One of the greatest assets at Wharton are our professors. That may seem obvious – they produce leading research and lead great classes for our benefit. But they don’t just teach; they consult, too, and have a huge number of professional connections out there in the “real world”.
And they don’t just teach in the classroom; they’re available to mentor in independent studies (ISPs), or informally on projects that you’re working on. Here’s how to get the most from the professors at Wharton:
ISPs are a great—and in my opinion, underutilized—way of getting specific training in an area of interest. For instance, I knew that I wanted to “skill up” in the area of turning a technology into a product; I wanted to learn how to run focus groups and run conjoint surveys, and then turn that information into a marketing plan.
No single class at Wharton teaches this exact set of skills, but I knew there had been students that had done similar ISPs in the past, and that through an ISP I could work on commercializing a real technology (in this case, a sleep therapy algorithm developed at Penn Sleep Center).
Lucky for me, I had a good relationship with a marketing professor—Eric Bradlow—that had run a similar independent study in the past. I set things up with him before I left for the summer, and our first focus groups are this week!
You’re likely to have specific things you want to work on. Maybe it’s a set of skills, like me, or maybe it’s a project for an outside company—or maybe it’s your own company—and an ISP with a professor you know well is a great way to do that.
Your professors are some of the leading lights in their field. Their expertise is routinely sought out by the private sector. Some of them primarily work outside of Wharton and teach here on the side. Either way, these people are connected!
For example, my current career-plan is to start a freelancing business doing contract marketing analytics. I shared my plan with Professor David Bell (for whom I TA’d the MKTG611 course) and he immediately set up me up with three contacts! Good relationships with professors can unlock these networks for you, whether you’re looking for a job, a client, information, or something else.
How to Create the Opportunity
Be an engaged student who contributes to class and then take the initiative and reach out to your professors. Being a good student has a big upside here. Go take advantage!
Posted: October 21, 2015