Wednesday, September 3, 2014

8 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Class

In 24 hours, my Marist College class covering journalism, PR, social media and life will meet for the first time this semester. With the new academic year now underway, here are some thoughts for students on what makes for a great classroom experience.

First, show up. Yes, my class meets at 6:30 p.m. and continues until 9 p.m. and I do not take a break in the middle. However, in all likelihood, you won't be too tired to go out after my class lets out. Heck, at 9 p.m., your evening is barely getting started. I put a lot of effort into each of my class sessions and I expect students to do the same.

Second, pay attention. That means not checking your email, looking at Facebook, or drafting your next tweet, unless it's about something going on in class. It's easy for me to find out whether or not you're paying attention. Just one example. You ask me a question about something someone else just asked and for which I gave a five minute response. There are other ways I know you're not paying attention, but I won't divulge those.

Third, following up on the point above, ask questions or give an opinion. I do not necessarily have to agree with you. We can have an honest discussion and perhaps learn from each other's point of view. However, be prepared to back up whatever point you're making. Your future bosses will expect that, too.

Fourth, hand in assignments on time. Hundreds of students over the past 20 years will tell you that I do not accept an assignment even one second late. A deadline is a deadline. If your boss asks where your work product is and you say, “Oh, I went out last night and didn't get home until 4 a.m.,” have your resume updated. You'll need it.

Fifth, get to know me and allow me to get to know you. You cannot ask me for a reference and I cannot recommend you for an internship or job if you are just a name on the roster, sit in the back, never look up, never speak, never offer an opinion, never answer a question in class, never even say hello or goodnight, or in any other way show you care about what you're suppose to learn in class.

Sixth, do a little bit extra. Are you involved in a club or organization? Write a story for the school paper or write a news release to send to the media. Attend meetings of PRSSA and the student chapter of SPJ. It's not just to pad your résumé. It's an opportunity to give me something to talk about should I get a phone call from a former student to whom you have applied for a job...and whom you don't even know is my former student. And yes, she or he will call me if they even suspect you are or were in my class, whether you list me as a reference or not.

Seventh, when I bring in alumni or bring you to places where alumni work, dress appropriately, show interest, ask questions, network, say thank you at the end and follow up with a handwritten note or an email. I have brought my students to dozens of PR and ad agencies, corporations, newspapers and magazines, even the headquarters of Major League Baseball. When the presenters, nearly all of whom were my students, finish their presentations and ask you a question, please don't just sit there staring at the floor. I'll let you in on a secret. They're evaluating you as prospective new employees. One of them could offer you a job. Treat this as an opportunity to meet an advocate for your hiring and get the inside scoop on a possible employer.

Eighth, stay in touch. I have placed more than 200 students in internships and jobs over the years. I understand I may not be your favorite person. However, if I don't hear from you for three years and you send me an email that only says, "Can you review my résumé?" I will be less inclined to respond as quickly as I do to those who keep in touch with me on a regular basis and don't just write to me when they need a favor.

Are there other suggestions professionals in the field would recommend to current students? Please feel free to comment below.

One last thing...I am so grateful to my former students who approach me with job openings for current students or recent grads as a way of saying thank you for helping them. Students who graduated 5, 10, 15 years ago are now in positions where they can hire and they remember when someone helped them. Now they want to pay that back. I tweet those openings and put them up on LinkedIn and Facebook. Some draw a lot of attention while others are ignored. Whatever the result, I ask my former students to keep sending those openings to me. You know I will only send and recommend someone who has done the things I mention in this post, those whom I know will succeed and not disappoint you. Thanks for giving back to your alma mater and those who follow in your footsteps.

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