Did you know that your professors are people too? Seriously, it’s true. They have a life outside of assigning you incredibly boring research assignments and ridiculous group projects. Insane right? I know some professors who seem to fit the very definition of robots in disguise. All it takes is some extra work and you can get to know the professor as a- gasp- friend.
So why is it helpful to befriend your professor? For starters, doing so expands your network. Having a professor in the field you are intending to pursue is a great way to access more resources and career opportunities. Another strong reason to get on their good side is so you can gain a great reference. Professors make great references because they know your work ethic and how you perform under pressure, as well as your ability to understand and follow assignments. References from professors are great for graduate school, internships, big-time job positions and everything else in between.
Don’t forget that a major reason one becomes a professor is because of a desire to help others by teaching students a valuable skill or study. A lot, not all, but quite a few of professors are glad to help out students with references as long as you’re willing to put in the extra work in and outside the classroom. It’s not that hard to befriend a professor, you just have to get over the notion that they’re out to ruin your lives-regardless of your midterm grade. Office hours are there for several reasons. One of them is to have topical conversations with the students. Another reason however, is to get to know the professor as an individual rather than just the person who stands and lectures from the front of the class. You can always talk to a professor before or after class and eventually you’ll get to the point where meeting at a bar for drink and conversation won’t be out of the question. I’m not guaranteeing that this is what is going to happen, but I can tell you it doesn’t hurt to try. If you can get the relationship to the point where it becomes a casual setting, then you know you’re golden.
Questions? Ideas or suggestions? Follow me on twitter @ChrisComella or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org