasured friendships. From my own personal experience I am happy to report that is not the case. In fact, the online forum has granted me many positive networking successes.  Today’s technology has been woven into the online classroom experience allowing for students to post answers and assignments when it works best for them.  More importantly, the format of responding to other student’s posts encourages students to take the time to read and get to know their fellow students.  In some ways this allows for more opportunities to interact.  In the traditional classroom you might never actively interact with many of your classmates, but online you spend each week reading and posting to one another.  In a nutshell it is an opportunity to connect on a weekly basis.  

Like all classroom experiences, you get out of it what you put into it. If you want to gain contacts that you can network with, then you need to be willing to reach out to people and actively pursue connections.  Introduce yourself in the Student Lobby tab of each class and give your contact information for outside the classroom.  Most professionals have social media accounts, access to Google Hangouts, and with their school accounts, access to Office 365.  All of these avenues offer students the ability to network and build professional and personal relationships with not only their fellow students, but with their instructors as well.  You have a real opportunity to connect with people from all over the globe who share a love of communication.  I was personally fortunate enough to meet professionals in different stages of their careers.  You are learning along side of individuals who are journalists, public relations specialists, people working with multinational organizations, and the list goes on.  What you gain from connecting to other professionals is an invaluable part of the journey.  

In my very first class I met two like-minded students that were not only wanting to expand their knowledge, but expand their professional network. Not only do I consider Tom and Shawn as examples of my own professional networking success for the valuable educational and professional growth I have gained by knowing and conversing with both of them, but also I count them among my friends.  Throughout the program the three of us continued to converse, share our thoughts, and actively stay connected.  Our conversations have grown from questions regarding readings and posts to resume tips and job prospects.  Even now that all of us have graduated we find ourselves staying connected and encouraging one another on our professional journey.  I feel confident that I could list either of them as a reference on a resume and would feel honored to write a reference for either of them.  

It is important to remember that in order to build a successful network with your fellow students and instructors you need to be willing to reach out and connect with them.  Networking might sound like it is about simply knowing someone and adding them to your circle, your friends list, or as a contact on LinkedIn but it is actually about cultivating positive relationships and building lasting friendships.

Learn More About Networking in Your Online Graduate Program

Jennifer Scott is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.