iSchool Career Newsletter, 8/19/2015

Career Newsletter


Finding a mentor can be a valuable tool to help you grow and learn professionally. Not only can mentors share knowledge and skills with you, but they can provide social and personal support. Here are some steps to get you going on finding a mentor: 

Ask yourself what you want in a mentor. What would you like help with? Mentorship can mean many different things. Is there a particular part of professional development you are seeking advice with? Maybe you are looking for more general advice on what to do during your first year at the iSchool. Perhaps you are from a different state or country and are looking for someone that can share advice on adapting to a new culture. Thinking about this question first will help you get started out.

How to find someone. Think about where the person could be now that you are looking for. Maybe it’s an upperclassman within the informatics program you can directly reach out to or have a friend-of a friend introduce you. Perhaps you are looking for someone with a bit more industry experience–it could be your professor or your professor’s friend or past co-worker they could connect you to. Or maybe it’s a professional that is working in the industry you see yourself in 5 years from now. If you can’t think of any 1st or 2nd person connections, here are some options that can be used:

Contacting potential mentors. Once you find a potential mentor, reach out and ask if you can meet up with them for 30 minutes or so to get a chance to learn about them and other questions you have. Do not directly ask, “Will you be my mentor?”  These things often form more naturally and start off with a more informal conversation that can develop into a mentorship. One example of someone seeking a professional development mentor:

Hello David, I came across your information in the Husky Career Network and saw that you are working at Intel as a Data Scientist. As a current UW student studying data science, I was curious if I could grab a coffee with you to ask you about what it is like going from a UW student to a full time employee at Intel. It would be great to hear any recommendations you would have for someone like me that wants to get into this field of work.”

As a student seeking a mentor, you should expect the bulk of the work establishing a meeting time and working around the mentor’s schedule. Remember, they are volunteering their time to meet with you. If you are meeting with a stranger, make sure to do some research on their background or company and have a small list of questions prepared you would like to chat with them about. If the meeting goes well, this could be a person that you continue to check in with or ask for advice down the road.

Think about ways to give back. It’s not just a one-way street, both people should be offering something to this relationship. This could be as simple as checking in and telling them how things are going for you and how you are using their advice. Others have said they will offer small things for their mentors, such as helping them find a babysitter for the weekend. Try to think of creative ways you can give back to them.

Mentorship has many forms and often times grows organically from your connections. I’ve never officially said “you’re my formal mentor” but have found mentorship through seeking help in the ways that are mentioned above.

-Dean Kirkpatrick



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