Networking as an Online MBA Student

Networking is one of the best ways for MBA students to advance in their field and attain career success.

But what if you’re earning your MBA online? Does the lack of “in real life” time affect your ability to make and nurture connections?

Colleen VonDohlen, director of Integrative Student Services and Market Readiness & Engagement at Wake Forest University, explains the importance of networking and provides some excellent tips on how to network as an online MBA student.

‘The Best Time to Network Is Always’

“[Networking] is critical to building a base of contacts and resources,” VonDohlen says. “The best time to network is always—and definitely before you need to ask for something from your networking contacts.”

Networking comes in a variety of forms, regardless if you attend school online or on campus.

“Wake Forest provides ample networking events, both in person and virtual, to meet any person’s appetite for connecting with their Wake network,” says Mickey Williard, who graduated from the Wake Forest online MBA program in 2023. “My advice is to dive in where it feels comfortable and appropriate to you. Target the events that will have the best impact on you professionally and personally.”

5 Networking Tips for Online MBA Students

1. Optimize your LinkedIn profile

An optimized LinkedIn profile is crucial. If you need assistance with this, Wake Forest online MBA students can contact the Wake Forest Office of Personal & Career Development for help creating a strong LinkedIn profile. Two important reminders here:

  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. You never know when someone will stumble on your profile or refer you to a colleague.
  • Comment on posts, post your own content, and/or repost relevant content—just make sure you are being genuine and adding value to the conversation.

“LinkedIn has become the premier tool for networking,” says VonDohlen. “Anyone who’s serious about networking needs to have a strong profile on LinkedIn and make efforts to reach out and to post.”

2. Use the WakeNetwork tool

WakeNetwork is an online networking tool designed for current students and alumni to stay connected and build new relationships with fellow Wake Foresters across the globe.

“Students can search for alumni under a variety of parameters and filters,” VonDohlen says. “The WakeNetwork provides email addresses for the alumni, which can frequently be a better route for a student to connect rather than just a LinkedIn message request.”

3. Get active in the alumni association

The Office of Alumni Engagement has multiple ways for students, alumni, parents, and friends to connect with each other and the University. The office hosts in-person and virtual events, and you are encouraged to contribute authentically and exchange ideas and information.

“Wake Forest has a very responsive alumni network; it’s as if we’re a family,” says VonDohlen. “That’s one of the pros of being a small school—the members of our alumni network are very responsive to one another because there’s a real camaraderie among students, online or on campus. I hear from students that they’re having the most networking success through our MBA Career Ambassador Program.”

This program gives current MBA students a connection to the market through the Wake Forest MBA alumni network. Program alumni answer questions about their jobs, the companies they work for, and their experience with pivoting careers.

“If you have a particular connection that will advance your career, reach out to the alumni and networking offices at Wake Forest, and they will move mountains to help you find a resource where you need it most,” says Williard.

4. Join a professional organization

Professional organizations are an excellent way to make connections and build relationships, especially in niche fields. “Strike up conversations at conferences and events,” says VonDohlen. “It’s an excellent way to get connected to others.”

The benefits of joining a professional association include:

  • Professional development opportunities
  • Networking opportunities
  • Mentoring
  • Access to resources and job listings
  • Conferences

5. Work with the Office of Personal & Career Development

Avail yourself of the resources and services offered by this department. They can help you with:

  • Career coaching
  • Getting connected to relevant events and workshops
  • Career treks, career fairs, and self-assessments

“If you can dream it, Wake Forest provides it: study groups, peer professional groups, networking groups, alumni groups, etc. If you want to network and find a resource, Wake Forest will make it happen,” Williard says.

Let Your Online MBA Program Experience Work for You

Perhaps before anything else, connect with your fellow classmates. “It’s important for students to have a strong level of curiosity in regard to their classmates and ask questions about where they work, what they do, and what their career path is,” VonDohlen says. “Be inquisitive and curious about the industries that your classmates are pursuing or the business interests or the career path that they want to take.”

The Wake Forest online MBA program has ample group work. These team projects are an excellent way to meet other students, and you are encouraged to connect with students outside of your team to expand your network.

“The people I met is what I appreciated most,” Williard says. “I had chances to connect with people who were going through the same experience as me and form relationships that will last well into our careers. I also had the chance to connect with influential alumni and other programs. Other opportunities to connect in person or on campus are continually being offered up to students.”

Advance Your Career With a Wake Forest Online MBA

The Wake Forest online MBA is designed for working professionals who need the flexibility of an online program alongside the high-quality education that Wake Forest provides. Are you ready to learn how you can meet your career goals with an online MBA? Request more information today.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the individuals and do not represent the view of Wake Forest University.