For better or for worse, most college students, including myself, are eager to learn about their college professors before they meet them on the first day of classes. Most use sites for college students like RateMyProfessor to do their sleuthing. I’ve found that professional social networking site LinkedIn can be an even more useful resource for finding out about your college professor.
While most teacher-ranking websites have content created by college students, your professor created his or her profile. LinkedIn can tell you a lot about your teacher’s career, even though it might not help you learn a lot about his or her teaching style. (I sometimes wonder whether the RateMyProfessor reviews are helpful in that respect. Don’t you get the feeling that a lot of them are written by students who have just received a bad grade?)
You need a LinkedIn account to get all the information on a professional. If you don’t want your college professor to know you’re reading up on him or her, go into the privacy settings and click “select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile” and choose “anonymous.”
If you find your college professor on LinkedIn, look through his or her job history. Last year, I found out through LinkedIn that one of my writing professors had written a very cool book on a natural phenomenon. Not only was I able to read the book — it was a great read — but it gave me an idea of what kind of writer he was. LinkedIn is a great way to see what kind of professional contributions your prof has made, and how much real-life experience they’ll be able to bring to the classroom.
You can also check out your professor’s education. Maybe he wrote his dissertation on a mathematical concept that you’re interested in, or maybe she’s a graduate of your school. If you’re interested in any of the information you find on LinkedIn, pursue it with your professor once the semester starts.
I had a professor who followed my ideal career path, so I met with her during office hours to discuss how she got so far. She hadn’t told us all of her career moves in class — most professors, I find, are fairly modest — so LinkedIn proved very useful in gaining a lot of career insight.
Not everyone is on LinkedIn. Professors who have been teaching at the same school for years might never have needed it. But it’s a great resource for newer professors who often haven’t yet been added to RateMyProfessor. And maybe once you’re done with the class, you can connect with your prof on the social network. Forming professional connections is, after all, what both college and LinkedIn are all about.
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