LinkedIn Mentoring Program: 5 Tips to take advantage

The majority of students I meet understand how crucial mentors are for them, but share a common struggle: “How do I actually find a mentor?” To alleviate this struggle, LinkedIn has rolled out a Career Advice Mentoring Program. The LinkedIn Mentoring program will “connect users with mentors who can help them figure out anything to do with their career.” Woohoo!

But as I’ve spoken to students about taking advantage of the LinkedIn Mentoring program, I’ve found that the struggle remains the some; while students have easier access to mentors, they are still struggling to take the steps towards actually reaching out for mentorship and starting meaningful conversations (one of the reasons why we built Skillify) .

So here are a few tips to overcome the common struggle, and take advantage of the LinkedIn Mentoring program:

1. Get in the right mindset. You are not a burden. Students approach me daily with anxiety around reaching out to professionals. They feel nervous; they don’t want to seem annoying or burdensome. But they fail to realize that most people genuinely like to give back. People like to mentor (there’s a reason why the LinkedIn Mentoring program exists). People like to talk about what they were doing “back in the day” and what they’re currently doing. As long as you are considerate, professional, and genuinely interested, people will want to share their stories with you. And frankly, they’ll appreciate you taking the time to truly listen. So don’t get into your own head. Get into the right mindset and make the first move!

2. Make the first move. You got matched to a mentor through the LinkedIn Mentoring program. What’s next? Do not wait for the mentor to message you. Write to them quickly. Start with a quick note of appreciation for their time, and then a brief explanation of why you would like to talk to them (do your research on the mentor’s background!). End with your availability for a phone call. Give them several options, and be prepared to work around their schedule.

3. Following up is crucial. People are very busy. So if they are unresponsive, it is okay to follow up. Not only is it okay, it is highly recommended! Most students struggle with following up in a professional manner: too many are worried about coming off as “pushy.” Persistence is a skill. At Skillify, we provide email templates to all students to help them follow up professionally. Ping me if you’d like to see them.

4. Understand what an Informational Interview is and prepare. This really should be Step 1. I’ve lost count of how many students I’ve spoken with that do not know what Informational Interviews are. Google it. And once you’ve done so, start preparing. I’ve found that most students expect mentors to just talk about themselves, and typically only prepare 2-4 questions. That’s not a strong start to a mentorship. Your research should help you understand the overview of their professional journey so when you speak with them, you do not ask basic questions that you can find answers to online (like where they went to school and how long were they with a company). Instead, focus on understanding why they went down a certain path, what challenges they faced, what industry trends they have experienced, what they anticipate, etc. Good questions make good conversation. Good conversations make good connections.

5. Nurture, seriously. At Skillify, we have a mentor network of over 500 professionals. We always ask mentors for feedback for our students. Here’s the most common feedback we hear: “We wish students would follow up more than once after our initial phone call.” I tell students this often, and I always get “but I don’t know what to follow up with or how to add value to such a successful professional.” The misconception exists around what value truly is.

Professionals love hearing from students months after the initial meeting about how the student’s exploration is going. Simply sending a note of appreciation with a quick update goes a long way. If you come across an interesting article that resonates with the mentor’s interests, send it their way. Plus, the LinkedIn Mentoring program makes it really easy for you to know if your connections have birthdays or job anniversaries coming up, so you can use those as a way to wish them well and re-connect. You just have to take time to truly nurture.

The LinkedIn Mentoring Program is the latest addition to your mentoring arsenal. With so many professionals at your fingertips, it’s easier than ever to connect with someone who you can learn from. It’s important to remember that mentorship is a two way street. When an experienced professional gives you their expert insight and advice, always be appreciative and find ways to help.  Open communication and gratitude foster the best relationships.

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