Tis' the season for finals and internship applications. The semester is coming to a close and most college students are reaping the rewards of a semester well-spent (or not, in some cases.) Many students are reaching out for internship connections, connections that can very easily be made in the classroom.
From the beginning of this semester I had one class that I knew would be harder than the rest. I had heard that the teacher could be a bit intense, but I was determined to impress her. As the semester progressed, it wasn't uncommon for me to spend between 15 and 20 hours a week on this class. I had never tried this hard before just to leave an impression on a professor! My efforts built into a professional relationship that left me with three very valuable takeaways.
1. Networking: Professors know people, people who are looking for interns. However, no professor will want to recommend a student that skipped class once a week and had mediocre grades. I reached out to my professor as the semester came to a close to discuss internships. As a result of the effort I put into class, she told me she would put in a call to recommend me for an internship. This was a connection I never would've made without my professor.
2. References: Yes, we all have a reference that's vaguely a family friend that you babysat for back in high school. That worked fine when you were applying for minimum wage positions freshman year of college. Now you may need a recommendation letter, a professional or educational reference and a close, trusted teacher is an excellent choice for any of the those.
3. Career: Your professor is an expert in their given field. No one knows more about your options post graduation than a professional. Your professor can give you inside information from someone who knows the industry and has lived it for years. For students who don't know what they're doing after graduation, a trusted professor should be your first stop for questions on career options.
To build a valuable professional relationship you need to be prepared to go the distance in the classroom. Make a concentrated effort to participate and speak up in class, go to office hours with questions and concerns and try to pick their brain whenever possible. After several months with my professor I found that not only was she an excellent teacher, she was also a wonderful, caring woman. The relationship I built with my professor was well worth the sleep deprivation and effort.