Thursday, October 8, 2009

Building rapport with professors

Tea cup resting on top of books
According to a recent study, the top three fears of college students in America are:
1. A fear of public speaking
2. A fear of death
3. A fear of meeting with a professor during office hours

Just kidding! …But seriously, I am always surprised by the number of students who don’t want to take advantage of talking with their professors during office hours! Some don’t because they don’t have a concrete question to ask and don’t see why they should go otherwise, while others don’t because they don’t want to be thought of as not being smart, or conversely, as a teacher’s pet.

Well, today is the day. I want to encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and go to your professors’ office hours merely for the sake of building a more significant relationship than can be had in a classroom setting alone. Office hours are a great way to:

1. Show who you really are. In a one-on-one setting, professors are able to get a more individualized look at your interest, commitment, and effort levels as a student in their class, leading to more consideration when grades come due. So open up to them about your interests in the class, as well as your challenges, and see what comes out of it. Don’t forget, you are probably going to need at least one recommendation letter while in college, and it really should be from someone who really knows you and your student-ethic.

2. Get personal insights that can benefit you in the class, and beyond. Continuing conversations that the professor started in class will help you gain insights into this subject to help you assess your interest in this field, and will give you awesome tidbits that you might be able to use on the midterm or final that other students will not have had access to. You attend a great university that has incredible professors. You should take full advantage of this opportunity to learn from them. Plus, you will gain additional perspective that you can take into future classes, internships, careers – in life in general!

3. Open new doors. Professors are a wealth of resources in their fields and industries. Pick their brains about what got them started in the field, what they might have done differently if they could go back, or on ideas they have about current career opportunities / possibilities. You never know which professor might know about the perfect internship or research opportunity for you to be a part of. There’s some truth in the saying that it’s all about who you know.

4. Build communication skills. I know for some people this isn’t a big deal, but you are going to have to interact with authority-type figures throughout your life, whether they be bosses, clients, governmental figures, etc. Developing a mature, confident communication style is going to benefit you no matter what field you end up in and getting more practice can never hurt. Even if your professor may seem difficult to communicate with, this will give you the good practice you’ll need to deal with future challenging work and school interactions.

So what are you waiting for?! Building rapport with your professors will help you get even more connected to your campus and everything that it has to offer. If you are still feeling a little uncomfortable, brainstorm with your Coach beforehand about some talking points or topics to get you going, and I think you’ll find that the conversation will flow from there.

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