Mentoring

Mentoring is a structured, one-to-one relationship or partnership that focuses on the needs of mentored participants by:

  • Fostering caring and supportive relationships.
  • Encouraging individuals to develop to their fullest potential.
  • Helping an individual to develop his or her own vision for the future.

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Virginia Alumni Mentoring (VAM)

VAM is a program that connects motivated and career-focused students with alumni who have volunteered to provide insights about the process of choosing and starting a career in their specific field. 

VAM offers two options for students and alumni to engage. Semester-long mentoring provides students with consistent 1:1 coaching and support from a VAM mentor to reach career exploration and/or job search preparation goals (12-week time period).  Flash-mentoring allows students the ability to engage in one-time chats with multiple alumni for informational interviewing about an industry, functional role, major selection, graduate school perspective and more.  Both options often develop into longer-term connections for students and their alumni mentors. 

VAM is a virtual program and provides students and their alumni mentors a structured means of initiating and maintaining a professional relationship to discuss career interests and topics of professional preparation.  Together, students and alumni mentors develop goals for their regular sessions.  Alumni mentors provide invaluable insights about their own undergraduate experiences, career progression and current work which supports students in navigating their career exploration and goals for their intended career paths. 

VAM is a partnership among the College of Arts & Sciences, the UVA Career Center and the UVA Alumni Association. Piloted in 2013 by the College Foundation, it has been expanded through support and funding from UVA Career Center, the Alumni Association, the Provost's office, the Dean of Arts & Sciences, and the College Council.

mentoring@virginia.edu

A Mentor is...

A mentor is a mix of coach, leader, advisor, counselor, teacher, guide, and friend. A mentor provides a mentee with a taste of the real world in the career he/she is pursuing and the knowledge of what it takes to get there. The more experienced mentor draws upon his/her knowledge, skill set, and perspective to provide guidance and feedback while facilitating the professional development of a less experienced mentee. A mentee takes an active role and responsibility for his/her own learning while a mentor asks thought-provoking questions that help a student gain insights for making informed career decisions and taking appropriate steps.

Benefits

  • Gain in-depth knowledge about a specific industry or career field
  • Develop skills and confidence in cross-generational communication
  • Expand range of career prospects and strategies
  • Receive feedback on job and internship materials and personal brand
  • Build confidence and motivation to achieve goals
  • Learn how to navigate challenges and move forward professionally
  • Have regular opportunities to discuss career issues in a safe environment
  • Gain an appreciation for mentoring as a professional development tool

We look forward to your involvement in the Virginia Alumni Mentoring Program.


Mentoring Discussion Topics

Unsure of what to discuss during your mentoring sessions?  Here are some ideas to get you started.

First Meeting

Use the following to learn more about your mentor. Refer to the questions and suggested topics, but also allow your conversations to progress naturally. 

Introductions

  • Briefly share your personal and professional history, and discuss your UVA experiences.
  • Establish rapport by identifying points of connection and exchanging information.
  • Organizations/activities involved in at University of Virginia
  • Highlights of your college experience
  • First job/first position expected following graduation
  • Favorite place on Grounds or UVA tradition 

Set Expectations

  • Discuss how often you would like to talk. 
  • We suggest 2-4 times per semester, or at least 1 meeting per month.

Discuss Expectations and Mentoring Goals

  • Work with your mentor to clarify the career-related topics on which you most desire advice.
  • Establish goals and a timeline for completing those goals. Agree to modify if necessary.
  • What do you want out of the mentoring partnership?
  • What does a successful mentoring relationship look like?
  • How would you describe each of our roles?

Planning Communication

Take a few minutes to set mutual, realistic, and achievable communication expectations for your mentoring partnership.

  • How much time can you realistically commit to communicating each time together? What is the best time of day for you to connect?
  • What is the best method of communication for your partnership? Is it email, online chat, telephone, Skype or a combination? What do you prefer?
  • Consider times of the year when you anticipate being very busy with academic, work, or personal commitments.
  • Set a time and date for your next meeting
    Make sure to exchange relevant contact information. You may want to briefly follow up with your mentor via email after your first meeting to thank him/her and remind each other what you decided. 

Mentee Discussion Topics

Need some suggestions of discussion topics? This list of questions will help you connect with your mentor. Remember to focus on their personal experiences rather than generic information about their job or company.

Career Related
  • What have been the highlights of your career so far?
  • What do you like most about the company?
  • Why did you choose to go to Company XYZ?
  • Why did you choose to come here over the other options you had at the time? 
Job Focused
  • How would you describe the culture of the company? 
  • How is it different from other companies in your industry or those that you’ve worked for in the past?
  • Can you describe your typical day or week? 
Company Focused
  • What were the biggest challenges in your first year of work?
  • What would you change about the company? 
Future Focused
  • Do you have any recommendations about how I can prepare for and succeed in interviews with your company?
  • Are there any other people you would recommend that I speak to learn more about this role/industry? 

Mentor Discussion Topics

As you get to know each other, you and your mentee will discuss many topics related to career preparation, your personal and professional backgrounds and goals, and strategies for preparing to enter the professional world.  If you need ideas about how to proceed beyond the initial conversation, here are some suggestions to keep the relationship moving forward.

Tell Your Story - Professional

  • Discuss your educational background and the role that education played in your transition into the professional world.
  • How has your industry and position changed in the past 3-5 years?
  • Share information about current trends or emerging issues in your field.
  • Give tips or suggestions for preparing to work in a professional environment, from your personal experience.

Tell Your Story - Personal

  • Share how you have balanced personal life and career and what to expect.
  • Discuss what you would do differently in college if you had a chance to start over.
  • Talk about how you have dealt with personal or professional challenges during the course of your career.

Building Connections and Networking

  • Introduce your mentee to colleagues or other alumni contacts.
  • Talk to your mentee about professional associations, networking groups, or other affiliations within your field.
  • Guide your mentee in professional etiquette and how to conduct an informational interview.

Internship and Job Search Advice

Graduate and Professional School Experiences

  • What influenced your decision to attend graduate/professional school when and where you did?
  • Share what you learned about navigating your graduate studies.
  • Discuss how graduate school is different, and how you worked with advisors.
  • Describe how you prepared for your transition from graduate student to professional.

Tips for Mentees

Having a mentor can be great. Here are some tips to start off on the right foot. 

  1. Have realistic expectation
    • Realize that a single mentor relationship is not designed to satisfy all your career and professional needs.
    • Stay focused on the agreed goals and respect your mentor's limited time.
    • Be prepared to ask for specific advice on your skill set, ideas, plans and goals.
    • The more specific you are, the easier it will be for your mentor to respond.
  2. Be curious
    • Have an open mind to allow yourself to explore careers and industries with your mentor.
  3. Don't get discouraged
    • The early stages of a mentoring relationship can feel awkward. Starting any relationship takes time and patience. Remember, you are developing competencies that are essential in professional networking and relationships.
  4. ​Be considerate
    • Be prompt for all meetings whether by Skype/FaceTime, phone or other means.  If you need to reschedule, give plenty of advance notice.  Meet your mentor's expectations for communication tone and style. 
  5. Be appropriate in your requests of your mentor
    • Your mentor is not responsible for finding you a job or internship. While they may end up helping with your search process, this is not their primary function.
  6. Keep the content of discussions within the mentoring relationship confidential
    • Discuss communications confidentiality with your mentor - both personal and professional - and their expectations of you.
  7. Express appreciation
    • Let your mentor know when he or she has helped you, and express appreciation for this guidance. Take the time to send a brief handwritten note of thanks to your mentor at the conclusion of the mentorship. Stay in touch afterwards with occasional updates and sharing your successes.

Introductory E-mail

What to include

  • Who you are and what you hope to grain from a mentoring relationship
  • Thanking them for agreeing to be your mentor
  • A couple of sentences about your background, such as your year in school, major, jobs or activities--keep in mind that they have already viewed your profile
  • Asking for the best time and way to talk (phone, Skype, Google Hangouts, or another means)

Example

Dear _____:

My name is ______, and I received your name from the Virginia Alumni Mentoring Program. Thank you for accepting me as your mentee. A roommate of mine participated in the program, and she recommended that I sign up because her mentor helped her explore career goals.  I am a third year majoring in psychology. Outside of classes I volunteer with the Adopt-a-Grandparent program through Madison House. I am also very involved in undergraduate research in the psychology lab on Grounds, primarily helping with behavioral testing models.  I signed up for the program because I am interested in learning about the rewards and challenges of working in a non-profit organization, and how I can best prepare to work in that environment while at U.Va.  The Virginia Alumni Mentoring staff suggested that the first step is for us to talk over the phone or via Skype and to establish goals for the semester. I look forward to hearing from you to arrange a time to talk.

Thank you again for agreeing to be my mentor.

Sincerely,


Tips for a Mentor

    1. Actively listen to the needs of your mentee and keep communication open
      Clarify and restate your understanding of what was said.  We all can recall times when the subtle tones and cues of a message were misinterpreted when speaking on the phone or in an email message.
    2. Help establish goals
      What do you and your mentee hope to accomplish?  Set up realistic timelines for project milestones.  Are the goals SMART: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and timely?  
    3. Give constructive feedback
      Mentees are in this program to learn and grow from your own experiences - the good, the bad, and perhaps the ugly too.  By assessing your feedback, the mentee gains independence and develops critial thinking.
    4. Offer comments that are specific and honest
      Address strengths and positive attributes as well as areas for improvement.  Let your mentee know if you think the relationship needs to change, due to shifts in his/her needs, pressures on your time, etc.
    5. Stay positive and encouraging
      The early stages of a mentoring relationship can be awkward and communication a challenge.  Acknowledge that a significant goal of VAM is for students to develop competencies in navigating professional networking and relationships.
    6. Play a role in mentee's career development
      Talk about your mentee's accomplishments and how this will translate into success in the real world and careers of interest.  Provide ideas and avenues for testing career interests and gaining experience. 
    7. Offer constructive insights and ways to build upon his/her strengths
      Suggest relevant readings and activities to enhance his/her personal and professional growth.
    8. Uphold professional standards
      Establish a relationship of respect and trust.  Appreciate and respect the differences between you and your mentee.  All of your exchanges with your mentee - both personal and professional - are subject to the expectations of professional confidentiality.
    9. Learn from your mentee
      Acknowledge and reflect on the stresses your mentee faces as well as the attitude that reflects his/her generational approach.  Through your role as mentor, you may gain insights relevant to hiring practices and communicate more effectively with millennials in your personal and/or professional life.

    What is NOT Expected of Me as a Mentor?

    • Mentors are NOT expected to offer jobs or internships to their mentee.
    • Mentors are NOT expected to ask their mentees to perform work for their organization.
    • Mentors are NOT expected to have all the answers. The UVA Career Center is a valuable resource to assist students in their career and professional development. Please refer students to the Career Center for further help and guidance as they navigate their career paths.
    • Mentors are NOT required to meet their mentee in person. Alumni from around the world are encouraged to participate.

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