College students often lament their lack of network connections in searching for a job. “Who would I know working in my profession, since I haven’t even started working yet?”
Yet there is a resource available to you that most college students fail to utilize. And it is a resource that is literally right in front of you. Right there on campus.
That resource? Your college professors.
College professors are typically well connected in the world of work which you will be entering. Most students think of their professors as pure academics with no ties outside the university but, if you ask, you may be surprised at what you find out. Many college professors have professional connections due to research projects and their own work outside academia. What do college professors do when they are not teaching classes? They often work as consultants to the industries and professions aligned with their department and major. They sometimes sit on boards and often participate in professional associations, sometimes in leadership roles. The professor may be published in the field and recognized as a leading expert.
My professor? Yes, your professor.
And here’s the little secret about many college professors of which few are aware: they often serve as advanced scouts on behalf of select entry level employers. They are pointing out to employers which students are the rising star performers to be considered. Having the ear of a college professor who teaches a capstone class in a major is a great networking connection for an entry level employer. And a great networking connection for you as a student.
So how can you make the most of your connection with professors?
First of all, you need to be noticed. Sit towards the front of the classroom and actively participate in the class. Then develop a relationship with your professor that goes beyond the class time itself. Most college professors keep regular office hours where they have an open door policy for students in their classes. Take the time to use this open door to both gain both a better understanding of the coursework and to develop a more personal relationship with your professor.
Second, after you have proven yourself to your professor, ask for a letter of recommendation. That letter of recommendation is a portable reference that you can use as a leave behind in interviews if/when asked for references. And it provides an answer to that difficult question of whom to use for a reference when you are just starting out in the world of work.
And finally, ask for referrals. After the professor has put together a letter of recommendation for you, ask him/her for suggestions of which employers to contact. Then ask for contacts at each of those employers. This opens up his/her little black book of industry contacts. For some professors, it can be extensive. Others, not as much. So which professors are the most valuable? Usually the professors who teach the 400 level (Senior-level) capstone classes for your major. As a side note, these are often the classes that are the most difficult, but also the most valuable to you in the world of work.
So make sure you utilize that secret job resource on your campus to broaden out your network.