What if I really don’t know what I want to do for a career…does the mentor program still make sense?
While it would be helpful if you have a general idea of where your interests lie, you do not need to have a specific plan for your career. The mentor program is designed to help you assess your skills and interests and ultimately to explore potential career choices as well as prepare you to pursue one of these avenues. You will be able to discuss different career options with your mentor in order to focus your career goals.
What kinds of things are we supposed to do with our mentor?
There’s a tremendous variety of things to do around the professional development theme. A few examples are listed on the info page. So, for example, after filling out a career interest inventory and e-mailing the results to your mentor, you could schedule a phone meeting to talk about it—get your mentor’s insights and interpretations. Sign up for a résumé-writing workshop at Career Services, and again, send the draft to your mentor for feedback and edits. Arrange to shadow your mentor at his or her worksite for a day or several days, or your mentor could arrange for you to visit his or her colleagues.
How do students and mentors contact each other?
You will decide on a method of communication with your mentor at the kickoff. Many pairs communicate via e-mail and/or telephone. You may even decide to meet your mentor at his or her workplace during the course of the program. The decision of how to communicate depends on your and your mentor’s personal preferences.
How often are we expected to be in contact?
Students and mentors are expected to communicate regularly in order to meet the goals they set at the beginning of the program. While the actual number of times that you are in contact with your mentor is your decision, you should communicate at least once a month in order to reach your goals. You will probably find it helpful to be in contact more often, however.
How do my mentor and I establish goals?
You will establish goals with your mentor at the kickoff. While establishing goals, think about the reasons you decided to join the mentoring program as well as what you hope to get out of it. Consider what you would like to learn from your mentor. Even if you’re just exploring your major and are feeling far away from career planning, there is a lot that you can get from a mentor. If you have trouble coming up with goals, check out the list of examples on the website such as doing a basic interest inventory or drafting a résumé and cover letter.
What if I change my major, or what I think I want to do when I graduate? Do I have to change mentors?
Mentoring pairs are matched based on many different criteria. While we take into account degrees and career interests, we also consider geographical preferences, on- and off-campus activities, personal strengths and areas of improvement. Regardless of your major or career interest, your mentor can still provide guidance on how best to prepare for the work world. And if there’s a specific question they can’t answer, there’s a huge network available to through the Liberal Arts Alumni Society that can be of assistance.
What if we run out of things to talk about . . . to do?
If you reach all of the goals that you set at the kickoff event you can always choose something else to work on or discuss. You are not limited to the specific goals you set at the kickoff event. Once again, think of what you would like to learn from your mentor and his or her contacts.
What’s covered at the kickoff?
One of the key ingredients to the mentor program is the kickoff. Other student–alumni mentor programs that base the relationship on someone initiating a phone call or meeting via e-mail just don’t work, as well. At the kickoff you will meet your mentor in a casual, social setting, and you will meet other students and alumni as well. The program will address expectations, provide information on what’s available through Penn State Career Services (and what’s not available), provide guidance on establishing goals and next steps with your mentor, describe the evaluation and feedback process, and answer common questions. Most important, the kickoff will end with each mentor–student pair agreeing to next steps.
Can I still participate if I can’t attend the kickoff?
Yes. It is essential that you meet your mentor in person early in the relationship and work with him or her to develop individual goals for the program. If you cannot attend the kickoff, an alternative meeting time may be arranged. Contact the program coordinator.
If my mentor and I really hit if off, can we stay in the program next year?
Yes. Mentorships typically last until the student graduates. If you really hit it off with your mentor, the two of you may decide to informally continue your relationship after that.
Can I still participate if I will be doing a study-abroad program for part of the year?
Yes. Apply for the Mentor Program two semesters before you plan to study abroad, or while you are abroad, so that matching you with a mentor and introducing you to him or her occurs the following semester.