Networking is everything, right? But what if you’re only just out of college—or perhaps still in college. Who do you have to network with?
Keep in mind you may be forgetting a valuable resource: your professors. They know better than anyone about your skills and performance, and they have professional contacts galore. They’re also generous! And if they know you very well as a student, they’d probably be more than happy to help steer you towards success.
Sound great? It is. But it’s not that easy. There are a few things you’ll have to do in order for a professor to be willing to vouch for you like that. Here are a few steps you can start with to earn their favor.
1. Do the work.
It sounds very simple, and it is. But you have to put in the effort. Show up to class. Do the work, and do it well. Speak up in class. Stay engaged. Turn up to office hours. Do your best, humbly accept criticism, and improve. Showing you can learn from mistakes and act respectfully and grow sets you up very well, indeed.
2. Get some face time.
You’ll need to have a relationship with your professor if they’re going to put their name on the line for you. Send out a beginning-of-the-semester hello email introducing yourself. This will help you stand out early on, especially if you back it up by attending office hours at least semi-regularly. You’ll set yourself up well to be on the radar when you need to ask a favor.
3. Be helpful to get help.
Offer to help with your professor’s clinical trial or big research project. You might have to start small as you build experience, but eventually you’ll learn a ton and gain their trust and respect. And that way when you ask for help, it won’t be entirely one-sided.
4. Ask for a recommendation letter.
A recommendation letter is a great gateway to other kinds of career help. You’ll definitely need references in your first flurries of job applications. Trying to find your first job can be daunting and confusing, and a letter from your professor can really help make all the difference.
5. Seek informational interviews.
You can also ask your professor for help setting you up with their professional contacts for informational interviews to get a sense of what working in a particular industry will be like. Asking for referrals to contacts and introductions is a smaller leap than asking for help finding a job. And if you make them proud you’ll be well-placed to ask them for the bigger stuff later on.
6. Get help with your resume.
The last step on the way to actually asking for job help is to ask for help preparing your job application package. No one knows better than your professor, a professional in their field, what would be most advantageous on a resume. Swing by those office hours again and ask for tips. Don’t show up with a blank page and expect them to write it for you. Do put a lot of work, and thought into your materials and ask just for enough help to polish up the details.