Few titles confer as much credibility as “professor.” Being chosen to teach a subject, especially by an established institution, signals that you’re a recognized expert in your field. For entrepreneurs and small-business owners, that credibility can create a host of benefits: The media is more likely to want to interview you, sales are easier to close because your professional standing has already been established, and your students and academic colleagues become a potential referral source. If you've thought about teaching others the skills you've mastered, now may be the time to take the next step.
Survey the Possibilities
Start by making a list of possible teaching opportunities in your area. Perhaps there’s a business school or community college that offers classes in your industry. Maybe there’s an adult education center, or community center like the YMCA or JCC, that offers workshops. Now go online or pick up a catalog. Do they offer classes similar to what you’d be interested in teaching? If they never offer business courses, it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that you can persuade them to try it. But if they do have some relevant offerings, they’re likely to be open to a conversation with you.
Explore Your Connections
Program coordinators are often deluged with resumes and applications to teach. You can make sure yours stands out by obtaining a personal referral from someone you know who works for the organization or already teaches there. (LinkedIn is invaluable here.) Even a tenuous connection may be all you need. My only link to Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business was a former colleague who had gotten her MBA there 10 years prior. But she had maintained a relationship with the admissions director, who was willing to speak with me and refer me to the relevant dean. I’ve now been teaching for Fuqua for several years.
Prepare Your Pitch
Almost all academic programs will require you to submit an up-to-date CV; it’s worth getting yours ready, so you’re able to submit it quickly when they ask. It’s helpful if you have an advanced degree, but the lack of one certainly isn’t a deal-breaker if you have solid professional credentials.
Plan Your Syllabus
Writing up a detailed course syllabus takes a lot of time and thought; I wouldn’t recommend doing this until you’ve had a conversation with the relevant administrators to see what type of courses they’re interested in. (They may want you to teach an existing course, or invent a new one based on your area of specialty.) However, it’s worth coming up with a few rough ideas about what you’d like to teach. To get a sense of what they’re looking for, examine their course catalog and identify existing courses that you’d be qualified to teach (Introduction to Marketing, for instance) and a few that aren’t being offered, but might be a good complement (such as Introduction to Social Media, or Marketing for Nonprofits). During your exploratory meeting, you can find out where their needs lie.
Teaching in your field lends professional credibility, generates new business connections and is a fulfilling way to give back. Following these steps will help expedite your path to the front of the classroom.
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and the forthcoming Stand Out. You can subscribe to her e-newsletter and follow her on Twitter.
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