Best to start on a positive note… I always make time to talk to students if I can. They might be individuals I’m assigned to teach or supervise; they might be others from my university, or students from elsewhere. If I can, I’ll answer your questions. Normally that’s where it ends. But I was particularly pleased to receive one hand-written thankyou card through the post; given that most contact is by phone and by email / blog comments, this stands out. Well done Ciara – and thank you.
Now for the negative. I’m also happy to provide references for students and graduates – I’m keen to watch your success in the workplace. But it’s time-consuming for me to respond to requests from those I don’t know well, or barely remember having taught several years before. The answer? If you want me as a referee, try to maintain some form of relationship. This might involve an email updating me on your career and your aspirations (particularly at the point where you’ve applied for a job you really want); you could add me as a friend on a social networking site (I’m on LinkedIn, PROpenMic, Facebook); you might even consider sending an old-fashioned card (see above). Christmas is the conventional time for this.