4 Tips for Starting and Expanding Your Network

Expanding your network

It is important to be in the right networks and around people who will support you when you start something new, such as pursuing your education. You need that support as you adjust and adapt. Networking with the right people and groups is a key component for success. But keep in mind, some people can help you soar and increase your confidence, while others can discourage you from reaching your goals and aspirations.

So where should you begin when creating your positive social network? The answers may be closer than you think

1. Start with your closest contacts.

Remember that you are part of a social network when you take an online course. You immediately have the opportunity to communicate with your fellow students. You are already engaged in your course work, reading the discussion forums and replying to your peers. You are learning, connecting and applying your critical thinking. You are in a network already! Using your current network as a starting place, try to expand and enrich your network. What students, professionals, peers, and friends can help you achieve your goals? Who can help out and support you along the way?

2. Be inclusive.

Also, keep in mind the importance of inclusion when networking. Networking can occur across generations, disciplines, and cultures. In fact, connecting with someone who belongs to a different network can be a tremendously valuable experience. You can also look to your course instructors as important players in your network. Throughout their years in higher education, they have performed many roles. They have coached, advised, and provided feedback to many students. They see the value in passing on knowledge, experience, and wisdom.

3. Be passionate about learning.

Hudson and Mclean (2006) tell us that our passions are our sense of energy for something, an internal energy source, a fire or determination that we all have for reaching some destination ahead. Remember that lifelong learning is fun and productive. Learning will energize you and shape meaning throughout your lifetime (Alexander, Clugston & Tice, 2010). People in your network should support your passion for education.

4. Support each other.

Support each other in your learning continuum. Collaborate, share best practices, learn, and grow together. Work to build positive rapport and relationships with each other, with instructors, and with anyone who supports their educational goals. Social learning inside and outside of the classroom is fun and beneficial for personal and professional growth.

Remember, a strong network can do wonders for your success while in school and after graduation. Take great care to keep in touch with everyone, including your instructors. Although your network will include people from different generations and backgrounds, you will find commonality in your commitment to helping each other succeed.

Written by Bill Davis and Allison Riggen.
Bill is an instructor with the Forbes School of Business® at Ashford University, and Allison is a professional who specializes in writing and educational software.

References

Alexander, M., Clugston, W., & Tice, E. (2010). Learning online and achieving lifelong goals. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint, Inc.

Hudson, F.M., & McLean, D.P. (2006). Life launch: A passionate guide to the rest of your life. Santa Barbara, CA: Hudson Institute Press.

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