This past summer, after one of the most intimidating job interviews of my entire life, I got into my car, loosened my restrictive necktie and sent texts to my closest confidants. However, those texts weren’t sent to my college roommates or even my parents (Sorry mom and dad). No, instead they were to a few of my former journalism professors who became some of my closest friends during my four years in college.
I was quite the social butterfly during my first two years of higher education, making so many friends that I couldn’t walk to class without having to stop and say hello to three or four new companions. But while many students could pick me out of a crowd, I felt as if not a single professor could remember my face, let alone my name. Besides asking questions about homework or answering a few questions during class, I never had any social interaction with the professors at my school. I felt so disconnected with the instructors that seeing them outside of class inspired the same exhilaration as spotting a rare bird in the wild, as opposed to the comforting feeling of seeing a friendly faces.
That all changed at the beginning of my junior year when a professor I had in previous courses recommended me to become a student assistant for the Department of Journalism. After taking the position, I had the unique opportunity to work right in the heart of the department, all the while spending more time with professors.
I started having conversations with them about topics not listed on my class syllabuses, and realized, shockingly, that professors are real people with real lives. I finally saw the pictures of their children sitting on their desks, their awards proudly hanging up on their walls, the mountain of exams piled on their tables nagging to be corrected. I witnessed what happens after class is dismissed, including professors rushing out of the office to make it to their kid’s swim practice and the camaraderie between instructors as they cracked jokes throughout the department.
After two years in college, I no longer felt like just a college student, but finally evolved into a journalism student. I referred to professors by their first names and often talked to them about current events and emerging media trends. These conversations were at times more interesting and informative than some of the classes I was taking. It was if I was enrolled in a class never spoken about, not one listed in course catalogs, where the only prerequisite was the ability to communicate with my educators. It was an underground education only known by the “brown-nosers” that other students mock. These “brown-nosers” are the students who visit their instructors during office hours and speak to them after class ends. Perhaps what other students don’t know is that these “brown-nosers” are the ones receiving the most imperative lessons, ones that have the potential to mold a student’s career forever, which is exactly what happened to me.
All of these unforgettable moments came to fruition simply because I took the time to socialize with my educators.
Knowing my skills and goals after many chats, a certain instructor encouraged me to apply to become a social media intern for our school’s student union… an internship which I eventually received. This internship opened my eyes to my current passion of social media and helped me network with employers all over Wisconsin.
After I regaled one journalism professor with many of my social media tales, she offered me the chance to become the social media intern for the Department of Journalism. By spending many hours talking to her, she already knew my talents and interests, and felt I was the right candidate for the position. This internship further grew my social media knowledge and made me more confident as an individual, since I often had to give presentations to rooms full of people on behalf of the department.
My last internship position came from, once again, a casual talk with a professor. She was going to document a study abroad trip in China and needed a student to go along and assist her.
“Do you know anyone that would want to do this?” she asked. My eyes instantly lit up and I raised my hand, half-forgetting that I wasn’t in a classroom. Sure enough, my professor and I ventured to China, took photos and videos of the study abroad trip, and even managed to climb the Great Wall.
All of these unforgettable moments came to fruition simply because I took the time to socialize with my educators. I’m terrified to think of what would have happened if I didn’t take that student assistant position or if I hadn’t had the courage to knock on a professor’s door. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them, and my resume would be a whole lot shorter too.
I feel bad for the student who never gets to receive such wisdom from their instructors, who instead get a cheapened education of simply homework and tests. Some of my friends have complained to me about how they can’t find a single professor to write them a recommendation for graduate school, while I know four or five that would do it in a heartbeat.
Even months after graduation, I still talk to my former teachers. We get meals, we swap emails and yes, we even text. They have always been willing to give me career advice and send me job leads whenever possible. No matter how much time passes, I know they will always be the first people to receive a text from me saying, “The interview went great! Thanks for your advice. I really appreciate it.”
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