Alumni Career Services

BYU Network - Students/Alumni

Tips for Contacting a Mentor

The below letter is a mentor's response to his experience with a student. Please use this as a guide when contacting and interacting with those professionals who have agreed to participate in the BYU Network.

I was most recently given the opportunity to mentor Student X. Student was very polite and professional on the phone and my intention is in no way to discredit him. Also, I recognize in writing this that despite all the training in the world, program administrators are still unable to control everything and for the most part these are still fairly young men and women doing their best.

With that caveat, below is the email message I received via Facebook for my first interaction with Student X:

Dear Mentor,
I have selected you as my mentor for the Marriott School Mentor Program if you are willing.
Please let me know if you're willing to participate. The requirements ask that you look over my resume and answer some questions, though you can do less or more if you'd like.
I would really love to get some career advice, especially concerning graduate schools. I also want to attend Harvard.
Please let me know asap if you can participate.
Hope all is well,
Student X

Just a few comments that I think would make the mentors more enthusiastic about supporting the students. First, it is always nice if they ask us to be their mentor instead of telling us. Two, I did graduate school at Harvard and it is not infrequent to get emails from BYU students basically saying, "You went to Harvard and I want to go to Harvard, so lets talk." While I loved my graduate studies at Harvard it is not for everyone and a lot of that depends on fit. Most of these students know nothing about Harvard's programs beyond the name of the institution. It is far more palatable to me and to most BYU alums turned Harvard grad students to get an email saying that the candidate would like to pursue an MBA, a law degree, a masters in public policy, etc. and would we be willing to speak with them about our experience selecting a school, how we enjoyed our programs, etc. Third, it is never professional for the student requesting help to ask the mentor to respond ASAP. I did respond the next day, however, and then did not hear back from Student X for over a week. Fourth, it is always a bit odd to have the first contact be via Facebook. I imagine our email addresses are available to students and it would be great if they contacted us that way instead.

Overall, my impression was that Student X likely received an assignment to go into the database and select a mentor and that he then had to write a little paper about his experience. In our subsequent email communication and in our phone call I did not get the impression that he really cared about the mentoring he could receive but rather just was going through an obligatory exercise. None of that may be true, but that was my impression throughout. That said, I'll repeat that he was at least quite respectful and professional. However, he failed to send a follow up or thank you email.

I realize this all sounds like I am nitpicking and that is not my intent. I love BYU and will do whatever I can to help BYU students and hope to have the opportunity to mentor others in the future when the opportunity arises. However, while Student X may have been an anomaly, it appears that additional instruction may be warranted in addition to at least better pretending genuine intent. My primary concern is not with my experience, but rather looking at this experience from a potential employer’s perspective and knowing about the recruiting process, I believe these are lessons that would greatly benefit these students as they seek employment, etc.

Thank you for all you do for the program and for these students.