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What is the best way to build my network and find a mentor in my field of study?

I am an undergraduate student looking to expand my network and find a possible mentor - someone I can whose mistakes I can learn from and who can show me how to navigate the field as a graduate (which I will be in 2021)

#JULY20 #networking #mentorship

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Subject: Career question for you

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Casey’s Answer

The easiest way to network is to leverage the natural network your university creates for you. Reaching out to fellow graduates across varying degrees of seniority would be extremely helpful. Recent graduates (past 5 years) can offer insight into their job search, those who are middle-career (5-15) can discuss how their career has changed and where they see themselves headed, and those who are deeper into their career can offer broad insight into industry, career paths and progession, and are likely hiring managers themselves. LinkedIn is an excellent resource to identify the alumni in your specfic field of study and determine what impact that has had.
Thank you comment icon This is very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question, I appreciate it. Blessing A.
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Bill’s Answer

Hello, Blessing. I have just a short addendum to the previous fine answers.

At your university, look into developing a relationship with the professors, instructors, and perhaps technicians or other adjunct individuals in your field of study. Ask for an introductory office meeting, explain your needs, and ask for their experiences and recommendations. If they mention a name of another person and recommend you follow up with them, do that and report back the results. (Important note: If the reference was a dud, do not criticise the reference, but rather clarify what you are looking for: "I had an interesting talk, but what I was really hoping to learn was..." etc.) Re-visit (personal office visit if possible, next best may be a video meeting, third, a phone call) once a semester at least, to see if your contacts have fresh insight for you, and, more importanty, to keep your name and needs before them.

I suggest that mentoring relationship focus on gathering as much knowledge and insight about a career in your field without/before thinking about applying for a job: what it is like, what skills are most useful, what career paths your mentor sees, what future developments in the field might bear watching, challenges, achievements, and frustrations of current projects - what it is like to be on the inside, lessons learned thus far in their coareer, who else they know [networking!] who can help you further round our your insights, what pitfalls to avoid, etc.

When you get to the point of looking for a job, I have found that recent graduates from the same university who are enjoying their work will usually go out of their way to say a good word for you with their management when a suitable opening arises, or they may even offer to initiate creation of a new position or internship just for you, because of the common bond of the university. If you are already mentoring with them, they will often have a good feel for a job "match" for you even before you ask.

Be confident. As you soak up wisdom from your mentor(s), your confidence in yourself and your capabilities will keep increasing. Assume there is a place for you in your chosen career field, and with some networking help from good people, you will find it sooner, rather than later.
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Chau’s Answer

There are a few ways you can try:

- I found my mentor through a mentoring program from school, which lasted for a whole academic year and she introduced me to so many other great professionals (more connections!). So reach out to the school advisors and ask them for resources, especially the career advisors! They usually maintain great connection with the school alumni, who are often more willing to mentor and answer your questions.

- Definitely check out the groups on Meetup and attend virtual events that are related to your major or interests. There are a lot of groups out there that meet virtually and mostly, they would invite speakers/professionals in the field to join. I would recommend getting involved and connecting with them on LinkedIn after the event, then inviting them for a virtual 'coffee'. Your purpose is to get to know them and build a relationship so just be clear about that :)

- LinkedIn connections - you can absolutely find the people that inspire you on LinkedIn (because of their career path, current position or achievements, etc.). You can send an invitation to connect with a note (this is important). They need to know why you want to connect with them so a clear message about who you are and why you want to connect is a must! And certainly, you don't always get a reply back and that is okay!

- Also, try to find a volunteer work that is related to your area of interest if you are not already working. It is a very great way to meet more professionals and also give back to the community. It is definitely a plus on your resume as well :)
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M’s Answer

Hi Blessing, this is a great question! I saw you mentioned that you are pursuing your undergraduate degree. I would recommend that depending on the field that you are in, find a club that you can associate yourself with. This is a great way to not only learn more about your field and put yourself in a room with like-minded individuals, but it will allow you to hopefully find a group of peers that you can learn from, assuming you are in the beginning of your undergrad. Furthermore, don't be afraid to ask for advice, in my experience people enjoy helping others. Hope this helped, good luck Blessing!
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Karla’s Answer

This is a fantastic question. I think that everybody should have a mentor to guide you on the specific situation. First, decide what is exactly what you need. Do you need a mentor for professional advice, for managing daily life activities, or so.

- A good source is to start with somebody at school: that Professor you admire or your career advisor, etc...
- You can also pick somebody that you trust outside the school - could be a family member, a friend or somebody you identify with that you know will have time to listen to you and guide you on the best path.
- I also like LinkedIN as some people identify themselves as open for coaching advice and you can ping them once in a while and ask them the questions you are concerned about.

Finding a mentor, means that you will identify a few candidates. Then you will see if they can help you get where you want, some people may not have time to do so, so you will need to find somebody that can dedicate time to listen and guide you. And you may have 2 mentors on different topics.
But remember, you get the advices and you decide at the end what is the best path or alternative for you. Listen to your heart!
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Jennifer’s Answer

If you are LinkedIN to professionals you admire in your field of study, reference the organizations that they are connected with to see if those organizations offer mentorship programs. If you already know of any industry organizations then reference their websites to see what opportunities they provide to students. Often times students can take advantage of free / discounted memberships, educational webinars, mentorship / apprentice programs, etc. to help you build your knowledge base and network. Good luck!
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