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College 101

Why Your Relationship with Your Professor Matters So much
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

Are you... good? How will THEY know?

You sit in a dorky suit on a hot day with a recruiter from BigCompany.com as they run through your resume. "Oh, I see, only an A minus in Econ 304: Communism, The Revenge. What on earth prompted you to take that class?"

"Don’t be too heartbroken. The benefits aren’t that great."


You explain. It was curiosity. You exit the interview heartbroken that you're not getting a job as an acrobat with Cirque De Soleil. Well, actually, it was in their finance department and this one course was your elective. You're fabulous with numbers and really wanted the gig.

The interviewer gives you a big fat "eih" - what now? Give up? Or get serious? Yeah, that second one: You call your professor/ advisor who you know loves you and will yell at the interviewer (who was likely one of his students 15 years ago) and tell them that they need to move you to the second round of interviews. And 99% of the time, that phone call will work. 

Your professor can't get you a job - but they can almost always get you a warm fuzzy introduction and an interview. To actually win the job, you have to earn it yourself. 

So what's the function of the professor/advisor when it comes to hunting jobs? They are kind of like life insurance, really. They are there for when things go awry and they are needed to make that key strategic phone call. They can also be a reference for you just before the company is about to hire you - but who really gives a BAD reference? Theirs is a sort of check-the-box, "yes, this person is not, in fact, an axe murderer - to the best of my knowledge, at this time..."

For some majors - like computer science/engineering and other "heat seeking areas" like oil exploration during a Persian Gulf skirmish when prices are sky-rocketing - professors are the eyes and ears of that industry, and they proactively place their best students in the companies with which they are 'affiliated'... a fancy word for 'being on the consulting payroll.’

It's not like most professors get rich, so a few bucks for placing top students in hot companies doesn't seem like all that bad an idea for them. And the top students likely more than benefit. So how do you become ‘top,’ or at least… in that circle? 

There's the obvious getting-good-grades-in-their-course way, but there's also the double frap mocha every now and then (with the cookie) that you know they like. If they're single, there's always the casual intro favor to Miss Buttermirth who just started working in the library. And there's actually going to office hours when your friends don't, or becoming a teaching assistant for his or her class for next year.

So get to know your professor. You never know where it'll take you.

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