The best approach to connecting with students on Lehigh Connects
Updated: May 18, 2021
Whether you are a seasoned professional in your field or a new grad fresh in your first position, all Lehigh alumni can be helpful to current students. Sharing experiences, lessons learned along the way and life or career advice is a great way to help students navigate their own career paths. Alumni mentors can make a significant impact on a student’s learning, confidence and career success. Join the alumni network on Lehigh Connects and discover how you can support current Lehigh students through career mentorship.
Focus on teaching and learning
We know all alumni are capable of being valuable mentors to students, because all alumni can draw from their own life and career experience. An experienced professional can share from lessons learned during years of employment and a young professional knows the challenges of a recent job search and interview process. Connecting students to alumni knowledge is a great way to build mentorship, and that's exactly what's happening on Lehigh Connects. With thousands of alumni already signed up to volunteer their help, this growing network is quickly becoming the go-to for current Lehigh students. And learning is at the core of all the communication and interactions happening daily there. Mentorship does not require decades of experience or the ability to hire students, but instead Lehigh Connects is designed to put every alumni into play by providing any easy way to connect students to the wealth of information alumni can share. Mentorship on Lehigh Connects is about helping students learn critical skills in communication, networking, and professionalism.
It's important to know your audience and keep in mind the overall purpose of mentorship. Undergraduate and graduate students are not expert networkers, and most have had little to no experience in professional communication and networking. This is important to keep in mind because it's far more likely that a student will make a mistake than perfectly execute messages and meetings. Turn missteps into learning opportunities. Mentors should take time to teach networking basics and share clear expectations with students. This by no means requires you to simply overlook a missed meeting time, typos or sloppy messages, failure to use manners or other issues. Instead, a good mentor will address mistakes and let the student grow by holding them accountable. As a mentor, it's expected that you both model the correct behavior and also have a conversation identifying mistakes followed by an opportunity to correct their mistakes and try again. Be honest and encouraging, but also clear about areas of improvement.
Help students shape action plans
One of the best ways to support students as they work toward their career goals is to create an action plan that outlines their next steps. Perhaps one of the first questions you can ask a student is what they want to do next. Choose a major? Create a resume? Start an internship search? Prepare for an interview? Knowing their next goal (or helping them shape their next goal) will then allow you to break down the steps to get there.
Timelines are also important when it comes to making an action plan. What steps are urgent and need attention right away? What are realistic deadlines to completing steps? Are there long term goals they should work on or short term goals that need priority? It will also be helpful to set a date for them to follow up with you on their progress or schedule a check in.
Your Lehigh Alumni Network is an extremely valuable tool both to you and any students you mentor. Remember that students might not have access to this network yet, but also might not be sure quite where to start when building their own network. Make introductions for them (and take charge, because some students might be hesitant to be the one to reach out first). Share their resume with appropriate contacts (with their permission of course), including hiring managers in your industry, recent grads or others that could be helpful sources of information. Suggest additional professionals in your network they might connect with via Lehigh Connects or LinkedIn on their own to start to build their own network. Finally, remember what it felt like for you to start building your network. It takes time for it to be done well, and can feel overwhelming! So help students build the skills they need by proofing emails, practicing phone interviews, being a part of conversations with some of your key contacts to model behaviors, and sharing honest feedback with them.
Committing to being a mentor is a serious investment. Whether you’re engaging in a short or long term relationship, you are committing to being helpful and responsive to the student. Set boundaries and guidelines at the beginning to establish good habits of timely responses from both you and the student. Help them develop good professional habits for how to nudge contacts that don’t respond, and how to know when to move on.
Flash mentorship vs long term mentorship
Mentorship can mean a lot of things. Whether you’re grooming a student over an entire academic year, or agreeing to help with one job search or one interview, you are no doubt providing an extremely valuable resource to the student. Mentorship doesn’t have to be a scary word. Aren’t sure where to start? Offer to review a student’s resume, or make one introduction to a hiring manager at your company. If you decide you want to get more invested in mentorship, look for opportunities to bring students in for job shadowing, promote internships or short term projects students could apply to at your company, and serve as an advocate for the student within your networks. Whether you have time to simply answer a few messages, take a couple phone calls or invest in a student during their entire academic year, your contributions are important. There are opportunities for both flash mentorship and long term mentorship via Lehigh Connects. Take the time to mentor a student today!
Thank you Alumni mentors
Whether you have been with Lehigh Connects since its launch in 2017 or are brand new to the community, we welcome you and thank you for your commitment. The Lehigh network is strong and full of potential thanks to alumni volunteers like you!
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