Beyond business

Claire Fisher

Professors. We love their corny jokes and we hate when they keep us late after class. We attend their classes sometimes and pray they don’t give us quizzes on last night’s reading. We contact them to ask about grades and due dates and to triple check how many words that final paper needs to be.

But in order to make the most of our time in college, we need to move beyond merely contacting them about assignments. Professors are valuable resources and we should be talking with them about their experiences, mining them for feedback and having actual conversations with them.

Professors have experience not only in the world of our chosen career paths, but also in the real adult world. “Adulting” is a struggle for all of us. Trying to apply to grad schools, sign up for internships, or even cook on our own. These are things our professors have had experience with and could give advice on. Don’t just e-mail your professors to ask about the textbook. Take it a step further and ask them what they know about that company you’re applying to intern at over the summer.

Professors are scary. And depending on the professor, they can be a little straitlaced and perhaps a little boring. But when it comes to the work you’re doing, to the work you want to continue to do for the rest of your career, their opinion matters. They’ve spent their lives studying the work you’re doing and will have valuable and interesting opinions.

Don’t be afraid to ask a professor’s opinion on work you’ve done. Even if you didn’t get a D on that paper, it’s always beneficial to ask a professor what you’ve done well and what you could have improved on. Spend time taking advantage of their knowledge and experience. Chances are, they’ll have read more papers than you and have a really good idea of how it could be done better or what you could research in the future that would be interesting.

You should also not be afraid to ask professors for feedback on things you’re working on outside of their class. They’ll probably be flattered that you wanted their opinion and will hopefully be able to give you meaningful suggestions. Whether it’s something you’re working on for another class, for a student organization or just some project you’re throwing together on your own, it will be better if you’ve had another person look at it and tell you what they think.

Finally, you should have conversations with professors. Sit down and talk about something that doesn’t necessarily involve class or work. Talk about the world and the way it works; talk about politics; talk about the environment; talk about something you love. Just have one of those good conversations about life. Share your opinions and let them share theirs. You’ll benefit from having done something intellectual, maybe learn something and expand your point of view.

Put your intimidation behind you, take that first step and have a conversation with someone who has had more career and life experience than you. The benefits far outweigh the risks and you’ll walk away with more knowledge than you started with.