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The Correspondence Process

Stay organized

Create a folder in your e-mail account dedicated to sent and received messages from mentors. Be sure to save all correspondence with your mentor, as you may be asked to periodically forward your most recent exchanges. This will be part of the program evaluation, and may be requested from you at any time during the academic year.

Touch base with us

Let us know how your correspondence is going. We’re interested in your experiences and any feedback you can provide to improve this program. Even comments that might seem insignificant to you might be very important to us.

Things you can discuss with your mentor:

In the early stages:

  • Discuss your background to find out if it fits with your career choice, e.g. do you require further education, and if so, what kind?
  • Ask for advice on how you can market your skills/experience in your field of interest, e.g. what experiences should I emphasize when I am applying for a job?
  • What words or ideas should I remember when I talk to people in this industry?
  • Ask for advice about graduate school application or academic careers, if you see this as a direction you want to go in. Learn the realities of building an academic career.
  • Talk about the changing workplace: dress code, corporate culture, challenges in starting out, developing a career in the field.

Mid-way through the program:

  • Ask your mentor to describe how the actual workplace or graduate experience compared to his/her expectations as an undergraduate.
  • Discuss how these expectations have changed and discuss how to deal with the transition from undergraduate to graduate school or the workplace.

Toward the end of the year:

  • Ask for a critique of your résumé or grad school application.
  • Arrange for any future follow-up.
  • Ask for referrals and any recommended readings.
  • Discover the workplace. If possible, arrange for a tour with your mentor.

Some suggested topics for discussion with your mentor

  • How to prepare for the transition from student life to the work-world or grad school
  • Finding out about your common interests and hobbies
  • Asking about the important challenges in your mentor’s professional life

How to make your relationship a success

Finally, these are a few tips that will make your mentorship long-lasting and interesting. Remember to:

  • Relax and approach your mentor like a colleague. That way, you won’t be intimidated and your mentor won’t be on a pedestal.
  • Keep in mind that different individuals and professions may have different customs when it comes to communication. Your mentor may prefer a phone call, and may respond well to a polite voice mail. Or, your mentor might find it much easier to interact by email. It’s good to try a few communication methods, and settle on what works best.”
  • Ask a lot of questions, that way you will get your answers.
  • Establish an excellent reputation by sticking to your commitments, meeting your regular correspondence requirements and saying thank you, in person and with a thank you note, once the program is over.
  • Be flexible – although your mentor may not match your career expectations exactly, he/she will be a good listener and a valuable source of advice and recommendations.

Some ‘extras’

Additional ideas for maximizing the mentor relationship:

  • Always call or e-mail to convey your thanks within one business day of meeting with your mentor. Express your appreciation for their time and how the meeting has been a benefit to you.
  • One of your three face-to-face meetings is meant to be a visit to your mentor’s workplace. If this is possible, based on schedules and access, you must advise the department if this takes place.
  • e-mail an article that might be of interest to your mentor.
  • Include in your e-mail messages any news of your most recent successes (on a mid-term exam, extra-curricular activity, etc.).
  • At the conclusion of the program, send your mentor a formal letter of thanks or – better still – a handwritten thank-you card. This gesture reflects thoughtfulness and appreciation of your mentor’s time, effort and willingness to help you out.