Virginia Alumni Mentoring (VAM) Overview for Alumni

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. 

Here are a few of the benefits of joining:

  • Develop meaningful relationships with current UVA students
  • Share your industry-specific knowledge
  • Support current UVA students with choosing a major, engaging in student organizations, and exploring career paths of interest
  • Help UVA students unlock their potential
  • Learn from your mentees
  • Build coaching and leadership skills
  • Add volunteer experience to your resume to continue YOUR professional development

Time Commitment & Mentorship Options

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).   

Both options can develop into longer-term connections for students and their alumni mentors. Sessions should be conducted virtually through phone, email, Skype, or other messaging platforms.

Most students will reach out for an initial one-time conversation, so a typical first engagement could be a 20-30 minute phone conversation with a UVA student where you will share your journey from UVA to your current career. Beyond this initial connection, you get to decide the amount of time you would like to invest in the relationship. We recommend working with the student to find a balance that works for both of you. 

Registration Process 

Complete your profile at https://alumnimentoring.virginia.edu/. Current UVA students will be able to see the information you provide in your profile. We recommend you upload a friendly photo and fill out your entire profile to encourage students to connect with you. 

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.

    Frequently Asked Questions 

    What does mentorship look like?

    A mentor is defined as 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 they are pursuing and the knowledge of what it takes to get there. The more experienced mentor draws upon their knowledge, skillset, 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 their own learning while a mentor asks thought-provoking questions that help a student gain insights for making informed career decisions and taking appropriate steps.

    How are the mentoring pairs made?

    After students enter their mentor preferences (industry, personal interests, location, etc.), the software's matching engine presents students with an anonymous list of alumni sorted according to how closely the alumnus/a matches the students' criteria. Students can then request a potential mentor from this list, who then has the opportunity to either accept or decline the request. There are a number of criteria available to use in searching and narrowing down the selections, and students are welcome to conduct multiple searches and bookmark results until they find the right match.

    What kind of activities should I expect to do while participating in VAM?

    Activities are determined by mutual agreement between the alumni mentor and the student mentee. They can include anything from helping to look over a resume to providing insights on how to maintain a good work-life balance. Virginia Alumni Mentoring is designed as a resource for helping similar-minded students and alumni to find each other. The actual nature of the mentoring relationship, however, will be up to students and alumni to determine and develop individually.

    What do I do if I haven’t been contacted by a student?

    Thank you for your patience! We appreciate you! If you haven’t been contacted by a UVA student, here are some best practices that will increase the likelihood that a student will reach out to you. Make sure you:

    • Upload a friendly profile photo
    • Complete your profile with work experience, education experience, and hobbies/interests
    • Set your profile to be visible to students
    • Fill out all of the onboarding questions so that the PeopleGrove algorithm can connect you with students of related interests
    • Check your email spam folder for any potentially lost messages 
    • Join a Group related to your interests/industries
    • Check out the VAM platform (PeopleGrove) Discussion Tab and respond to any student questions

    If you have already completed all of these steps then let us know if you would like your profile featured on social media or in one of our weekly career community emails to students. Contact us by emailing mentoring@virginia.edu.

    Do I need to meet in person?  

    No, you are not required to meet in person unless you and the student would both find an in-person meeting beneficial. Most conversations occur virtually, although there have been great stories of in-person interactions that strengthen the mentoring relationship. The University is not responsible for any activity outside of the VAM program should members choose in-person meetings.

    Can I initiate connections with UVA Students?

    No, we highly encourage students to initiate connections with alumni. If you would like to be more involved in supporting UVA students, please contact us at mentoring@virginia.edu.

    How do I report inappropriate interaction?

    Click the red Report User button in your inbox in the message thread with the person in question.

    What does a successful connection look like? What types of questions do students ask? 

    Success varies depending on your and your mentee’s goals. The most important step is to make an initial connection and get to know each other. Then, you and your mentee will collaborate to agree upon your personal definition of a successful relationship.  

    Students may ask a variety of questions related to making the most of their time at UVA and how to prepare for the future. Common questions include:

    • How did your major prepare you for life after UVA? 
    • What is your current role like? 
    • What would you recommend your mentee do to best prepare for life after UVA?
    • What are some things you wish you had known when you were a student? 
    • What’s the best way to explore and gain experience in your industry? 
    • Are there any people or resources you recommend your mentee explore to further their development?

    What If I’m temporarily unavailable?

    If your availability changes, you can update your availability and/or hide your profile through the PeopleGrove platform! See this help article for details.

    What do I do if a student stops contacting me?

    Thank you for caring about your mentee! Sometimes UVA students get very involved in on-Grouds activities and forget about their resources outside the University.  We recommend you check in with them if it has been a while since you last heard from them. 

    Can I get a mentor as an alumnus?

    Our Virginia Alumni Mentoring community currently focuses on engaging UVA alumni that are willing and able to support UVA students.  If you are interested in connecting with fellow alumni, we recommend joining UVA Alumni Career Services’ Alumni Industry Networks.

    Who sees my rating?

    UVA staff that manage the Virginia Alumni Mentoring community see the feedback ratings you give to students.  Students cannot see this feedback. 

    More to Explore Columns: 
    Employer Relations - Recruit at UVA
    Employer Relations - Recruiting Calendar
    Resource - Virginia Alumni Mentoring

    More to Explore

    David Lapinski, Director of Employer Relations and Experiential Education

    UVA offers a wide variety of large career events to meet the needs of organizations recruiting UVA students. 

    Connect with alumni for insights about the process of choosing and starting a career in their specific field.