By: Rachel Bills

Your parents weren’t fibbing when they said college goes by in the blink of an eye. When you start preparing for the transition from the university bubble into the work force, one thing that can make the process a lot smoother is a mentor (a working professional in your area of interest). They are far more connected and experienced than you, plus they have practical experience. The reasons why a mentor is valuable are too many to count, and more often than not, they remind you how hard it is to leave college and start your career. They will be able to offer you advice and guidance while you make the transition from student to working professional.

Here are 5 tips to help you find and keep a mentor…

1.      Do your research- Don’t just email someone at random because they have studied the same subject as you, or you think they may have free time. It’s best to create a list of possible mentors that have specific experience in your field, are actively involved in the community, and have forged a path you would like to follow. Once you’ve narrowed down a list of possible mentors, research their backgrounds, accomplishments, work history, companies they’ve worked for, and professional groups. This is all easy to find on a LinkedIn profile. You want to learn as much as you can so when you reach out to your potential mentor so they will know you are serious about meeting with them.

2.      Draft a killer first email.  The first time you contact your potential mentor will most likely be via email, so be mindful of spelling and grammar. You want to show that you take the mentor-mentee relationship seriously, and nothing tarnishes that quicker than sloppy grammar issues. Keep your email short and straight to the point. This makes it easier for your mentor to read, digest, and reply to. You will also want to explain who you are in a brief sentence. (“My name is Rachel Bills, I am a senior at GVSU with an interest in working in corporate communications…”) You should also mention what you hope to gain from meeting with them, i.e. a mentor-mentee relationship. Be sure to reference the research you did on them, and explain how this relates to your current journey. Finally, thank him or her at the bottom of the email. You want to make sure that you show your mentor that you’re appreciative of their time, and you take this seriously.

3.      Be considerate. Once you’re in contact with a potential mentor and they have agreed to meet with you, you want to make sure you accommodate their schedule. They are the one bringing most of the value to the table; therefore it is your responsibility to be flexible with scheduling. Prioritize their time and avoid having to consistently reschedule due to conflicts on your part. Be prepared to move appointments or social gatherings around in order to meet with them.

4.      Follow up. Always be sure to send a thank you email after you’ve met with your mentor. As previously stated it’s extremely important that you’re mentor feels appreciated and knows you are taking this relationship seriously. In your follow-up email, always reference things you discussed in your meeting, and be sure to remind them of any connecting they have agreed to do for you. They are most likely extremely busy, and will need to be reminded every so often.

5.      Follow through. When a mentor suggests you join a certain group or volunteer with a certain organization, be sure to follow through with their suggestions. They are taking time out of their schedule to help you and the best way to show them you appreciate it is with your actions. When they connect you with a colleague, they trust you to represent them, so don’t forget basic manners. Mind your P’s and Q’s-this is how you make and keep connections that you will need in the future.

Mentors are a great way to learn and grow as a future professional, and someday you may be given the opportunity to mentor someone, so don’t forget to pay it forward!

 –Written by Rachel Bills, Talent Experience Coordinator at Spectrum Health, PRSSA VP of Programming