As previously stated, some professors are rather poorly connected with the work world outside campus. However, there are two types of professors who have impressive external contacts, some of which you may not be aware of at all. But you should be.
Remember the apple on the desk routine that some kids went through back in second grade? Well, that technique of endearing oneself to the teacher may have lost some of its luster in the collegiate world, but its value has not diminished. There are several professors on your campus who are able to help you tremendously in your job search if you are willing to reach out to them.
The first type of professor network contact is the Company Connection professor. This professor usually is a department head or teaches some of the required courses for upper level students. The professor may teach the capstone class for the major or may be involved in academic advisement within the major. The key is that companies (such as ours) will target this professor as their campus connection, the one who will steer them to the "prize students" and, as appropriate, steer the prize students to us. Many companies spend a great deal of time and energy cultivating these relationships. It may be with more than one professor on larger campuses, but at some campuses all students are required to go through a particular professor's capstone class. And that professor usually has an excellent feel for who will be the outstanding hires from the upcoming graduating class.
The other type of professor who can assist greatly in your job search is the Company Consultant professor who spends time consulting with outside companies. Ever notice how vacant the campus becomes during summer? Where do you think most professors go? Off to terrorize nine-year-olds as a counselor at some backwoods summer camp? Unlikely. Most are either doing further academic work or are consulting with businesses. Those who are consulting are likely to be very well connected. And they are often willing and able to help those students who seek out their assistance in job search.
Yes, professors can help you move forward in your job search. But you must make the first move.
So if you thought that your profs were merely a sideline distraction on your way to your future goal of work, you may want to reconsider your teacher-student relationships. You are being evaluated from the moment you set foot on that campus. All of your contacts can be potentially helpful or potentially damaging. Treat all people with common courtesy and respect. And it does not hurt to put an apple on the desk (figuratively) of the professors who teach the upper level classes. Most professors develop a personal relationship with less than 10 percent of their students. Please include yourself in that 10 percent with all of your professors, especially those who are well connected. Developing this personal relationship is as simple as participating in class and stopping by their office during open office hours. Attempt to learn more about the subject than what is taught in class. Attempt to internalize the classroom information so that you can better understand its practical work world application. And attempt to develop a relationship with your professor above and beyond the lecturer/notetaker passive model many students accept as the norm—not just as a selfish ambition for using the professor in your job search, but because you sincerely want to learn more about the subject and the profession.
This contact alone could pay off enormous dividends in your job search. Yet that is merely a by-product of your taking the time to develop personal relationships with your professors. If you do so, you will greatly benefit. But it is up to you to make the first move. Your professors will not typically come looking for you. You must go looking for them.