Get known! Get known… Now!

Attention undergrads!  (And take notice everyone else.)

Don't be an ID number.  Be sure you're a known quantity.

A cautionary tale:

A couple of years ago, I worked with a young man, an undergraduate in a highly competitive technical program at a large university with a reputation for excellence.  When he came to me, as a senior, he was struggling with an interesting issue. 

He had decent grades overall, not superlative, but consistent and respectable.  He came to coaching because he wanted to make sure he gave this last year his best effort.  He knew that his options down the line would be better if he finished strong.  He didn't want to blow it off. 

As the fall semester unfolded he realized that, while he hoped to be hired at the end of the year, he needed to prepare for the possibility that he wouldn't get a satisfactory offer.  For him, the alternative was entering a graduate program.  It was then that a problem was revealed. 

None of his professors knew him well enough for him to feel comfortable asking them for a recommendation!

What happened to get him here?  His courses in his major were entirely large lecture format, with labs and small sections typically led by advanced graduate students.  He didn't have a relationship with any of them beyond a passing acquaintance, perhaps due to occasional meetings to seek clarification during his professors' office hours.

What to do???

Well, I can tell you that the plan we came up with wasn't a great one.  It was too late to make a great plan. Great plans are created in your first years, not your last.

But for what it's worth, here's what we came up with.  First, start making appearances at office hours.  Be prepared enough to ask questions that make sense.  The plan also involved learning as much as he could about the interests of select faculty members, so he could ask them intelligent questions about their work and, perhaps, have conversations about what he could expect for himself in their field.  The truth was that there wasn't much time to work with.  Hopefully, it wouldn't seem too much like he was doing this purposely just to get a good recommendation.

Fortunately for this student, his consistent grades and fine personal presentation was enough to get a good job offer from a recruiter who came to campus.  Whew!  He didn't have to sweat it and only needed to put in solid work for the remainder of the year.

Of course, he was entering a whole new domain.  How would he make his presence known in this new setting?  What connections would he build?  How will he document his successes and what he's learned?  Building connections and documenting his achievements will become important should he choose to, or be forced to, leave his current employer.

Is this also true for you?

Your turn

What are the ways that you are building connections?  What are the ways you are documenting your achievements?

Login and share your ideas! 

-Steve Reiter
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