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A simple tip for college students and graduates who want a job

Business leaders have long talked about what they want and need in the new workforce, from technical skills to problem-solving ability to creativity. But I have a simple tip for young people currently in community colleges or universities that may help them even before they join the workforce: Get to know your professors.

Two recent incidents brought this home for me.

Earlier this summer, I received this email from a student I don’t know:

“I just graduated with a finance major from Boise State. I understand you help students find jobs. Please help me.”

I wrote, “Sorry, but finance is not my area. Please talk with your finance professors. They will know which organizations are hiring, what areas might be good for you or how to improve your resume.”

His response? “I do not know my finance professors. Could you please introduce me to some?”

My response: mouth open, hanging on the floor.

The second incident happened several weeks later. I met a woman who graduated from Boise State in 2003. She had a professor who is one of our top teachers and scholars. She talked about his fabulous class and how he helped her navigate the university’s course requirements so she could finish in a timely manner. I told him about her, since even professors like positive feedback. He remembered her quite well, more than a decade later.

What’s the difference in these stories? One student made the effort to get to know her professors. One was afraid to or just didn’t take the time. And that can make a huge difference.

Our job — as teachers — is to help students succeed. So I encourage students to use professors’ office hours — dedicated time each week where the professors sit in their offices, just waiting to help. It’s a time for one-on-one contact with an expert in a topic who wants you to understand (and perhaps fall in love with) that topic.

It is also a chance to ask for advice about coursework and majors, and even for tips on future careers and being part of “the new workforce.”

Nancy Napier is distinguished professor, Boise State University, This column appears in the Sept. 21-Oct. 18, 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on human resources and workforce development. Click here for the e-edition (subscription required).