Last week Oklahoma State University had its annual homecoming celebration, and interestingly, this year’s theme was called Branded for Life. I also recently discussed faculty networking and the referral of students with colleagues and employers. This got me thinking about how students present themselves as, well, students to faculty and campus staff- and how that might affect their internship or job search.
Your Role as a Student
It’s the general assumption that students attend college to gain a better education and, upon graduation, to seek gainful employment. While many students understand that this is the ultimate long term goal of their academic career, it’s not unusual for it to be left on the back burner as students choose how to conduct themselves in their day-to-day college lives.
Other than grade point average, student activities and earning a degree – most students don’t realize until later in their college careers (if ever) that how they conduct themselves as a student can have long term effects on their personal brands. Who wants to give a good reference to the student who slacked off in class?
In the Classroom
Beyond the quality of classwork, students should self-examine how they conduct themselves in a classroom setting around their professors and peers. Students should ask themselves these questions:
1. Do I attend class?
2. Do I participate in class discussion? Do I add knowledge?
3. If I’m in a group, do I do my fair share?
4. Can I follow instructions?
5. Do I ask questions?
6. Do I turn my work in on time?
Believe me. I understand that college is the time when students are finding their way and learning many of these skills. Often, connections made in college will stay with students for the rest of their lives. With the explosion of social media in the past several years, the likelihood of this is even higher. That former classmate may be the one to help you land a future job.
The Student/Faculty Relationship
It’s easy to forget that many faculty have spent a portion of their careers in the “corporate” world or someplace outside of the academic environment. Faculty and campus staff maintain professional connections from previous career and industry stops. These networks are often actively pursued by employers who collaborate with faculty and departments on campus to recruit new talent.
So when a student is seeking to make a connection to a prospective employer through a faculty member, how that student has established his or her personal brand in the classroom may impact how a faculty member refers them on- if they choose to at all.
Professors find it shocking any time a student requests a letter of reference from them and they have a less than favorable view of that student. At best – these students will receive a generic letter of reference that does not really say anything about them.
However, if a student establishes himself or herself as a “go-getter”, “sharp” or “high caliber,” professors are only too happy (and proud) to help their students network with prospective employers or provide positive references.
Tips For Creating a Positive Personal Brand with Faculty
- The most obvious: Attend class and pay attention while you are there.
- The second most obvious: Do your classwork to the best of your ability.
- Participate- ask questions & join in discussions
- Establish professional relationships with a faculty members, ask for their advice and feedback.
- Respect their time – if you make an appointment, keep it.
- Adjust to their personality when you are developing rapport with them – are they introverted or extroverted, etc.?
- Read the e-mails they send! Not every professor tweets or has a Facebook page. E-mail is often their preferred method of communication.
Here are some additional tips on how to be a good student:
If students successfully keep their reputations in mind as they interact with peers and professors throughout college, they will be more likely to make a positive impression- and may find it easier to get job advice or references when they need it down the road.
Disclaimer: It’s not uncommon for career services offices to experience some uneasiness with faculty referral of students. This uneasiness primarily stems from employers asking or pressuring faculty for their “top performers.” Our office routinely reminds employers that those “top performers” are subjective and the perfect fit for their organization may not be on that list. Most importantly, we do not wish to put our faculty, students, university or employers at risk of any EEO violations. While we encourage networking between employers and faculty, we ask that any open positions in question be posted with our office where all qualified candidates can view them.
Lanie James serves as Employer Development Coordinator for the Career Services office at Oklahoma State University, also known as HireOSUgrads.com . She holds both a B.A. in Journalism Broadcasting and a M.S. in Mass Communication from OSU. Her research emphasis focused on emerging and social media in Career Services. She also serves as the President of the Oklahoma Association of Colleges & Employers (@OkACE). Connect with Lanie on LinkedIn or Twitter @JLanie.