Getting the Most from Mentoring Opportunities
How to present yourself well and get the most out of an event.

Last night, I participated in ACE's Speed Mentoring Night. It's great event — it introduces students to a whole range of industry professionals. The format is speed dating style - each student gets 7 minutes with a mentor and then moves on. I believe that students got to meet around 8 mentors during the course of the evening, plus networking before and after.

If you’re a student and lucky enough to get involved in one of these events, here’s some tips on how to present yourself well and get the most out of the event:

1. Dress well. It’s a job interview, really. Mentors are judging you as someone that they would refer to a friend to hire or hire themselves. Dress to the occasion. If you’re not sure what that means, it’s business attire, not business casual. The interview rule-of-thumb is to dress one level up from the workplace you’re interviewing at. If you don’t have proper attire or can’t afford it, try to borrow from a friend or do the best you can with your budget. Value Village is a great place to find inexpensive business attire that’s been hardly worn. Use the money you save by shopping at Value Village to get your stuff tailored.

2. Get a professional email address. A professional email address is not [email protected] Ideally, register your name as a domain name as well. Both .ca and .com. If your name is Jennifer Smith (sorry), you might have to get a bit creative (but professional!) with your email address.

3. Bring business cards. Get business cards made for yourself. Include your name, what you’re studying, when you’re going to graduate, phone number, email address, and a link of some kind. If you’re a designer, it should be to your portfolio. Otherwise, set up an page with your information, links to your social networks, and any supporting pieces that showcase what you can do.

4. Be on LinkedIn. Fill out the information as much as possible, include a good head shot – not you at a kegger. You can even include your retail jobs if you want. Some employers look for that. I personally have had great success hiring ex-Starbucks employees. After the event, connect with all the mentors you personally met, with a note. If there was anyone at the event that you didn’t meet and wanted to, request a connection with a note that you didn’t get to meet them, but could you go for coffee instead?

5. Lock down your Facebook page. No one should be able to see what’s on there except for you and your friends. I can guarantee that mentors will Google you if they’re interested in hiring you.

6. Follow up. Was there someone there who mentioned a future opportunity? Write them! Did you have a great conversation with someone? Email them to thank them! A little email goes a long way.

Many of the students I spoke with asked me about job openings they’d seen on the ACE job board. And while the ACE board is a great source of industry jobs, it isn’t the only one. Many jobs aren’t advertised and go to qualified people that the employer already knows. Keeping in touch with the professionals you met at the event gives them a sense of familiarity with you, and hopefully will result in a great job once you’ve graduated.

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