“Being allowed to teach what I’ve learned about entrepreneurship and business to my students over my long career has been one of my greatest honors and privileges.”
I am almost done with my 16th year of teaching at The Sam M. Walton College of Business at The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. And while currently – thanks to COVID-19 – we are struggling (with some successes!) to give our students all they are paying for, being allowed to teach what I’ve learned about entrepreneurship and business to my students over my long career has been one of my greatest honors and privileges.
Many of those working in architecture and engineering firms have the opportunity to teach. The typical principal, according to Zweig Group research, travelled only two days a month prior to COVID-19. I would guess that is even less now. I haven’t been on a plane once since February. But my point is that if you did want to teach, odds are that you could fit it into your schedule. I teach my classes at 6 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday nights.
If you have an advanced or terminal degree and have a chance to teach at the university level, I highly encourage you to try it. There are so many benefits of doing so. Here are some of them:
- It makes you relearn the basics of your discipline. I can’t tell you enough how going back to some of the basics I learned in college and grad school has been good for me. Everything has so much more relevance than it did way back when I was in school – and let me add that I had much more work experience by that point than most people my age, having worked since I was 12 or 13 for multiple businesses and in my own small businesses. Organization theory, finance, accounting, marketing, and more – there’s so much relevance and value in re-exploring these subjects that you would have to get a lot out of it you can apply to your own business. Teaching makes you go back to the fundamentals of whatever your discipline is.
- It forces you to stay current. Students expect you to know what is going on in your field so you have to keep up. That means you need to constantly study what is happening in your field so you can bring the latest information to your students and are prepared to talk about it when asked to do so.
- It makes you organize your thinking. Getting ready to lecture for two and a half hours really makes you think about how you will communicate the stuff you feel is important for your students to know. The logical sequencing of topics so the knowledge you are trying to impart makes the most sense will force you to organize your thinking, and that will make you better at everything else you do.
- It makes you a better presenter. One thing I have certainly learned is you can’t be boring if you want to maintain the attention and interest of your students. I always try to introduce drama or humor into my talks to keep my students engaged. I also think very carefully about who I will introduce to them as guest speakers and try to only bring in people who not only have a lot to offer but whom can also maintain the attention of their audiences.
- It is energizing. There is something about spending time with younger, positive, motivated people who have the bulk of their lives ahead of them that gives you an energy boost. Maybe if more older people taught they would be less critical of the next generations coming up from behind them and get a new appreciation for what these younger people have to offer. I really draw on this energy and it gives me a new personal sense of possibility – something that is very important to maintain if you are an owner in any kind of business enterprise, but especially an A/E firm.
- It’s a recruiters’ dream. I have most of my students for both of the classes I teach. That gives you two semesters to see how studious they are, how disciplined and reliable they are, how well they can present, and perhaps most importantly, how well they can work in a group setting. What a great opportunity that is for you to identify strong entry-level talent for your business!
- You will learn from your students. Hearing all of their stories, seeing their projects, reading their papers, and forming relationships that outlast the college experience with your students is a great opportunity for you to learn from them. Some of my students stay in touch with me for years after graduation. One of my former students started a business that one of my sons-in-law works for. Another former student who owns his own business lives right next door to me. We regularly talk shop about what he is going through. There are many others who keep me learning.
- You are giving back. As you get older, giving back gets more important to you. I was the beneficiary of a great public university education that cost me a lot less than it cost the State of Illinois to provide it to me. Being able to give back so others have the same (or better) opportunities than you yourself had is very rewarding psychically.
So what are you waiting for? Is it time to contact the deans of your local architecture, engineering, science, or business schools to see how you may be able to teach a class or two? I can assure you that even if the monetary compensation seems low, the other benefits of doing so will make it all well worth your time!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.