Word. Friday. Say it Now: “Can I connect with you on…?”

Posted by on Apr 27, 2012 in Communicating with Professors, General | 2 comments

Your campus doesn't look like this?

(Pardon the two days late on my usual Word. Wednesday. post. Being gone all last weekend on the faculty retreat and having a book out there in the world has been a new source of wonderful and challenging in my life. Anyway, I’m combining Wednesday’s usual post with the great day of Friday. Thank you for having some patience with me as I find my groove again!)

What’s the Word? (A phrase!)

“Can I connect with you on…?”

Many of you are coming to the end of school right now. Again, in the Pacific Northwest, our students have over a month left, but that’s beside the point.

(Our summer weather starts almost in September, just so you know! Just kidding… kind of!)

Students, something that you definitely, definitely must do before you leave school is ask any profs with whom you want to stay connected if you can, indeed, stay connected to them… and how you can do that!

Let me tell you why I want you to ask before you just do:

So often, students finish our classes and then they meander over to Facebook or LinkedIn and send us a Friend request or Invite.

Not that there’s anything really wrong with that, but I’m of the opinion that you should inquire about your prof’s comfort level with this before you do it. At the least, ask your prof what his/her preferred area for connection is before you just make the assumption yourself.

You already know that your prof can be a fantastic resource for your future. My great buddies over at YouTern once blogged about creating your own Board of Directors. Profs can be on your advisory board for a very long time, but making an appropriate transition to that relationship is key. I’ll tell you how to do that in just a second.

I want to make one other note here: Let’s say that you haven’t connected with a prof in a while; you took her class a few years ago. Now, you decide to look her up on LinkedIn and send an invite to connect.

Look at this from my side: I’ve just received a LinkedIn invitation from a student I haven’t heard from in several years. I have no idea what the student is doing now, what the student did after my class, or how I can help the student network on LinkedIn. These things would be nice to know if the student is going to join my network. At the least, I’d love to connect the dots between when the student left my class and what they are up to now, three years later! And if I can’t place the student, it would be lovely to have a quick refresher of who the student is, when they took my class, and maybe some sort of an identifier about what they did in my class.

Some profs may not feel as I do. Every time I get a LinkedIn request from a former student, this thought always crosses my mind: “I really wish the student would have dropped me an e-mail first to catch up!”

(Colleagues, I fully welcome you weighing in on this… agreeing or disagreeing).

So say this…

Let’s focus on the “before you leave school now” part:

Go to your profs with whom you know you want to maintain a connection. Say:

“I’d like to keep in contact after this class is finished. I was hoping you might serve as a professional resource for me at some point, or I may want to ask you some questions about my major/career (You can even say ‘I’ve enjoyed our discussions’). Would you feel comfortable if I sent you an invitation to connect on LinkedIn?”

You can ask about Facebook, too, but that’s entirely up to you. I would definitely ask first before you simply “Friend,” however. If you don’t feel comfortable asking face-to-face (go for it–the prof won’t bite!–and you are asking to be part of their network, after all), you can put this in an e-mail. But, you know I’m going to encourage you to go for the in-person meeting!

Now, let’s talk about the prof who you haven’t seen in a few years and you want to connect with on LinkedIn. Drop an e-mail or even a phone call (yup… you can make the call or, if you’re in town, go visit!) and say:

“Professor Jones, I took your Intro to Communication class back in 2009. I was in the evening class and you may remember that I did that complex speech on the Federal Reserve. Remember that we brought in the Poly Sci prof to help out with it, but I remember we both agreed that we gained so much additional knowledge about the Federal Reserve! I really appreciated that experience.

Since your class, I went on to graduate with my Bachelor of Science degree. I started working for a small company that makes spatulas. I moved to the South for a while and now I’m looking to move back to the area. I thought you always gave me great advice about my major. I’d like to stay connected with you now that I’m moving back, and I was wondering if I could send you an invite to connect on LinkedIn.”

(P.S. You don’t have to be moving back to the area to reconnect after a long time. I was just trying to make the story a little more interesting. Spatulas… what do you think?).

There! You’ve reminded, reconnected, and requested. Nice work!

Now go for it!

Say it forward!


  1. I’m definitely with you on this – although every professor I’ve wanted to connect with has either sent me a request first or suggested in class that we all connect with her/him to grow our networks, etc…

    I was a Journalism/Public Relations major, however, and the majority of my classes involved “networking” to some extent – so maybe it’s way different in other disciplines!

    • Hi, Lizzie,

      You raise a really relevant and excellent point here: If the prof brings it up in class, then the direct conversation isn’t necessary (but might be nice to have just for that last one to one connection). I wish more profs would bring it up at the end of class. I know I don’t think about it–there’s such a flurry of activity–but I will now for sure!

      Thank you for that valuable add!

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