Networking can be one of the most daunting tasks for new library professionals, so much so that we’ve discussed it here at Hack Library School several times before. If you’re in library school, though, you already have access to a simple yet valuable networking resource: your professors. Forming relationships with your professors has many perks. They’ll be able to guide you toward internships, job opportunities, and scholarships; provide insights and advice about the profession and research interests; act as references; and connect you with other professionals in your field.
Before your professors can help you out, however, you need to make sure that you get to know them and that they get to know you in return. For many students, especially those in distance programs, becoming more familiar with professors can be intimidating. Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to build a relationship with your professors:Introduce yourself. Did you ever go to Open House in high school? I remember going with my schedule in hand to introduce myself to every teacher I would have that semester. There’s no reason you can’t do the same thing in library school. If you live near enough, schedule a meeting with your professor to introduce yourself and discuss the course. Ask any questions you have about the syllabus or the professor’s teaching style. These questions will not only demonstrate your interest in the course, but will also prepare you for the semester. If you are a distance learner, introduce yourself through email or schedule a phone or Skype conversation. It won’t take a tremendous effort and it will go a long way toward separating you from the fifty other “Introduce Yourself” discussion board posts the professor will read that year.
Do your research. Learning about your professors will help you to identify common ground both professionally and personally that will make your rapport more meaningful. Find out your professors’ research interests and read their publications. Both can usually be found on faculty profiles on your school’s website. Many professors will also have their CVs available somewhere on the internet. Maybe you went to the same undergraduate school as a professor or are both die-hard football fans. Knowing your professors’ interests is not only useful when making conversation, but it also helps you to determine who to ask for information when you need it.
Ask for advice. If you have a question about library and information science, start a conversation with a professor about it. Asking questions gives your professor a better idea of your interests, goals, and ideas. It also shows that you’re engaged in the profession beyond the classroom. If you ask about an article you read on flood recovery in archives, your professor may contact you when they hear about a disaster planning workshop. If your professor helps you with your resume for a job as a teen librarian, that same professor may forward you similar job postings in the future.
Get involved in student organizations. Like asking advice, participating in student organizations will demonstrate to professors that you are applying what you’ve learned in class. In a leadership role, it is also likely that you will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with professors, allowing them to witness your work ethic and management style while you learn from their experience. Hack Library School has several resources for participating in student organizations, like this post from Kendra Werst or this one by Britt Foster. As the latter article says, student organizations are “resume gold.” If you ever need a reference letter, professors won’t have to grasp for content because they’ll already be familiar with your accomplishments.
What strategies have you used for engaging with your professors? Have you used any of the strategies listed here? Tell us in the comments!