Online colleges have been around long enough that countless employers have overcome their unreasonable bias against them. Employers also understand that online education is going nowhere soon, since the number of online college students continue to increase year after year.
Even the Ivy League universities, such as Harvard and MIT, offer online courses now, so even if they aren’t thrilled about the prospect, employers are getting accustomed to hiring employees who have at the very least a degree partially earned via online courses.
Online education is not only for those nontraditional students who are returning to college; students can now earn a degree from almost any university around the globe, and many students who live on college campuses also take online classes. Having an online degree no longer makes you substandard in the eyes of the majority of employers.
You may, however, be concerned about job prospects if you earn a degree mostly or entirely online.
While it is true that there is still some prejudice out there in the work sector that is leftover from the early years of online colleges, there are ways you can leverage your online college career to your advantage when interviewing for potential jobs.
Focus On The Attributes Mastered From Online Education
There are definite skills that are required from all college students, but even more so for those taking online classes. These traits include time-management, self-motivation, organization and planning skills, among others.
These are the leadership skills employers look for in all employees, so being able to demonstrate how you improved these skills and utilized them to manage your online educational goals puts you in a strong position as a job candidate. Offer examples of how you developed these skills during your college training when asked for proof of your productivity level.
Share How These Attributes Translate Into Job Performance
Once you have expounded upon the abilities you developed while taking specifically online courses, take it a step further and explain how you have put them to good use in real life applications.
For example, describe how you used time management techniques in your online college courses to increase your productivity rate at work, so much so that your boss commented on it. Don’t be shy-recount how the time-management, self-discipline and prioritization skills that you attained in college have already been beneficial in the real world and how these qualities will enhance your performance for their company.
Explain Why You Decided On An Online Degree
Employers who have not put much thought into why someone would choose this type of learning experience most likely do not understand the convenience and rigor, in equal measure, that online education can offer. Prepare to be asked why you chose to earn your degree online. Express your desire to continue working and/or to be there to raise your family.
These reasons show your determination, as well as your integrity. It shows that rather than taking the easy way, you chose the best way for you to do all of the things that were important to you, and to do them well.
Or, perhaps the area in which you live does not offer the program you wished to pursue. This too shows thoughtfulness and purpose, since you obviously did your “homework” on various local colleges and decided not to settle for a degree you had little or no interest in. Critical thinking and the ability to prioritize are important skills in an employee, and you can take advantage of them during an interview.
Describe Why You Chose The College And Program You Did
Since not all online colleges are equal, just as traditional colleges are not, discuss why you selected the college you did. Explain the process you went through to ensure you chose the very best program available.
Things such as accreditation, reputation, quality faculty and rigorous program requirements all go to your benefit. Think back to your college research process. Did you engage with other online learners to discover the pros and cons of different institutions? Did you virtually meet with faculty or staff at the college? The process to determine what college to choose can be a difficult one; prove to the interviewers that you did the research required to locate the university that would teach you the skills necessary to compete in the workforce.
Expound Upon The Challenges You Overcame
One of the reasons students choose online education over in-person classes is because of the convenience. Did you choose online education so that you could more easily balance education and job and/or family? Did you desire to go to a traditional college, but chose online because you could not move to an area where the degree was offered?
How about the tools you learned in online classes that you may have missed out on if you had attended a traditional college.
These skills might include, for example, strong writing skills, solid information literacy skills and excellent online research capabilities. For instance, although traditional colleges have many writing-intensive courses, most online courses can be considered writing-intensive.
Because writing is the main way communication occurs between students, faculty and peers, online students are challenged to learn strong writing skills that will serve them well in the workforce.
Point out how you struggled with written communication in the beginning of your classes, but how you developed those writing skills to a place where professors would thank you for your clear, concise writing.
Also, demonstrate your ability to handle multiple responsibilities with grace, due to the practice you got while completing your online degree. Give specific examples of times when juggling all of your responsibilities was a trial, but that you persevered by implementing the tools you had learned by attending the virtual classroom. Make sure to state the fact that you will bring this skill to your job position.
Discuss Positive Experiences With Group Learning
Though it is true that much of the time online students work alone, it is important to show your ability to work as part of a team to produce solid results.
This is also a great time to underline your leadership skills. Discuss specific group learning projects that demonstrate your ability to work well, and perhaps even lead, in a group. This also includes times when you communicated with your peers when seeking help or answers to questions. Consider how you can use the time spent working with others in your online classes for your gain.
Deliberate On Your Knowledge Of Current Technology
One of the great perks online education offers is the necessity to use the latest technology to complete tasks successfully. Online students often have to have the latest software programs and utilize them in their courses, while traditional classes may offer the option, though not mandate their use. This puts online students one up. So make sure to mention the various ways you used state of the art technology to complete particular assignments as to successfully earn your degree.
Keep in mind that the fact that you got called in for an interview in the first place demonstrates that the recruiter for the employer sees something on your resume that makes them believe that you might be the person for the job-regardless of your online degree.
Focus on the strengths of the program and the skills you had to develop to succeed with online college. Offer specific examples of how these skills have benefited you, both in the classroom and outside of it. Find ways to demonstrate your qualifications and focus on the positives of your online college degree.
Finally, consider meeting with your college career counselors. They can not only give you more advice for overcoming a stigma residue regarding online degrees, but will even likely be happy to practice your interviewing techniques with you.
In our technological age, employers are being forced to implement all types of online programs, and online college degrees are one of those. If you know that you received a great education, be confident in your decision to earn your degree in the best way for you.
Jacqueline Myers M.A. is a long-time online college English professor who offers college students writing tips on her blog, Nitty-Gritty English. Connect with her on Twitter.