Make Friends! Take advantage of networking opportunities.

Look at some of the ways the connections you make in your degree program will help you through the rest of your professional life. Get some tips about the best ways to approach professors and classmates for help and advice.

Developing professional relationships in college

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While earning a degree might be your main motivator for enrolling in an online education program, you'll still have trouble breaking into a career if you don't make connections and participate in networking events.

Many students ignore the networking aspects of their degree programs, sometimes limiting their focus to completing the bare minimum of classwork. Don't fall into this trap. You only gain as much as you put in from networking and school, so you must make the effort to connect with professors, and contribute to class discussions.

After you've earned your degree, you'll be able to fully understand the importance of having made good connections in school. The industry professionals, teachers, and classmates you meet in your program will go on to become informed, well-intentioned friends and colleagues who can help answer questions about jobs, life, and other concerns.

Why is networking important?

While attending your university, you'll have access to numerous opportunities to improve connections in your chosen degree field. When employers are seeking new workers, often the first individuals they look to are people they have previously met or already know of. With proper networking, employers will see you as a unique and promising individual in a sea of random job applicants.

The overall goal of networking is to increase your number of career connections, but don't automatically assume that just because you start connecting with industry professionals that it signals you're guaranteed a job.

Networking at industry events

During your degree program, you'll attend industry events and job fairs that will help you meet other professional teachers and leaders in education. In these situations, you should treat networking as “professional socializing,” allowing you to learn more about those working in the field.

In a normal socializing scenario, you might mention how your day has been, how your career is going, or what the weather is like. In these cases, you usually have something to bring to the conversation.

To excel in a professional socializing situation, you should make sure to have a portfolio or body of work to use for referencing your accomplishments and interests. This allows you to stimulate conversation with industry professionals, and shows you're serious about getting a job.

You should fill your portfolio with completed projects, reports, papers, and class assignments. Make sure to put effort into your work, so that you'll be proud to show industry professionals what you've accomplished during your degree program.

Industry events will also put you at the front of developing teaching techniques, methods, and research that help contribute to your future success as a teacher. Often, the best way to learn about industry events is to stay in communication with your professor.

Connecting with your professor

After you've enrolled in classes through your degree program, one of the first steps you should take is to e-mail your professors and introduce yourself.

Give your professors some basic information about your background, life experiences, future goals, and expectations. Make sure to ask a few questions about your professors as well to keep the conversation flowing past the introduction e-mail.

Taking the time to e-mail your professors is the first step to making yourself stand out from the rest of your classmates. Many other students do not take the small amount of effort to introduce themselves to their professors, often waiting until the first class or assignment before speaking up.

Be sure to conduct yourself professionally, and ensure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes when you're communicating with your professor over the Internet. Even though some people view the Internet as a place where typical spelling, slang, and grammar rules may not apply, you should treat your professor with respect and follow typical language conventions.

Throughout the time spent in courses, be sure to stay in communication with your professor, and ask him or her about industry events or networking opportunities. You must present yourself as eager to learn and succeed in the field if you wish to make an impression.

Some students may have opportunities to meet their professors in person. You should always take advantage of situations that allow you to meet offline, allowing you to more clearly express your goals and interests to your professor.

Your professors will be vital to your future success in life. Even if you aren't enrolled in a class anymore, your former professors will be happy to help answer questions related to the Field of Education.

Instances may rise where you have questions about career direction, teaching methods, or difficult decisions. In these cases, often the best people to give you advice and answer questions are your former college professors.

After you've earned your degree, stay in contact with your professors, and update them about your career developments and life. They may often have advice, or even provide leads for new jobs they can recommend you for.

While your professors may be the most important connections you can make during your experiences in an online degree program, you shouldn't ignore the other most important asset – your classmates.

Making connections with your classmates

Even if you don't meet your classmates face-to-face, you'll still have many opportunities to get to know them and become friends.

Most online degree programs offer message boards or chat rooms to stimulate conversation and class discussion. In fact, it's better just to imagine these message boards or chat rooms as your actual “class room” and act as you would in a traditional, offline class.

As you did with your professors, you must also take the time to introduce yourself and say hello to your classmates. This may be better accomplished over the message boards or chat rooms instead of individual e-mails though, because it allows a greater number of students to view your introduction at once.

In discussion forums or chat rooms, ensure that all of your posts, responses, and questions have substance and personality. Don't simply reply to other posts with “nice post” or “good idea.” Students who post those types of responses haven't taken the time to analyze discussions to develop well-thought-out responses.

You need to make sure your online posts are personal, and bring new ideas and topics to a conversation. Much like networking with your professor, you'll only gain as much as you put in. Try to connect with your classmates, learn their interests and concerns, and eventually you'll have some new friends and colleagues.

These connections often last even after courses end. Social networking websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook offer students the ability to easily stay in touch and up-to-date about career developments or industry events.

There will be situations in life where you need the advice, assistance, and knowledge of others. If you used good networking skills in your program, you'll have a pool of resources to pick from. Many of your former classmates will go on to earn teaching positions, and can provide references and job recommendations to help you in your career.

Many universities also offer online alumni associations that allow you to stay in touch with former students. Alumni associations will help you to learn about teacher conferences, alumni events, and other ways to connect. Many associations also list job offers and career opportunities on their websites, giving alumni current information about the field.

Take advantage of your opportunities

During your degree program, you must take every chance you get to increase your prospects of landing a job after graduation. Make sure you stay in communication with your professors and classmates, and that you actively seek out teaching events and conferences.

If you're interested in learning more about earning a master's degree in education, request information from schools offering online education degree programs.