Virginia Alumni Mentoring (VAM) is a virtual community that fosters relationships between UVA alumni and students. Students reach out to alumni through our PeopleGrove platform to spark these connections. UVA alumni in this community share their knowledge and experience to help current UVA students make the most of their time on Grounds. They also help UVA students explore and prepare for life and career after UVA.
Virginia Alumni Mentoring (VAM) Bridges Projects
Launched in the fall of 2020, the new Virginia Alumni Mentoring (VAM) Bridges program is an initiative to connect UVA alumni and students through project-based work. Alumni post short-term, well-defined projects that students can complete in 1-4 weeks. Students gain real-world project experience that they can put on their resumes. Learn more: https://career.virginia.edu/VirginiaAlumniMentoring/Bridges.
VAM is a community with individuals from all different professions that have specifically said that they want to connect with students. This makes it a wonderful place for you to build your network by connecting with and learn from UVA alumni about their journey post-UVA.
Some of the benefits of membership in VAM include:
- Gaining in-depth knowledge about a specific industry or career field
- Developing skills and confidence in cross-generational communication
- Expanding your range of career prospects and strategies
- Receiving feedback on job and internship materials and personal brand
- Having regular opportunities to discuss career issues in a safe environment
"VAM was so helpful in charting what a career in advocacy looks like day-to-day. I was able to connect with alums across the country doing such valuable work in grassroots organization and advocacy. They were able to describe what their organizations do, what their work looks like in particular, and how I can gain valuable skills myself. It was so influential in deciding what type of career in public service I wanted." - Jessica Meyers, Economics and Women and Gender Studies ’21
"I found a mentor in NYC who was working outside of the architecture major path to explore my options. I’ve reached out to her a few times over the last year and a half to ask for a resume review and to critique my portfolio website. She has been helpful and encouraging rather than intimidating." - Genesis Rodgers, Architecture ’21
Creating a new VAM account is simple - especially if you already have a LinkedIn! When you go to the VAM homepage, click on the orange “Join the Community” button and you will be given 4 login methods. Make sure to use the Netbadge login. Once you have successfully logged in, you will be able to create an account and set-up your profile. If you already have a LinkedIn, you can download your profile and upload it to VAM for an easy and quick profile set-up.
Remember, your profile does not have to be perfect when you sign-up. Don’t let an incomplete profile keep you from using VAM! Have questions on how to set up your profile on VAM? Make an appointment with a UVA Career Counselor through Handshake.
VAM offers two options for students and alumni to engage:
- Flash-mentoring is the most common form of engagement and 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. Students can initiate this option by requesting a virtual meeting.
- 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).
Students and alumni have wonderful stories to share about their Virginia Alumni Mentoring and Bridges experience! View our Gratitude Stories page to learn more about the impact that a mentor can have on your professional journey!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I connect with an alumnus in VAM?
Making your first connection on VAM is fairly simple. You can use the Network tab to search for alumni based on interest in a specific industry, major, firm, etc. Once you locate an alumnus, you can hit the “Let’s Connect” button on their profile and request a semester-long mentorship or a one-time conversation. You can use VAM’s template or create your own to send a message.
What information am I sharing when I sign up?
Information from SIS, including your major and graduation year, is auto-populated into the VAM profile. In creating a profile, you are able to share additional information, such as involvements at UVA or industries of interest, but what you include is up to you. This is your public profile, so you can choose what information you want to share. However, the more complete your profile, the easier it will be to find and match with alumni who have similar experiences/interests as you.
How do I search for alumni to connect with?
There are many ways to search for potential alumni connections on VAM. First, we recommend that you fill out the matching quiz as thoroughly as possible. This will help VAM search for potential connections that best match your interests and needs. Some other ways to search for alumni on the platform include:
- Using the “Network” tab at the top left of the screen. Here you can search using keywords, majors, location, industry experience, and more! You can also star different alumni as you search, to make it easier to find them later.
- Join a VAM Group. You can join different groups based on interests and career communities. Every UVA Career Community has a group on VAM to help connect students and alumni with similar career aspirations to one another. There are also groups for different UVA organizations, like Echol Scholars, McIntire School of Commerce, Virginia Athletics, and Madison House.
What is the anticipated time commitment?
Flash-mentoring is the most common form of engagement and 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. Students can initiate this option by requesting a virtual meeting. 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). The semester-long mentorship will inherently take more time and commitment than the flash mentoring, but we recommend that students and alumni establish goals and guidelines upfront to determine how much time they plan to invest throughout the semester.
How many messages should I send/connections should I make?
With the options of virtual meetings or sending a message, you can create one-time interactions with multiple messages to initiate the call and follow up afterward. With a semester-long mentorship, students and alumni interact from 3-5 times per semester, typically with multiple messages for each interaction.
Whenever you decide to reach out to alumni, make sure to have a reason for connecting. Take some time to read an alum’s profile and prepare some questions that you would like to ask them. Remember, our alumni are volunteering their time, and we want to respect that. Do you have questions on how to navigate the mentoring relationship? Read our page on mentoring and virtual networking page to see some helpful guidelines!
I’ve connected with an alumnus – what should I say and how do I prepare?
Preparation is key! By doing research and preparing questions your conversation will be more meaningful and thoughtful. When preparing, think about your goals for the conversation and come up with some questions, but keep in mind that it may flow in a different direction! It helps to research the alumnus on VAM or LinkedIn prior to the call. Not sure where to start? Take a look at the Career Center’s guide to informational interviews for tips!
What do I do if the alumnus hasn’t responded?
Alums choose to be a part of VAM because they want to talk with current UVA students. On average, alumni respond to 66% of messages received. If you reach out to an alum and they do not respond, they may just be very busy! After a few days, it is appropriate to send a follow-up message. If after 7 days you don’t hear back from your requested mentor, we’ll cancel the request so you can request someone else. If you’re still having issues, feel free to reach out to at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I have to meet in person?
Students are not required to meet in person and are encouraged to take advantage of VAM’s opportunities to connect virtually, such as the tools to schedule a phone or video calls.
I just graduated, can I serve as a mentor?
Yes! We would love to welcome you into the VAM community as a mentor. All VAM student users will be shifted out of their student profile shortly after graduation. At that point, you can create a profile as a mentor.
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.