Advice from the Other Side: Networking With Your Professors

October 6, 2017

Sarah Farkas 1By Sarah Farkas
Assistant Director of Mentoring & Outreach, Educational Resource Center

Hopefully you’ve heard of networking as concept—as you journey towards your career, you’ll talk with a number of people working in your desired profession. That’s the simple, traditional notion of networking. You don’t just need to network with future colleagues and connections, you need to network with faculty and staff! Here a few reasons why this is necessary and a few tips as you get started:

Why do I need to talk to my professors?

I think the most important reason is that professors are the ones who design your academic experience. Why wouldn’t you want to get to know these people? Professors are actually human beings just like you (surprise!) and the majority of them are teaching because they want to connect with students. Visiting a professor’s office hours with a thoughtful question can build a relationship that can lead to a more comfortable classroom experience, increased confidence in talking to people in positions of authority (which you’ll need when you start networking for careers), and a stellar letter of recommendation if you do well in the course. One on the best things that you can do for your academic career is to get to know every single one of your professors.

How do I talk to professors? They’re scary!

Like I said above, most of them are totally normal human beings who want to connect with you. If you’re having any difficulty with coursework, the easiest way to talk to your professor is to go to their assigned office hour with very specific, thoughtful questions concerning where your confusion lies. Professors appreciate students who are proactive and who’ve tried to do the work on their own. If your schedule conflicts with the professor’s office hours, this is not an excuse not to network! Send a polite email to your professor explaining the conflict and asking if you can set up an appointment.

Students who are doing very well in courses often have difficulty networking because of the misconception that professors only want to hear from you if you have a problem. This is false! Find something interesting about the course subject (or maybe even the professor’s research!) that you’d like to know more about and stop by your professor’s office hours. Professors enjoy meeting with students who like their classes—it’s flattering!

In addition to faculty, there are hundreds of administrators on campus who are assisting you through your academic journey. Have you been to the Dean of Students office to speak with one of the deans? They want to meet you, and you do yourself a disservice by not making a personal connection with the administrators who are in charge of your experience at BU.

You never know when a chance conversation can lead to finding a mentor—and trust me, a good mentor can inspire you to consider both career and academic paths that you might never have discovered on your own. Get talking and good luck!