It may sound counterintuitive, but being a young college student opens many doors, professionally speaking. On top of companies eagerness to take on college interns, many successful professionals are willingness to offer mentorship to college students. Today, Ill teach you the following:Why professional mentorship is importantHow to contact potential mentorsWhat questions to ask during a coffee chat/callIll also discuss the basic etiquette associated with these chats.
This advice comes from the experiences of two members of Sigma Eta Pi at UCLA: Jill Tiutan, a designer and startup co-founder, and Nishanth Shetty, a financial services analyst and markets enthusiast.Why Should I Seek Mentorship?You might think to yourself: why would a busy, successful CEO want to help me?
Well, in fact, older professionals love to help college students they were in your shoes once, and they know how important their advice can be for a younger person with less experience. Answers they could provide include:What a specific career path entailsHow to introduce a new product into a specific industryHow your major affects your future careerThat doesnt mean theyll help just anyone you definitely need to do the heavy mental lifting yourself first. Fortunately, Im going to show you how to present the best possible version of yourself.
Using these techniques, youre bound to get great advice from some seriously impressive people.So, before you begin reaching out, how do you even know what you need help with?Before You Start: Use the HIRED FrameworkKnowing what advice to seek becomes much easier when you understand the gaps in your knowledge.
To find them, Nishanth recommends filling out a 5-column chart of your Hopes, Interests, Results, Experiences, and Drivers. Identifying the important moments in your life and knowing how they shaped you, he says, is key to presenting a full picture of yourself.Write whatever comes to mind first, and prune later.
Remember that for a college student, its OK to still be figuring your professional roadmap out! If you havent worked many jobs, use past experiences in projects and classes as reference.Having a clearer idea of your future path makes it much easier to find professionals who can be helpful.
Interested in product management? Search LinkedIn for PMs at local companies. The Internet is your best friend.
Once you know who you want to contact, there are three key steps for a solid chat: Cold Emailing, Chatting, and Following Up. Lets dive in.Step 1: Cold Emailing The cold email is your first impression so use it wisely.
Id recommend the following:Introduce yourself as a college student. Remember, being in college is your golden ticket to a higher response rate. Also include your interests and involvements to make yourself memorable.
Explain why you want to talk to them specifically. Generic emails suck. Do your research (LinkedIn, personal website, etc.
) and pinpoint their specific experiences that suit them to answer your questions.Boil down the advice youre looking for into one major question. Youll probably only have time to nail a short list of specific conceptsasking a specific question in your email gives your interaction purpose.
Make your intention clear. Explicitly state that youd love to grab coffee or hop on the phone sometime.Respect their busy schedule.
They arent obligated to give you any of their time, so definitely mention how thankful youd be. Include your contact information in your signature. Email and phone number.
Jill recommends sending emails in the morning to appear at the top of peoples inboxes (theyll also have more energy to work so theyll be more inclined to respond quickly). And dont be afraid to follow up if you dont get a response! It may seem annoying, but its actually common professional practice to send a brief, courteous note after one week, and one more a week after that.
Step 2: Chatting At this point, you have a clear vision of the amazing professional youll be someday. Youve sent a killer email that sells yourself well and explains what youre looking for. And youve just scheduled coffee with someone.
Now what?Well, youve already done your research and reflection, so all thats left is thinking of questions to ask. Nishanth recommends having evergreen questions suitable for anyone, such as: Whats the most useful piece of advice youve received?
Can you tell me about your life journey? How have your past jobs shaped you? What are you currently obsessed with?
These can all help you glean valuable personal insight.Besides that, build questions from the professionals industry and background, and formulate some around any specific advice you might be looking for. Other than that, youre pretty prepared!
When you arrive at that Starbucks or call their office, just remember to smile and be yourself.Here are tips to make your conversation smoother:Take notes. People genuinely appreciate feeling heard, and notes help you remember their words and write effective thank-you emails (more on that later).
Talk about yourself. Share your goals, interests, and uncertainties as you go, so that the other person gets to know you better. Make sure the conversation is two-sided!
Be OK with sounding dumb. Jill says not to be afraid of admitting you dont know somethingyoure not expected to be super professionally well-versed. Be engaged.
Let them know youre listening with eye contact and occasional mhm/right/sures, and contribute your insight when you can.Ask what you can do for them. Jill explains that youd be surprised how valuable your network and skills can be for someone else.
If not now, then maybe down the line theyll think of you. Above all, just let your story, personality, and curiosity take center stage. You got this!
Step 3: Following Up So, youve gone through the hard part, and now its time to seal the deal. Remember, youre not networking, youre building a relationship. Within a day or so, send a short email thanking them for their time and advice.
Subtly imply future interaction if you wish to pursue the relationship, and include a few takeaways from the conversation. Additionally, connect with them on LinkedInthis is 100% appropriate!Besides that, Nishanth recommends using non-invasive updates over time to continue fostering the relationship.
After acting on a recommendation from the professional or reading an article they sent, sending a brief update on what youve learned sparks new conversation and shows commitment.ConclusionWell, thats it! Over time, youll gradually become more comfortable and skilled at these conversations but for now, good luck!
Have any questions? Feel free to contact Jill at du or Nishanth at . Also, check us out if youre interested in entrepreneurship and fun times: uclasep.
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