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How to Network and Build Your Brand on Syllabus Day

By: Alan J. McMillan

OK, first day of class and it is time to review the syllabus.  A quick lesson:

  • Your personal network can change your life/career
  • Building your network is intentional and you have more ‘networking events’ than you recognize

The professor reviews the syllabus on the first day, the same drill at campuses all over the world. Then, the student who is on the ball and playing to win asks, “Will we be having any guest speakers this semester?”

Professor: “Sure, I am planning to bring in two or three.”

Student: “Are they booked yet?”

Professor: “Two are, why?”

Student: “Can you tell us who they are and when you plan on having them in class?”

At this juncture the professors want to know what you are up to, “May I ask why you are asking?”

Student: “Well, I know you would only bring in an overachiever to lecture. So, I would like to Google them, get prepared, and on the day they speak, I would like to dress up because I am representing this class and our school.”

Wow, two things happen:

First, the professor realizes you are a standout student. Perhaps you are one of the students they love to teach. A student who is striving to maximize their learning environment. The professor is impressed and looks at you with positive expectations and it is only day one. But be careful, you have shined the spotlight on yourself. So this semester it is time to deliver, but you have set the stage well. You stand out and you have enhanced your personal brand.

Second, you are setting yourself up to expand your network. On the day of the guest lecture, you are prepared: 

  • You have Googled the guest
  • You have one or two great questions or comments for when you meet in case you need them or that prep helps when it comes time for Q&A
  • You dress business casual
  • You show up ten minutes early for class
  • When you meet them, you shake their hand and have something intelligent to say
  • You get their card
  • After class, you thank them in an email for coming and reference something that you learned
  • You also tell them you will be connecting to them on LinkedIn
  • You send a LinkedIn invite
  • You have access for life

Well done. Your network expands.

Why is this important?

  • First: Your professor does not bring in slackers to lecture, they only invite accomplished people.
  • Second: This contact must be in your field of potential interest because you are taking that class.
  • Third: You are forming the habit of great networking. As this becomes second nature, your reach and influence will grow and serve you well.

Two final points:

  • Every guest lecturer wants to do well and probably they don’t speak often on college campuses. You were prepared and made them feel welcomed and put a bit of wind to their back right before they went on with your class.
  • You made your professor look good too. You helped them to enhance their brand in that their guest was treated great and you represented her class well.

Did you email your professor, thank them for inviting the guest and connect via LinkedIn?  Get to work.

Again, well done.

For a deeper dive into topics like this, check out LearnEarnRetire's course offering here.


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