How to Build Social Capital with a Professor

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Going to college is correlated with higher incomes, better health, longer marriages, increased housing and food stability, and generally a stronger sense of well-being. Thousands of Americans enrolled in college currently know this to be true and are approaching their education as more or less an extended job training. A recent survey found that an estimated 43% of undergraduates emerge from this training and find themselves underemployed. Imagine spending upwards of $40,000 on learning a trade and not being able to find a job. This is happening to thousands of graduates every year. Perhaps one way to stem the tide of 20-sometihngs returning home to reclaim their childhood bedroom is to increase the social capital our college graduates possess upon graduation. Estimates vary, but it is clear that today when folks get hired it is far more a result of who they know and not what they know. Getting to know your professors and building mentor relationships with them can produce opportunities for job and other recommendations. These types of benefits are shown to increase potential for finding work among recent graduates. Below, we lay out three ways you can build social capital by working with a professor that are relevant for anyone taking classes in vocational or academic fields.

(IN CLASS) Ask questions when available: As a former professor myself, I can honestly report that I enjoyed many an “office hours” in solitude eating handmade sandwiches and watching Netflix documentaries. It was when students came to me during office hours or spoke to me before or after class that demonstrated a connection to the material and motivation to succeed. It isn’t always easy for everyone to put themselves out there like this, and it is certainly not without risk. If you are currently taking a class with a professor you want to network with, my advice is to prepare a few questions about the course material, a job opportunity, research project, or otherwise related to the course you are taking with them and plan to ask them when the time is right.

(ON CAMPUS) Take feedback well: Nothing is more frustrating than receiving critical feedback on a project that is the product of significant effort. Using feedback to improve on practice or product is an important part of the faculty-student relationship, and it goes both ways. Do not waste your…

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Chicago Education Advocacy Cooperative

Serving the needs of racialized and minoritized students in Chicago since 2020. www.chieac.org