Looking back at my college years, one of the biggest mistakes I made was not building strong relationships with my professors. I didn’t take the time to get to know them or to let them know me. When it came time to ask them for letters of recommendation or asked them to speak to my abilities – they really didn’t know me or my abilities. One of our campus ambassadors, Courtney Brownsworth, wrote an article for our partners at The Huffington Post on how to build a strong relationship with your professors. You can read the article here. In the article Courtney talks about several different ways that a relationship with a professor can benefit you. For this post, I also spoke to Lonny Butcher, a business school professor at The University of Central Florida and incorporated his tips below!
Here are a few ideas:
1. Introduce Yourself After the First Class. Walk right up to your professor after the first day, extend your hand, and say, “Hi, I’m Lauren Berger. I just wanted to introduce myself and tell you how excited I am for your class.” Your professor will probably need to meet you about 3-4 times before they completely associate your name with your face. After all, they usually have a TON of students.
2. Look Up Your Professor Online. Professor Lonny Butcher from the UCF School of Business says, “My first tip would be to look up your professor on your college website and see if they have a bio. If not they may have a profile on LinkedIn. That way you can see what their research interests are. Since students, especially undergrads, are at a point where their subject matter interests are more generalized, this gives them an opportunity to get to know an SME who can give them more specialized information.
3. Make Participation a Priority. You don’t need to sit in the front row or raise your hand every single class but make a point to participate and raise your hand every once in a while.
4. Be Courteous and Respectful. I’m a public speaker and often up at the front of a classroom speaking to the students. When you are commanding the room you can easily tell which students are paying attention and which students are not paying attention. It’s not a positive experience to try to speak or teach a class when there is talking or noise happening. It’s disrespectful. If you want to have a good relationship with your professor, show them the respect you’d want them to show you.
5. Attend 2-3 Office Hours. Over the course of the semester, stop by your professor’s office hours to review tests, go over homework assignments, or anything else that will help you excel in the class and get more FaceTime with the professor. Professor Butcher says, “Visit your faculty during office hours. Ask them about their research. Ask why they became a professor. Just be curious, in general. Don't get personal, keep it professional, and you'll do great.”
6. Make Sure They Understand Your Professional Goals. After class or during office hours after the first half of the semester. Take a moment to talk to your professor about your professional goals and ask if they have any advice.
7. Get A Good Grade In The Class. If you don’t perform well in the class – you can forget about building a strong relationship with the professor. How can they properly advise you or write you a letter of recommendation if you did poorly in their class?
8. Ask for A Letter of Rec After the Class. Once you’ve successfully completed (and passed) the class ask your professor to write you a letter of recommendation. Try to avoid asking 6 months after as they won’t remember you as well as they do.
9. Stay in Touch. Just like any professional contact you should stay in touch with your professor. Professor Butcher confirms that “professors also usually have connections to employers. They might work as consultants with them, know them from a past project, or just be friends with them from attending a conference together. Generally, employers will want to tap the professor's student network for interns or new hires. There are few absolutes in life, but I can safely say that I'll never recommend a student that I don't know!” Good to note!