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Before the Initial Contact

Read this handbook

Familiarize yourself with the aims and objectives of this program. They are often the same aims and objectives that you will need to be successful in the workplace or in graduate school. But remember this program cannot get you a job or into research. It can, however, give you the skills you need to find your way on your own.

Make your first impression a good impression

You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. When sending the first e-mail to your mentor, be professional in your spelling, composition and phrasing. Typical text or e-mail slang and abbreviations are not acceptable. When meeting your mentor for the first time, you should be on-time and prepared. Preparation may include googling your mentor to find out what they do, and making a short list of questions you may have. If the meeting is in-person, you will need to think ahead about how to get there and to find the correct office, in order to be on time. If the meeting is virtual, using video-conferencing software, you should think about your audio and video appearance. Make sure ahead of time that your speaker and microphone are working well, and that you don’t have anything distracting or inappropriate in your background.

Establish specific goals

Make sure you have a clear and specific idea of what you want to achieve before you contact your mentor. We have suggested some questions in the handbook to help you get started on this.

Respect your mentor’s time and schedule

Your mentor is giving their personal time to help you. It’s important to show your understanding and appreciation by using this time effectively and being conscientious about your correspondence. As well,

  • Be willing to tell them about yourself, i.e. your current coursework, extra-curricular activities, hobbies, etc.If you are making a phone call, manage your time so that you are able to sit in one place and focus on the conversation. Do not call on your cell phone while running to and from classes or while in the car/bus/bike.
  • Make phone calls during regular business hours (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday), unless otherwise specified by your mentor.
  • Allow your mentor enough time to respond to e-mail or voicemail before following up.

Establish rapport

Be prepared to tell them about who you are. Be similarly ready to find out who they are, what their Physics experiences were like and answer any questions they might have about current undergraduate courses in the department or about U of T in general. (If you don’t know the answer, find out and get back to them. Don’t make things up.) Allow your mentor’s responses to guide the tone and nature of future meetings, e-mails, and/or phone calls.

Ask questions

Show a sincere interest in what your mentor has to share with you and offer your supportive comments on what you are hearing. Don’t forget to draw your mentor out with open-ended questions that get you closer to finding out what you are looking for.