I imagine that in one way or another you are all getting ready to say good bye to summer and head back to college – or to get there for the first time. Wherever you are on that journey, just starting out or rounding the final lap as rising seniors I want to talk with you about the end game….about the fact that you will all eventually be looking for a job when you graduate. And I want to talk for a minute about building relationships with people who can help you when you get there.
Today’s topic is building relationships with your professors. First of all let’s be clear – there are a million good reasons for building relationships with professors that aren’t just about getting a job. Professors have so much to offer in terms of their understanding of their field and their material. You are there to soak it all up, so the more you invest in getting to know them and their field, and their interests the more deeply you are likely to engage with the material. And…it is just true – if you make a connection, if you contribute in class, if you go in with questions during office hours you stand out from the pack. When you stand out from the pack they think of you when a research opportunity or internship or opportunity to be part of a small group meeting with a visiting professor comes up. Call me crazy but I am also going to guess that if you stand out from the pack then when your paper is 14 minutes late they might be a tiny bit more forgiving.
But when it comes to helping you move into your career, they hold the keys to their network, which can be very, very helpful and to ideas about how you might take your major and move into the working world. They also, because they actually know who you are, could be in a position to write a good letter of recommendation for you. Like everything else, all professors are not created equal. And some are fabulous at teaching but terrible at mentoring. But it is part of your job in college to understand which ones might be in a position to advise you and help you succeed in college and beyond.
With that in mind – this September – during your first month in class – seek out a professor. Do it in an area you are genuinely interested in and tell them why you are interested and ask them a few questions about how and why they got into the field. Twenty minutes is all it takes. Thank them for their time. It is all about learning who you can really learn from and then investing some of your time. Good Luck!