Blog post #452 Freshman Year – part 2

Coaching for Life Success – Freshman Year – part II

Let’s continue looking at things you should be doing in your freshman year to give you an advantage over those millions of college students around the world.

In previous lessons, we have talked about networking and mentors – now is the time to start working on your network and your mentors.

Networking:  If you are thinking about a specific major, check out the various clubs and organizations that relate to that major.  For example, in my field, computer information systems, there was a student organization for those majors. They brought in speakers and professionals in that field.  One event this student organization did was a take-off on speed dating. Each student rotated through six to eight professionals for a five-minute ‘interview’. (A good time to have your elevator speech polished!!) After the interview, the professional gave the student comments about how they did in the interview and how they could improve.  Another student organization did an event where two professional sat with six students around a table. The professionals threw out a question and the students took terms answering it. Sometimes the questions were more open-ended like “If you had a million dollars and had to spend it in a week, what would you do”; and sometimes more specific like “Why did you pick your major” or “What do you see yourself doing in twenty years.  If you have been faithful in doing the previous assignments, you will be ready to answer such questions.

Hang around afterward and ask the visiting professionals on how they picked their majors and their careers.  Ask them for others to network with or to shadow. They have volunteered their time to help students, make the most of it.

Also, start networking with your professors and others.  Stop by to introduce yourself during their office hours. If you are in a large class, (like most freshman classes), introducing yourself will help you understand the professor better.  And it will help them know and understand you. Find out why they picked their major and what path they took to becoming a professor.

This can be tricky.  With your own professors, they something think you are trying to be a “teacher’s pet” and by coming to visit with them, you are really just trying to get on their good side.  Be humble and honest about wanting to network and find out more about careers that might interest you. Build rapport – but don’t be a pest. Never stay longer than 10 minutes unless they seem like they want you to take longer.  (As a professor, I’ve had students that stopped by talk and I couldn’t get rid of them; and also I’ve had students who seemed to really want to know about my suggestions for careers and we talked an hour and it seemed like 10 minutes).  

I would ask where the student is from (nice icebreaker), what activities they were in high school, what major they were thinking about, what groups they were thinking of joining on campus, and other gentle ‘getting to know you’ questions.  Don’t go into political, religious or other controversial topics – your professors are probably twice as old as you are and probably have their politics, religion and other factors figured out for themselves!!

And a word of precaution.  I NEVER met a student in my office with the door closed.  Keep the door open (especially for female students with male professors).

Network with others at or near your university.  Every university has an alumni network. Stop by, introduce yourself and see if there are alumni from your major in your hometown that you can network with over Thanksgiving break, Christmas / semester break, and spring break.  Most alumni are very loyal to their university and will try to help a current student. Maybe you can volunteer to help in the alumni office (watch your time commitment).

Mentor: It is time to start looking for more specific networking help with mentors.  If you feel you have a good rapport with a faculty member or other, ask them if they would like to mentor you.  Give them some ideas of what you are looking for. It needs to be a two-way relationship – they have to get some value out of working with you and you with working with them.  If you are just using the relationship to find an internship or job, it isn’t as valuable as letting them feel valuable in career direction and assistance.

Things to think about:

  • Start working on your network.  Make appointments to introduce you to your professors and possibly others.
  • Then refine your relationships to look for more specific and deeper relationships with a mentor.

Quote:  “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ― William Arthur Ward


Posted by Bruce White

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