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Friday, June 25, 2021

Letter to the Editor: The Human Connection

As many students prepare to graduate this spring, or sometime in the near future they will reflect upon their college experience, the new friends they have made, connections with professors, and current or future employers. Covid-19, no doubt has had an impact on the ability to make new connections and even continue old ones. Hopefully this will all go away soon, and we can all get back to life before March 2020. 

Everyone has had to adapt to this new world and the restrictions it has placed on us. Classes are being held virtually and Zoom is one of the new platforms for enhancing the human interaction that has virtually been lost due to this new world we currently live in. 

For now, we must all adapt and learn to succeed with the tools we have been given. Remote work will probably not be just a thing in the past, as employers and schools find new ways to allow flexibility and/or reduce costs by allowing remote participation. In light of these changes, we must not forget the importance of and relevance of the human connection.  

It’s important to get to know people. Friends, professors, employers, and especially graduate/professional school admission advisors and committee members, for those who desire furthering their education. 

Go to office hours even if, or especially if you are a good student. Get to know your professors outside of class. Whether it be in person, via Zoom or on the phone, the connections you make can help with letters of recommendation for your future. 

Get to know advisors for graduate or professional schools you are applying for. You can read about everything that is required for admission, prepare diligently for and apply to get into the school of your choice, just as you did when preparing for admission to UW Madison as an undergraduate. However, your future success depends on doing more than this.

Advisors from the respective schools you are applying for have a lot to offer. They can guide you on your path to your future dreams, give you advice and serve as a connection between you and hopefully your new school and future career. You are intelligent and can figure most things out on your own. Almost everything you need to know is on-line. But it takes human connections to really drive your future success. So, even if you think you have done everything right, there may be that “one” thing you are missing that an advisor can point out or help you address that can make a difference in whether you are accepted or denied.

If that connection with an advisor can be made in person with masks on, that would be best. But in this current world we live in, a phone call or Zoom meeting is still a great way to communicate. Email may be okay once you have made that “human” connection for future communication, but the first impression should be made by one of the first options (in person first if possible, then Zoom, then by phone). 

Before Zoom and all of this, I used to reach out by email to business prospects at a former employer. When I would go to my boss to discuss the future prospects (who were all over the United States) and discuss the business prospects, he would ask me if I called them or emailed them. When he learned that I emailed them (it’s just easier), he would sternly scold me for failing to reach out “in person” with a phone call. He obviously knew something that I didn’t.

Looking back at my own path to success at UW Madison, I realize that the professors and advisors I interacted with “in person” were instrumental in helping me get into the school and profession of my choice, a pharmacist. In fact, I don’t think I could have done it without them. The human connection is essential for success.

We are all connected in some way or another. The classmates, friends, friend of a friend, and college club/meeting members you have met, may be your future employers or employees. The bonds and relationships you form now will continue throughout life. Having graduated from UW a while ago, I now have the perspective to look back and reflect on how my own career has progressed. The students I once worked with and gave my best as a leader to, are now some of my current colleagues and one is even my current boss. 

I encourage you all to expand your network of connections. Reach out in person to professors, advisors and anyone else you can make connections with. Apply for a summer internship. Request an opportunity to shadow someone who has your dream career. If your first job is not the one you were hoping for, work in one that could serve as a step that will lead to the career you really want.  Your college success and resume are only one part of achieving the career of your dreams. The other part is the human connection.

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“It’s not just the grades you make – it’s the hands you shake.” (Anonymous)

Mark Jacobs RPh ‘87

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Mark Jacobs

Mark Jacobs RPh '87

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