#InternPro Chat: “School and Career Success: The Art of Interacting with Professors!”

College professors. They’re older than us. They hold the fate of our college career in their hands. They can be pretty intimidating. As a result, many students avoid interacting with professors other than to turn in tests and papers, or to argue for a better grade.

Often, however, professors are the closest person we have to a mentor, or a referral when we apply for our first jobs. As such, students who develop relationships with professors have an in their personal brands, mentor relationships… and job search.

This week, Ellen Bremen (@ChattyProf on Twitter and author of “Say This, Not That to Your Professor“) and the #InternPro community discussed how to effectively and assertively communicate with professors… and shared insights into how professors can help our early careers, even after graduation! The chat, for your convenience, is summarized here.

Join us again next week, Monday, September 24 for our next fast-paced, enlightening #InternPro discussion at 9pm ET/6pm PT!


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  • SteveLevyNY

    I wasn’t happy with last night’s #InternPro chat; I thought the topic was strategies and tactics to developing professional relationships with your Professors – despite @DrJanice offering another definition of a relationship with one’s professor… it just seemed so…fluffy.

    Inasmuch as the tone of this comment might appear to be mean and ugly, it isn’t; I have come to expect more quality from #InternPro chat because so much of the content of previous chats was significantly more actionable. For me, it seemed as if the expert were tossing back 32,000 foot-level content where we presumably also understood the tactical (how to actually speak to a professor) but forgot that we weren’t the audience. I don’t know about you but when I was a junior I had
    no idea about what to say to a professor to gain their good graces. I stumbled and bumbled in a time when resources such as this weren’t even on Al Gore’s mind (ask your parents).

    We have a responsibility to give the YouTern audience more than “you need to be authentic” because the platform says we must. So my pecific callouts from the 500 or so tweets that were rocketing back and forth during the InternPro chat hour:

    [yes, some of these aren’t serious]

    YouTern –> Q1: Why do so many
    struggle with communicating with professors? Is it just another parent-child relationship… or more?

    SL: Perhaps it’s the first superior-subordinate relationship – and “dude” isn’t an appropriate way to great your new boss.

    JVPsaid: RT @YouTern: Q2: I find my professors are a bit intimidating… How do I break that barrier to build a one-on-one relationship?

    SL: If you can answer this question, “Why are academicians hired by universities?” then you know the key to engaging professors.

    YouTernMark: Some of your co-workers
    and bosses are going to be intimidating, too… get over it, quickly.

    (SL: Bullseye)

    MrNifty246: Conversation generator! RT @DrJanice: My fave prof question: Where do you think the field will be in 10 years (25, 50, whatever).

    SL: Ah – Janice knows what drives professors so she knows how to engage them: Field first, sports teams second.

    SocialSalima: A2. Research the professor’s publications accomplishments and find an idea or notion of alignment with your own passions.

    SL: THIS is the answer to the question.

    YouTern: Q3: How can we apply the communication skills learned while building relationships with professors to our career?

    SL: We didn’t talk about specific tactics…

    YouTernMark: So professor relationships
    are just like boss or mentor relationship… gotta’ show a little hustle.

    SL: And the ability to address the problems on THEIR plates.

    DrJanice: Profs are practice bosses.

    SL: Gold star.

    MrNifty246: A3: Stand out by talking about something that makes your professor tick. What makes employers and interviewers tick???

    SL: Ability to solve employers’ problems

    ResumeDrEliz: profs are often first professional relationship a student has. Build this and gain a mentor who can help even more.

    SL: And the vehicle by which the student learns how to manage this relationship is predicated on building a connection between the course content and the professor’s research.

    GuyDavis02: A3: Students should take advantage of the practice communicating with adults older than they and in superior positions.

    SL: Have you noticed that no one mentioned written communication?

    YouTern: Q4: How can students leverage the resources/connections professors can offer… without seeming opportunistic?

    SL: Isn’t opportunism what college is about?

    DrJanice: There is nothing wrong with being opportunistic! Go for it. How do you think businesses get started??

    SL: Another gold star.

    GuyDavis02: A4: At SMU we have undergraduate research programs to help students develop mentoring relationships with faculty.

    SL: Student chapters of functional academic always have a faculty advisor; join the student
    club, ask the prof to help you obtain speakers.

    SocialSalima: Serve, serve, seek. First create value then ask to cultivate it in collaboration with your professor.

    SL: “Doc, I’ll do anything that you need to help further your research agenda.”

    YouTernMark: +1 RT @SocialSalima: A4. Serve, serve, seek. First create value then ask to cultivate it in collaboration with your professor.

    SL: Write a 2-page position paper on a topic of interest to both you and the Prof; ask the Prof to critique it.

    jeannacaldwell: Join professional organizations with professors while still in school, stay active and connected.
    SL: Gold star.

    GuyDavis02: SMU Engaged Learning funds undergrad research and supports faculty mentoring http://t.co/wZl712dU.

    SL: Gold star.

    DrJanice: Remember: Your prof does not know everything and may, in fact, mislead you about the ‘outside’ world.

    SL: OMG! You mean some professors are insulated from the real world?

    YouTernMark: Disclaimer: I think it may be a mistake to assume that all professors care, or all students, care. Some are just riding it out.

    SL: Often takes years for the sparks of university learning to turn into a fire.

    GuyDavis02: Understand many faculty go BA str8 to PhD never did a search outside academe, your best bet go to The Career Center.

    SL: Although a Professorship IS a career; try asking the Prof why they chose academia as their career.

    ThomasCareer: RT @GuyDavis02: A5. Understand many faculty go BA str8 to PhD never did a search outside academe,
    your best bet go to The Career Center.

    SL: Gold star.

    DrJanice: Ask administration why jobs (ie the real world) is not part of all curriculum.

    SL: A junior-level course: BLANK as a career – and bring in people who actually know about BLANK as a career.

    YouTern: Q6: Can professors serve as capable mentors, as well as educators? How can I tell if a professor is mentor material?

    SL: Every professor had a dissertation committee and key advisor – the prof may not remember “those” days…remind them.

    andrewbamazing: @YouTernMark this is true. But then those ones are not worth networking with. Work with people who care.

    SL: Some of the crankiest bast*rds with the best research reputations can be opened up…

    DrJanice: Does the prof have outside activities – consulting in industry, advising startups, etc? Yes = mentor, no = pass.

    SL: Not necessariy; had 2 professors who were pure academicians…and nice.

    JVPsaid: A6 you can tell a professor is mentor material if s/he has helped other similarly motivated students succeed in the past.

    SL: Many professors list their alumni on their faculty page <- more people with whom to network.

    ScottKeenan27: A6: #internpro A good mentor has something on his resume other than "professor" and "student" i.e. had a job in their field at one point.

    SL: Or as a consultant.

    ThomasCareer: A6) just by talking with them, you can probably gauge their interpersonal skills.

    SL: If you met one of my academic mentors you’d swear he was narrow-minded; but I broke him down. Ended up being narrow-minded and kind.

    GuyDavis02: I know a sociology fac member, she talks to students about soc jobs, but for all others "go see Guy in The Career Center".

    SL: S/he's smart.

    ThomasCareer: If your prof has real world experience versus coming directly from PhD to teaching, better quality mentoring.

    Not necessarily; you've assumed that the business world effectively taught how to be a mentor.

    YouTernMark: Even pure academics, life-long PhDs, can serve as mentors for the college experience. Mentorship is not a life-long commitment.

    SL: Gold star.

    YouTern: Q7: Early in our careers, how do we become what @ChattyProf refers to in her book as a “magnificent, assertive communicator”?

    SL: Practice. Don't shy away from opportunities to communicate by the pen and by the mouth…and don’t be afraid of looking, saying, writing something "stupid".

    JessaBahr: Seek out feedback, join orgs like toastmasters, and practice, practice, practice!

    SL: Gold star – does your university have a student toastmasters club?

    UGSuccess: @YouTernMark Do you ever stop tweeting awesomeness? 😉

    Often he writes, too – 140 is not really business writing; try a blog.

    ThomasCareer: if you have confidence in what you're talking about, you will be naturally assertive.

    SL: Gold star.

    UGSuccess: Honesty and bluntness are NOT overrated. Your communication becomes more effective the more you hustle. It's respected.

    SL: Gold star.

    ChattyProf: Solid eye contact, energetic vocals, charisma, personality… being able to use body language in a poised way.

    SL: Should be a 3 hour course every year while in college.

    MrNifty246: Leadership in student groups DEFINITELY helps with being more assertive. Take more communication classes too. They help a lot!

    SL: Don't forget writing!

    UGSuccess: Maintain good eye contact with everyone. Speak loudly. You'll be forgiven for being a little loud…never too quiet.

    SL: If you're a bit quiet and have something important to say, people will listen.

    ResumeDrEliz: take intro to acting and improv. This will give you tons of experience.

    SL: You could be President one day.

    Bottom line to helping college students is to show them how it’s done by modeling the specific behaviors – yes, even down to the words – needed to accomplish something. Whether it’s how to use LinkedIn or how to networking via professors, we owe them actions not rhetoric.

    • Steve

      All-this was a long comment and for some reason, the Disqus system isn’t happy with it – and has clearly messed up with the formatting

      Mark and Crew- thx for cleaning this up as well as you did.

    • Wow, I never got that many gold stars as a student, probably because I was politically incorrect and never once thought it might be useful to leverage those prof relationships. But when I think of how things have changed (because I was a student when women were not expected to have careers but went to college as a stopgap between high school and having babies) I think the most profound is that, especially if you are very shy, you do not have to relate to your profs at all to get ahead. Just get on the web and get conversations going with profs at a distance, who may be more comfortable for you to approach. Anyone who is on social media is open to connection, so the risk is lower and you will have a much broader field to choose from.

      Even as a (much) older learner, when I think of it, many of the people I learn from – Steve Levy and Mark Babbitt included (with gold stars!) – are people I would never have met had it not been for tweetchats. And you can search easily using hashtags or key words, and you can even look at their Twitter pages to see if and how to best engage with your target profs.

      Then you can share your practical advice on #InternPro!

  • Steve

    So Janice…what specific resources might one use to identify the content needed to start building these relationships from afar?

    I’m certain Mark appreciates gold stars from you as much as I do…