Professional Tip of the Day: Learn People’s Names

This is something you can practice a lot while still in college.  Make a point of getting to know the names of all your professors and classmates. It will make a huge difference in your professional life to be “good” with names.  Why?

1) Networking. Knowing your classmates’ names is exactly the same thing as networking in a professional context.  You need to know names and a little something about someone because you never know when you might need that connection (or be able to serve as an important connection for another person–networking always has to be two way).

2) Context. Knowing a little about someone adds an important layer of context and that will help you remember names.  As an instructor, I find I can almost always remember students’ names while in the classroom, but when I see those same people “out of context” elsewhere on campus, it is harder to remember names. So I try to picture that person in a familiar context: which classroom, which building, which course, the classmates.

3) Forgetting important names is bad. Nothing’s worse than going to a professor’s office hours or needing a reference from a professor and not remembering his/her name. Ugh!

Add Spanish! Since I teach Spanish for the Professions, I have to add this bonus item. Practice your Spanish language and strategies while you’re at it:

1) Me llamo vs. mi nombre es…,  When learning people’s names, always remember that “me llamo…” literally means “I call myself…” So you can ask:

  • ¿Cómo se llama?  (answer: Me llamo…) OR
  • ¿Cuál es su nombre? (answer: Mi nombre es…)

But don’t mix those two up.

2) take control of the conversation by using simple strategies. For example, instead of asking for a repetition of a name you don’t understand, ask very specific questions that genuinely help you get the information you need:

  • “¿como se escribe?” OR
  • una letra a la vez, por favor

3) Practice spelling & alphabet skills. No matter how advanced, these basic skills are something all second language learners need to practice constantly because, as with numbers, those are areas where we default to native language during most of our lives.

Final tip: If you have trouble remembering names, here is an article with 5 Tricks for Remember Names .

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