Whether you're a college student or a recent graduate, establishing a strong professional network and finding a mentor are essential steps toward building a successful career. A mentor not only helps you with networking but also provides valuable career support and guidance. The 2018 Gallup Alumni Survey revealed that college graduates with mentors are almost twice as likely to be engaged at work.
Students can connect with potential mentors in various ways, including talking to faculty members, on-campus supervisors, and academic advisors. Many educational institutions offer formal mentorship programs aimed at increasing retention rates, academic achievement, and career exploration. These programs can be particularly beneficial for specific student groups, such as first-year students, first-generation students, and students of color, as they offer tailored support.
In this article, we'll explore the importance of mentorship, how to find the right mentor, and how to make the most of this valuable relationship.
Having multiple mentors can be highly beneficial. Consider these five types of mentors that can support you during your college years and career:
Not every individual is well-suited to be a mentor, so it's essential to identify mentors who possess the following characteristics:
To find a mentor in college, take advantage of the following resources:
A first meeting over coffee or a short video call, is low commitment for your target mentor and will give you an opportunity to better understand them, gauge your chemistry, and see if they'd be the right fit for you. When seeking a mentor, make sure to have a clear goal and start with informal conversations.
You can use this template for initial outreach:
I hope this message finds you well! I recently saw your [include something relevant and specific to them, i.e., project/award, etc.]. I am reaching out because I want to learn more about your career journey and gain valuable insights into [specific topic or industry].
[Optional: Provide a brief introduction about yourself, including your current background or career interests, to give the recipient context about your request.]
I would love if you could spare some time for an informational interview, either in person or via a convenient virtual platform, at your earliest convenience. I am particularly interested in understanding:
I am very flexible with the format and timing of the interview—if you're open to an informational meeting, please let me know a date and time that works best for you.
Thank you for considering my request, and I look forward to your response. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.
[Your Contact Information]
After your meeting, follow up with a thank-you email sometime within the same week. In your message, share a few key things you learned during the conversation and let them know you'd like to follow up in a few weeks:
We recommend sending something along the lines of:
Dear [Name of the Person],
I wanted to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude for the informative meeting we had earlier today. Your willingness to share your knowledge and insights was incredibly valuable, and I truly appreciate the time and effort you dedicated to our conversation.
I gained a deeper understanding of [specific topic or subject discussed], and your expertise provided me with valuable insights that will be instrumental in [mention how it will be helpful in your future endeavors or decisions].
If it's okay with you, I'd love to touch base in a few weeks. Thanks again for your insight!
After 3-5 weeks from the initial thank-you note, it's time to follow up again. Share with them how you've implemented the insights gained from your initial meeting. Let them know that you've taken their advice to heart—maybe you dove into the book they recommended or a TED talk they raved about.
Now, the million-dollar question: Would they be up for another meeting within the next few weeks? Instead of sending a formal agenda, keep your communication light and casual. That being said, it's still a good practice to jot down any topics or questions you'd like to discuss and include them in your email when you reach out. This way, you can ensure your conversation remains focused and productive.
We've seen great success with sending an email along the lines of:
I hope this message finds you well! I wanted to follow up on our last conversation regarding [i.e. the podcast] you recommended. I just listened to it and found it fascinating, especially [mention something specific]. Thank you so much for suggesting it!
On another note, I've been contemplating [something you want advice on, i.e., taking a specific class/adding something to your portfolio, etc.]. I'd really appreciate any insight you might have; maybe we can discuss it at our next meetup.
I know you're busy, but let me know what your schedule is like these upcoming weeks, and hopefully, we can find a time to meet up. I look forward to catching up!
So you've found the right mentor. Now what? It's important to make the most of your mentorship:
In your professional journey, think of assembling a personal mentorship dream team instead of relying on just one mentor. Diversity in mentorship can be your greatest asset; each mentor brings a unique perspective and expertise to the table.
For instance, one mentor might be your go-to for leadership insights because of their experience as a supervisor. Another could be your go-to for honing technical skills, especially when you're eyeing a career change. And then there's the mentor who knows your skillset inside out and could potentially become your career sponsor in the future.
There's no hard-and-fast rule for the number of mentors you should have as you progress in your career; it's about quality over quantity. Even if a formal mentorship arrangement concludes, keep these mentors in your circle, and share your accomplishments and challenges with them. They can continue to provide valuable guidance when you're navigating uncharted waters. Plus, knowing they've contributed to your career journey is a win-win that fosters deeper connections.
Mentorship is a powerful tool for personal and professional development. Finding the right mentor and nurturing the relationship can greatly impact your career success. Be proactive, maintain clear goals, and express gratitude to make the most of this valuable opportunity. Whether you're a college student or a seasoned professional, mentorship is a path to accelerated growth and achievement.