Why Should You Go to Office Hours?

Confident Professor at BlackboardIt’s that time of year when college students are returning to campus, settling in with all the friends they haven’t seen in a few months, and hitting the malls for all of their back-to-school needs.

In the meantime, faculty are scrambling to put together their syllabi and plan the first days of class.   And just in time, José Bowen published this post urging faculty to include an eComm policy in their syllabi: “Second Impression: The eComm Policy Over Office Hours.”

Bowen offers a series of excellent concrete suggestions to help faculty design policies in time to include the specifics in their course syllabi.

Faculty should endeavor to meet students where they are, engage with them on media with which they are most comfortable, and embrace this generation’s tech savvy tendencies.

But students: DON’T let the excellent professional development opportunity that is office hours pass you by!!!  If you think professors’ office hours are scary, just wait until you have a job interview and your professional future depends on the outcome.

The stakes are low on campus, you need the practice, and this is one professional development opportunity that university life serves up on a silver platter.

So put “office hours” on your to-do list once or twice a semester.

Here are some of the things you can practice that professors won’t care much about (no matter if you succeed or fail):

first impressions: Make eye contact, offer your hand to shake (web to web, firm but not vice grip, just long enough to introduce yourself), smile

body language: This is much the same as first impressions, but pay attention to your arms and hands–don’t cross your arms or flail them all around. Don’t bounce your leg up and down.

engaging with your audience: For the few minutes you are there, don’t multitask. Keep devices secured in your backpack.

have questions prepared. Office hours can be preparation for the “do you have any questions for us?” that is always, always, always asked in a job interview.

You don’t want to ask stupid, obvious questions that you could have found the answers to on your own (who would hire someone that wasn’t more resourceful than that?) and you don’t want to have nothing at all to say (why else visit office hours?).  

Prepare a question or two about some aspect of an assignment, lecture, or topic related to the course. Run an idea for your final project by the professor.  Share the resources you’ve found for your research paper and ask if you are on the right track. Ask for an explanation of a tough concept that you have some grip on, but wish you understood better.

It should be something that you would theoretically  ask in front of the whole class if the opportunity presented itself. Indeed, appropriate questions will likely pop into your head during class so write them down and follow up in office hours.

don’t say too little, don’t say too much. This makes every job interview “don’t” list. You don’t want to ramble and take up more time than has been allotted, but you don’t want to seem like you’re not really interested.

For similar tips on professional development while on campus, see my post “Are You Prepared for Your Most Important Presentation: The Job Interview?” and my Facebook video tip on networking.

Darcy Lear is a Chicago-based career coach specializing in training students to highlight their language studies so they standout in the job search and workplace. For one-on-one coaching or to set up a workshop, contact Darcy: darcylear@gmail.com
This entry was posted in Career Advice, interview prep, Networking. Bookmark the permalink.

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