Friday, September 25, 2015 at 5am

Polishing the Apple – Building relationships with MBA Professors

MBA networking

Just as, in the words of Edison, genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, earning an MBA is 50% education and 50% conversation.

Yes, networking is a full 50% (or more) of the reason for attending an MBA program, so don’t be shy. Many classmates will become business partners, and it is natural for peers to support each other in future endeavors. With that in mind, remember to be conscientious so that you don’t alienate anyone – you never know where the next opportunity may come from.

In particular, this applies to your professors – it can be a great boon to curry their favor. While your peers will act as a support group, your professor already has excellent business connections that can help launch your career. Interacting and networking with professors can be intimidating, but don’t be dissuaded; the dividends you reap from building relationships with professors could even make your life’s dreams a reality. 

How do you build relationships with faculty members in an MBA program? After all, your professor likely has many other students and has no specific reason to assist you over your fellow classmates.

Here are six ways you can stand out to a professor (without looking like a sycophant).

1. Honesty is the best policy

It is likely that you will come across a professor whom you find inspirational during your MBA program. You don’t have to invent reasons to build relationships with someone that you don’t particularly like. Choose to befriend the professors you respect – that way, you will have honest feedback for him or her. Be yourself in interactions; don’t try to fake anything.

2. Can you hear me in the back?

It seems obvious, but one way to build relationships is to participate meaningfully in classes. That means you have to prepare. Come with insightful questions already written out. I suggest arriving with three to four solid thoughts regarding your readings or projects. Don’t be afraid to voice these thoughts during class or engage in spirited debate.  And it goes without saying: try to ace all your tests and assignments.

3. Hours upon office hours

Attend office hours with any important questions, or possibly just to follow up with something you are working on in your MBA program. If you have a draft of a project or paper, your professor will likely be happy to go over it with you during office hours. You can also make a good impression over email, but nothing beats the face-to-face interaction of office hours.

4. With the (teacher’s) assist(ant)

If possible, look into becoming a teacher’s assistant. Being a teacher’s assistant can be hard work and even includes some not-so-glamorous gigs like copying and collating, but earning the thanks of your professor is worth it (and teacher’s assistant is not a bad reference for your résumé, either).

5. Get involved

Be interested in what your professors are doing outside of class. Attend lectures and participate in Q&As, or read publications and ask about them. If a professor is involved in a specific group or club, join in and try to attain a level of responsibility in that activity to get noticed.

6. We’ve got answers

Ask your professors for related outside assistance. In particular, get them to look at your résumé and offer any suggestions for the field in which you are applying post-graduation. Also, when you have a solid rapport with a professor, it is easier to attain a quality recommendation letter. Remember that your professor is more than just a conduit of learning for the 90-minute class session; he or she has other interests in the subject you are studying. If you come across something intriguing, don’t hesitate to share it.

These six easy steps will allow you to create a real and lasting bond with your professors. And don’t forget about them after graduation. By keeping in touch and letting them know about your accomplishments, you can continue a fruitful relationship that may last a lifetime.

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Ryan Hickey is the managing editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.

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