5 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Instructors

If your interaction with faculty members is limited to just the time you're in their classes - and just to discussions about the coursework - you may be missing out on important networking opportunities.

"Any time students can build a rapport with faculty members from the get-go will help them in the long run in various ways," says Amanda Hendricks, external scholarship manager at the University of Phoenix Center for Scholarship Excellence. She offers five tips on how to develop these key relationships:

Take advantage of office hours.
"Whether you are attending school in a virtual or physical environment, you have to find ways to connect with faculty members if you want them to notice you or advise you academically," Hendricks says. Start establishing that connection during office hours or through emails. That foundation, she adds, will ease your anxiety when you need advice, such as on where you should go to graduate school.

Earn a faculty recommendation.
"Family and friends are biased," Hendricks says. So selection committees for scholarships and graduate schools "are not going to put a lot of weight behind a letter of recommendation coming from your mom or best friend," she adds.

However, committees and prospective employers will respect a faculty member's unbiased academic and professional comments about your skills and personality, she says. One way to showcase your communication and leadership skills is by actively participating in class.

Collaborate on a paper or research.
Building a solid relationship with faculty members and showing interest in their fields or respective research can fast-track partnerships with them.

The better a faculty member knows your academic potential and overall skills, the more likely the instructor will be willing to collaborate. This relationship can evolve into co-authorship of scholarly papers, collaborative research or even making presentations together at professional conferences, Hendricks notes.

Share your ambitions.
Perhaps you need some career leads on preprofessional internships or professional associations that can segue into job opportunities.

Spending time getting to know a faculty member, Hendricks says, will put you in a better position to ask for job leads. In addition, the faculty member may come to you with opportunities. "You just have to take that one little step in the right direction for that faculty member to help open doors," she says.

Ask for career advice.
"Talk with faculty often, and you can glean valuable insight into your career choices," Hendricks stresses. Whether on campus or via virtual exchanges, engage in conversation with faculty members about their professional experiences. You may not realize it, she adds, but faculty members are like career counselors, possibly even inspiring you to follow a specialty path.

"There are very few people you can turn to and get that level of personal input into a career while you're learning and absorbing related information," she says. "Take advantage of that."

-By Marissa Yaremich

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