Communicating with instructors is a skill that a lot college students struggle with, but the advantages are many. You’ll find that there are many scenarios throughout your education and career when academic contacts will be of good use; however, if you wait too long, it may be too late.

If you’ve never stayed in touch after finishing a course, try these helpful hints for networking with instructors and TAs.

Why stay in touch?

According to Clifford W. and Lynn A. Eischen in their book, Resumes, Cover Letters, Networking, and Interviewing, networking is about relationships. When you know someone, they are more inclined to help you, especially when it comes to finding a job. The couple wrote, When you are seeking employment, “name-dropping” will provide you with an entrance to firms, and to people within those firms, that you never dreamed you would have the opportunity to meet.”

For college students, the best way to start practicing this skill is to stay in touch with your professors. They can help you down the road with recommendations and possibly even potential jobs.

Tips for communicating

College students need to understand that while many of your professors may be up to speed on technology and are happy to communicate via email and even text, others may not. It is important to determine the best means of communicating with your professors.

The authors of “The Communication Methods of Today’s Students,” Clement C. Chen, Keith T. Jones and Shawn Xu, in the November 2012 issue of The CPA Journal, conducted a survey of 166 students at two universities, which showed the college students’ preferred method of communication with their professors. They found that “although phone calls are sometimes more efficient for answering detailed questions about course material, students prefer the less personal, more indirect (and arguably both less effective and efficient) method of e-mailing questions to their professors.”

 Additional networking ideas

What are some of the best networking ideas and tips for fostering a healthy relationship with your professor?

  • Start in class. Your professor should see that you are interested and focused on the material. Make an effort to stop in during office hours and discuss a point or ask a question.
  • Get to know them. We all appreciate it when someone else takes the time to learn things about you as a person. Your professor is the same, so build that relationship.
  • Share who you are. You want your professor to know that you are more than regurgitated class notes, but you shouldn’t share information that you would with your dorm mate. Discuss your goals and aspirations as a starting point.
  • Continue to connect. Even after graduation, stay in touch with your professor via the occasional email or note, even a Christmas card. You never know when you may need their recommendation or assistance.

Do you have any proven tips for how to stay in touch with your professors? Let us know in the comments.

Reference: Eischen, Clifford W. and Eischen, Lynn A. 2013. Resumes, Cover Letters, Networking, and Interviewing, 3rd ed. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning