June 24, 2013 by Bill Johnson
Keeping in contact with professors as an alumnus can be hugely beneficial for your future endeavors. College professors are excellent connections to have for job hunting. Most professors are well-known and respected among their industry colleagues, so receiving a glowing recommendation from an old professor could lead to an offer at your dream job. Aside from these career-related motives, professors are also simply great people to get to know since they are so passionate and knowledgeable. And now that you have graduated college, you are no longer barred by the social constraints of the student-professor relationship, which often obstructs the formation of personal relationships. You now have the chance to become friends with your favorite college professors. Staying connected with college professors can sometimes be difficult since they are incredibly busy people but if you are able to win even a small chunk of their time, the benefits can be extraordinary. Here are some useful tips for staying in touch with your old college professors.
1. Bring up a relevant subject: For better or worse, your old college professors are going to remember you primarily as a student. So as you are fishing for things to say when reaching out to them, consider mentioning something relevant to the course that you had with them. This could be an article or book that you read that ties into the professor’s field of study. You could also check up on what your professor has been doing since you graduated; perhaps he wrote a book that was published or conducted an academic research study. Bring this up in your reaching-out letter. Your professor is sure to appreciate that you have noticed his recent accomplishment.
2. Be straightforward: Whether you are seeking a recommendation or looking to grab coffee with your professor, be straightforward about it in your initial email or letter. It’s in bad taste to go back and forth catching up with your professor just lead up to a “by the way, could you write me a recommendation letter?” Your professor will be much more inclined to write you a recommendation if you immediately state that this is why you are contacting him. As mentioned before, professors are busy people and they do not want to waste their time sending catch-up emails to someone who is not genuinely interested in catching up.
3. Be sensible: Try to make a judgment of whether or not your professor truly wants to stay in contact. If your professor replies quickly with a seemingly genuine interest in what you’ve been up to since graduation, it’s a good sign that he wants to keep in touch. If a professor is brief and half-hearted in his response, it’s best not to drag on the conversation and close it with a friendly, conclusive email. Don’t take a professor’s lack of enthusiasm as a personal matter; it’s probable that he just doesn’t have much time to keep up with many students. If your professor doesn’t reply at all, don’t nag him trying to get a response. Drop the cause and try reaching out to another professor instead.