An online education can be a stepping stone to a great career, or even that push needed to break through a ceiling toward a promotion. But it doesn’t happen without a little planning and a lot of hard work.
To turn your online degree into your dream job, write down your realistic goals before your first class even begins. Once you make it tangible–something on your wall or desk–you’ll be more likely to constantly work toward it. Whether you want straight A’s, or simply to try something new, make sure you commit to your goals.
Create solid relationships with your classmates. Perhaps a study group is a good idea, if it works for your schedule. It will add a social nature to your otherwise solitary coursework and set you up for networking when graduation nears. Online education, like traditional higher education, still has a component of “who you know.” So get to know your peers!
On that note, meet with professors during office hours, either in person or virtually. This is a must, and unfortunately, too many students breeze past this opportunity. The connections with professors, both mental and networking, will be invaluable to you after graduation.
Additionally, ask yourself a few honest questions during the course of your classwork. What do you like to do and are you good at it? And what kind of experience does the collective workforce need? The answers to these questions (again, be honest!) will guide some of your choices regarding classes to take. You will want a schedule that reflects your professional interests and career prospects, if at all possible.
Join several professional organizations. Regardless of your career field–social work, education, engineering–professional organizations will provide you with information, job openings, and networking opportunities (and maybe even a good mixer or two).
Before you graduate, give yourself a social media cleaning and makeover. It may seem obvious, but this means you should ensure your Facebook and Twitter profiles contain no questionable photographs or posts. Additionally, you should create the types of professional profiles your managers in your field will expect. Most people should graduate with a LinkedIn profile, at the very least. Join career-related LinkedIn groups, including your university’s alumni group. Those in charge of hiring may also expect to see an active Twitter account, while others will require a personal website for showcase purposes. Set up a meeting with an adviser about six months from graduation and seek input for how to put your best foot forward regarding your online presence.
Treat your online education like any other education or career goal. Work hard and don’t cut corners. Submit thoughtful work to your professors and seek their feedback. Don’t make excuses. Show up on time (or early). Be an active participant in your education and all of your effort is sure to be worthwhile.
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