7 January 2014
By all means, form as many bonds and make as many friends as possible while in school, but don’t neglect the connections you form with college professors. Those can come through in tight spots professionally, and professors are typically well-connected amazing people. Let’s talk about 5 solid ways to get close without stepping over any bounds.
1. Impress the Connections out of Them
There’s so many faces like yours coming and going; so many papers to grade, cups of coffee to drink and meetings to attend. You’re going to have to stick out without being a jackass. If you’re trying to get either the professor or other students to laugh during class, you’re probably not impressing anyone. Here’s a couple tips:
Details: Pay attention to the little things because your professors will be. The quickest way to impress is to NOT do all the things they expect students to do. Be THAT person who takes the time to understand protocol, be prompt and pay attention to details! Now, don’t make light of this practice, just realize that it IS noticed and appreciated.
Study Up: Has the professor written a book? Many books? Do they have a blog? If you take the time to get to know them as a person, you can see what motivates them. This way you can add nuances to everything you do that will catch their interest. Barely anyone does this, so it can work like a charm. Show interest in them.
2. Be Available & Willing to Serve
It’s not about what your professor can do for you, but what you can do for your professor. Don’t sit in the back of class, but don’t attempt to be a teacher’s pet either. Make it obvious what you’re doing, which is no different than your professor did. Making connections in college is par for the course (forgive the pun).
Consistent: Don’t pester, but be consistent. Let them know you’re standing at the ready to be of service in any way possible.
The Word: Don’t treat only one of your professors this way, but all those whom you think could become a mutually beneficial connection.
Options: If they’ve already got their assistants covered and don’t need your help in the office, is there something you could do for them in their private lives? Cut the lawn? Landscaping? Perhaps just a some quality conversation on interesting class-related topics?
3. Set Up Communication Early On
Don’t wait, quickly stop by their office to personally introduce yourself. Don’t be bubbly and overflowing with youthful angst, just relax and act as professionally informal as possible. Now, try not to mention grades, period. Instead, focus on these three things.
Your Goals: Your goals are what you intend to learn from the professor. Don’t dehumanize them by only referring to “class.”
Their Goals: Let them know you appreciate their position and knowledge without kissing their backside. Make it clear that it is your intention because you would like to impress them and get to know them better. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, and they know it.
Keep it Short: No long-winded conversations for your first couple visits. Keep it short and stay well behind the informal boundary. A couple minutes is all it takes to make a great impression.
4. Don’t Ask to Be Called On
Your professors should know you’ve got your act together. You study, you take the course seriously, you intend to get to know them better and you’re a star player. But, never make this obvious in class and NEVER try to upstage the professor in front of students.
Wait: Don’t be a jabber jaw and or a Mr. Know it all. Why speak in class if you’re not called on? What’s the point? Are you really going to argue with someone and de-rail the professor’s plan for class?
Defer: Instead of hogging the class conch, say what you need to say to make a good point and then pass it along. Do what you can to let other people keep the lime light.
Listen: Keep your ears open and listen to the issues, concerns and problems that other students are having. This information can come in handy. If the professor sees you making their job easier, they’ll notice you for it.
5. Be Human & Ask for Help
If you’re having a hard time, or going through a crisis, don’t complain in class or complain to other students in the class. Instead, bring your very human issues to your equally human professor. Oftentimes they will bend over backwards to help students that need and ask for it without being a pain.
Hope this helps. Remember, your professors are like windows into professional worlds. Don’t neglect them and do what you can to form mutually beneficial connections.
So, what have you done to get closer to your professors? What’s working or not working for you?
Useful samples and examples: