Part of my consulting work for NYU’s diversity and inclusion team allows me to learn about different mentoring opportunities across the university’s schools and divisions. Yesterday I had a terrific conversation with Leah Lattimore, Associate Director of Multicultural Programs at NYU’s Wasserman Center for Career Development, about their Mentor Network. What is really outstanding about the program is the training students and recent alumni (within a year of graduation) undergo before they get access to a database of potential mentors.
Potential is the key word here: part of the student orientation process involves drawing boundaries and managing expectations. Wasserman stresses that students should never ask the question “Will you be my mentor?” explicitly and risk overwhelming their contact. Unless the professional specifies an interest in a long-term, high-contact relationship, they should not expect more than an informational interview.
Wasserman also instructs students in appropriate, professional conduct: on the tone they should use in their written and oral communications, how they should dress, that they should research their contact’s background/company beforehand, that they should send email confirmations and thank you notes, etc. After their training, students must sign an honor code affirming that they promise to abide by these standards or risk access to the Mentor Network. Access, furthermore, lasts only a semester, in order to ensure that students refresh their awareness of professional conduct as they continue building out their networks.
If professionals complain of student behavior, Wasserman steps in. In the worst cases, students are asked to halt communication with their contact, but more often than not, they just need a gentle reminder and an explanation of why their behavior made their contact uncomfortable.
I wish I had known of this program as a student/recent alumna, and I urge all NYU students to take advantage of this great resource.