• Ellen Raineri

    By Ellen Raineri, PhD, Full-Time Faculty, Kaplan University
    October 2014

    Dr. Caralynn Nowinski, associate VP for innovation and economic development at the University of Illinois, states: "Limited exposure to the fields and to people within those fields, as well as role models and mentors, is keeping more women from entering high tech." (Bertagnoli, 2004)

    Online universities offer tremendous career opportunities because peers and instructors span the United States. They may also have ground locations near you.  In addition, online universities are able to attract personnel from across the United States with advanced skills that may not be available in a single location, which is another great benefit for you.   

    Based upon the inherent value offed by online universities, here are 10 action steps to take that can help boost your career:

    • Network with the peers and professors whose backgrounds match your career interests and goals. Exchange emails and connect on LinkedIn. Learn more about hiring opportunities at their firms.
    • Online universities may offer memberships to national organizations specific to women, such as ACM Women in Computing (ACM-W), National Association of Professional Women, and American Business Women's Association. Consider joining one or more.   
    • Establish a virtual support system for your career. Befriend another female peer who is experiencing similar challenges in her career and coursework-challenges related to military deployment, home schooling, extensive business travel, returning to school after many years, etc. Share encouraging and empathetic messages to support each other's success.
    • Participate in your university's career services opportunities, which may include resume reviews, mock interviews, virtual job fairs, internships, and company job listings. 
    • Establish a portfolio of significant class projects to showcase to a potential employer. Examples might be sample project plans, data flow diagrams, or information security policies that you created.
    • Create an IT Class Benefit Log.  After each class, reflect on material learned. Create one or more benefit statements for each class that can later be used on a potential interview.  Examples might be: "The knowledge I attained from creating entity relationship diagrams will help me to be more accurate in defining data as an analyst" or "The knowledge I attained on the ethics of data privacy will help me to better understand and improve my decision making as I consider multiple stakeholders for data mining initiatives."
    • Participate in your university's offering of webinars that can be supportive to your career. These may be in additional technical areas that are not part of your coursework such as Access databases, Google sites, writing RFPs, etc. These can also be in nontechnical areas such as confidence building, public speaking, negotiating, and more.
    • Identify role model characteristics displayed in the online class discussions. These might include tact in politely disagreeing with others, organizational skills, research skills, writing skills, or comradery. Determine how you might model these skills to fit your style. 
    •  If you share a common technical career goal with some of your peers or instructors, check which LinkedIn groups they have joined. You may also find value in joining to further support your interests and career.    
    • Once class has ended, continue to network with specific peers and instructors. Consider sharing updates and appreciation emails. You may also ask for advice, referrals, and recommendations.       

    Bertagnoli, L. (2014). Technology: A lack of role models limits women's progress. Retrieved from http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140125/ISSUE02/301259997/technology-a-lack-of-role-models-limits-womens-progress#

    Ellen Raineri is an adjunct professor at Kaplan University.  The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author(s) and are not attributable to Kaplan University.


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