By Claire Salinas
Professors – there are so many different kinds, how are you to capitalize on their knowledge and connections to reach your full potential in college?
Forming relationships with professors can sometimes be tricky, but remembering a few things about how you made friends on the playground can really help you out in the long run.
1. Do it for the right reasons
Do you remember those kids who would only come around when you brought the good kind of candy to school? At first you thought they just really liked your cool lunchbox and rubber band collection, but soon enough you figured out they didn’t just come around because they liked your personality. In college you will be tolerated if you are one of these people, but you will probably not develop professional relationships that will last beyond a recommendation letter.
One way to make sure you develop a good relationship with your professors is by having a goal in mind for the relationship. If you find something you can appreciate about a professor, then reach out to them based on that premise. I really enjoyed my Intro to Political Science class not just because I love learning about the government, but because I totally connected with and respected my teacher. Although I never spent much time with him outside of class, I was able to call on him when I needed a last minute source for an article I was writing for my college newspaper.
2. Find something you have in common with them
Did your professor mention they were watching a Netflix series you happen to love? Jump on it, seriously. Science has proven that we like and seek out people who are similar to us.
While I was interning with a professor in psychology, we got to talking one day and discovered that we both loved “Gossip Girl.” Instant connection point. Little things like this may seem silly now, but when it comes time to ask them for a job referral, it will be nice to have established a rapport with them.
3. Remember they are people too
Your professor may teach you quantum physics, but they have interests and a life outside the classroom just like you. Use this to your advantage by taking a moment to put yourself in their shoes when you are frustrated with them. If a professor is not returning your email, it’s probably because they had a morning full of office hours, meetings, classes, grading and who knows what else, so try to be understanding. Realizing a professor is only human can help you accomplish things with them much more quickly.
4. Find a way to work with them
You can’t do this with every professor, so choose wisely, but if there is a particular professor who has interests that are close to your own that you could see yourself benefitting from professionally by working with them, then reach out and find something you can collaborate on together. I kept in touch with one of my journalism professors throughout college by attending and competing in a journalism conference she was on the board for every year. This professor went on to write me many recommendation letters, opened the door for an internship and hooked me up with a speaking opportunity.
5. Attend all departmental functions
Events put on by your department may seem stuffy and unnecessary, but getting to know your professors and their personalities outside of a classroom setting can really help you out when it comes time to choose someone to become a teaching assistant for or maybe do an extra project with. Allowing the professors to get to know you as a person also allows them to remember you when it comes time to recommend people for jobs.
Overall, remembering professors have just as much going on in their lives as you do can help you to form mutually beneficial relationships with them that can last a long time.
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