FAQs

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The Basics

What is the time commitment involved for being a mentor or mentee?

We purposefully have designed this program to be flexible for mentors and mentees. You and your mentor/mentee have complete control over your mentorship relationship and can decide how often you want to meet at the onset of your relationship. Once matched, we ask the mentor and mentee to discuss how much time they can commit to the relationship and the duration of their relationship. Our suggestion is one to two hours a month for a minimum of three months or one quarter. The most important objective is to achieve the goals set for the mentee; for some matches this will not take several months, for others it will. Ultimately it is up to the mentor and mentee to decide together what works best for them.

Who is eligible for the program?

Degree seeking Northwestern students and alumni with degrees from all programs, classes, and schools are eligible to participate. Faculty, staff, parents, certificate students, and friends of the institution are not currently eligible to participate.

I don't live in Evanston/Chicago. Can I still participate?

Absolutely. This is a global program and any student or alumnus from anywhere in the world is invited to participate. You and your mentee/mentor can connect either in person (where possible) or via phone, email, or video chat.

How are mentors and mentees matched?

This program is a mentee-driven program, meaning mentees can search for and request the mentor they'd like to work with. After the mentee enters their mentor preferences into the platform (industry, career interests, location, etc.), the software generates a list of alumni sorted by how closely the mentor matches the mentee’s criteria. Students can then request a potential mentor from this list. The requested mentor has the opportunity to either accept or decline the request from the mentee.

Why is mentorship important?

There are countless publications that validate the significance and value of mentorship. But the easiest way to prove that mentorship is important is to ask yourself, “What advice do I wish someone would have given me when I … graduated from college … first started my career … made a significant career transition?” More than likely you have a number of ideas that come to mind. Imagine how valuable it would have been to be given helpful advice at that time of your life – that value speaks to the power of mentorship. Mentoring gives you the opportunity to share your knowledge and advice with someone who is about to embark down the same path you traveled, and this is your chance to help them along the way.

How is mentorship different from mentoring moments?

Mentoring moments are one time conversations between two people where information is shared. A mentoring moment usually results from a meaningful interaction that leads to an “ah ha” moment for the mentee. While these interactions may be transactional, they are still important moments that can be impactful for the mentee. Mentorship, however, is about an alumnus/alumna developing a longer-term relationship with their mentee covering multiple aspects of career and personal development.

How is mentorship different from networking?

Networking is about developing professional contacts that you can call upon when you need assistance getting information or help while job hunting. Generally networking interactions are more transactional exchanges. For instance you would ask people in your network about job leads, request an informational interview, or ask to be connected to someone in their professional network (someone who is not yet in your network). The purpose of a mentor is not to offer their mentee a job. Mentorship is about an alumnus/alumna developing a long-term relationship with their mentee covering multiple aspects of career and personal development.

Where should our mentorship meetings take place?

All in-person meetings should take place in a public location, such as the mentor’s office, a restaurant, or coffee shop. Meetings can also take place via phone or video chat.

What activities should mentors and mentees engage in?

Casual conversation is the most common interaction that mentees and mentors will have. Other activities include: setting up a mock in-person or phone interview, scheduling a day of job shadowing, conducting a resume/cover letter review, or attending a conference or industry presentation together. A full list of suggested activities and discussion topics can be found in the resources section or by visiting this link: Suggested Activities and Discussion Topics.

I just completed my profile and submitted it and I was stopped from entering the platform. Why?

The program administrator has to verify that each participant is, in fact, a current student or alumnus of Northwestern. This process takes 1-2 business days and when you have been approved you will receive an email notifying you that you’ve been approved. Thank you for your patience!

I forgot my username and/or password. Help!

If you forgot your username, email mentor@northwestern.edu and we will send you your username (i.e. the email you used when creating your account).

If you forgot your password, clink the link that says "forgot your password?" on the login page and type in your email address. You will receive an email allowing you to reset your password.

Why am I being asked about my gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in my profile?

Mentees will be able to use this information as they search for a possible mentor. We’ve received strong feedback that mentees want to be able to choose a mentor who best aligns with several dimensions of their identity. This information will also be used for tracking purposes. Adding this information to your profile is completely optional.

What is a Mentorship Circle?

A mentor has the option of hosting a “mentorship circle”, which is a group that meets together and has one individual serving as a mentor to several mentees. This can be a one-time arrangement or a repeating circle that meets a number of times over a few weeks or months. Our suggestion is to host a maximum of 4-8 mentees in one group. An added benefit to this arrangement is that each individual in the group (mentees) can serve as peer mentors to one another. If you are a mentor and are interested in this option, please email mentor@northwestern.edu for assistance in setting up a circle and be sure to check the box in your profile that you are willing to host a mentorship circle.

In my account I see a button for “Move to Past Connections”. What is that?

The “Move to Past Connections” button will move that relationship from an active connection to an inactive one. If you’ve pressed this by mistake, please email mentor@northwestern.edu for assistance re-establishing your connection.

What if there is a problem with my mentorship relationship?

If you experience any issues with your mentor/mentee or have questions, please reach out to the program manager at mentor@northwestern.edu. The program manager can offer solutions to improve the relationship or, if necessary, formally terminate the relationship.

How do I close out a mentorship relationship in my profile?

When your mentorship relationship has reached its designated end point, based on the duration you and your mentor/mentee agreed upon at the onset of you relationship, or when you feel that your mentorship relationship has come to its natural conclusion, you can close out your relationship by visiting the “Connections” tab in your account. Navigate to your mentor/mentee’s icon and click on the “Interact” button. You will see a gray button that says “Move to Past Connections”. Clicking that button will move that relationship from a current connection to a past connection. We encourage you to discuss this action with your mentor/mentee before doing it to make sure that you are both comfortable ending the mentorship relationship. A Closure Conversation Discussion Guide can be found in the resources section or by visiting this link: Closure Conversation Discussion Guide. We encourage you to meet with you mentor/mentee and use this resource to guide a closure conversation.

What happens at the closure of the mentorship relationship? How do I know when the relationship is over?

All good things must come to an end! You will know when the relationship has come to its natural conclusion either when all of the mentee’s goals have been achieved or you have hit the time limit you set in your agreement at the beginning of your relationship. It is important to celebrate the end of a successful mentorship relationship. We suggest that mentors/mentees take the time to mark the closure of the relationship either by doing something special like attending an industry event or simply by using the Closure Conversation Discussion Guide, which can be found in the resources section or by visiting this link: Closure Conversation Discussion Guide. This document is meant to help guide a discussion about the things you have learned through the mentorship process and to vocalize what you are grateful to have learned.

I read on your website that alumni mentees are "graduates early in their careers", but is the program really limited to that?

No, mentees in this program are not limited to only alumni early in their careers. This program offers alumni the option of being mentors, mentees, or both at the same time. Alumni can be mentees at any point in their career (early, mid, or executive level). If you could use a mentor (and we think everyone could!) we highly encourage you to join the program as both a mentor and a mentee. Join as a mentor because you have a great deal of knowledge and career/life experience to share with a student or alumni mentee; and join as a mentee so that you can find your own mentor for career advice and support.

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Mentees

Student mentees -- do I need to attend an in-person orientation session?

No. When the program first launched we required student mentees to attend an in-person orientation session but we no longer require that. Student mentees are only required to watch a 10-minute online orientation as part of the registration process.

Alumni mentees -- do I need to attend an orientation session?

No. Student mentees are required to watch an online orientation but alumni mentors and mentees are not required to attend or watch an orientation. We've created an optional online orientation for alumni, which can be viewed anytime by visiting this page. You do not have to be registered for the program to view the video and watching it as a participant is not required.

Why was I declined?

There may be a variety of reasons why your requested alumnus might have declined you, most of which likely have nothing to do with you personally. It may be an especially busy time for them or they simply do not think it would be a good fit. Do not get discouraged. Log back into the platform and search for and request another mentor. The Northwestern Network is vast – you will find the right fit for you!

How many mentors can I have at one time?

Mentees can select up to two mentors at one time. This is only encouraged only if you truly have the time to commit to two mentorship relationships.

What can I offer my mentor?

One of the most common mistakes a mentee can make is thinking that they do not have anything to offer their mentor. You can make the relationship valuable for your mentor too! You can offer a different perspective on your industry, share information about the latest technology or applications, or fill your mentor in on the goings-on of people at your level in your industry. You can also share interesting articles, podcasts or books that you think your mentor would enjoy. Do not forget that you have your own powerful network -- when you find someone in your network with whom you think your mentor may want to be connected, offer to make the connection for your mentor.

What if I achieve my goals for the relationship, but want to keep working with my mentor?

Set another goal! If you and your mentor agree that you want to continue the relationship, you absolutely can. Be sure to also check with your mentor to confirm that they want to continue the relationship and have the time to continue investing in the relationship before setting a new goal.

What are appropriate ways to maintain the relationship?

Meeting up for casual conversation is the most common interaction that mentees and mentors will have. You could also work with your mentor to set up a mock in-person or phone interview, schedule a day of job shadowing, conduct a resume/cover letter review, or attend a conference or industry presentation together. A full list of suggested activities and discussion topics can be found in the resources section or by visiting this link: Suggested Activities and Discussion Topics.

How often should I set up meetings with my mentor?

We purposefully have designed this program to be flexible for mentors and mentees. You and your mentor have complete control over your mentorship relationship and can decide how often you want to meet at the onset of your relationship. Be sure to use our Mentorship Agreement Form (talking points), which can be found in the resources section or by visiting this link: Mentorship Agreement Form. This document is meant to help guide a conversation about your relationship expectations right away after being matched. To give you rough idea of how often you should be meeting, most mentors and mentees meet once or twice a month.

What are the big mentorship DON'Ts?

  • DON’T arrive late to meetings or conference calls.
  • DON’T arrive underdressed to meetings (business casual is suggested).
  • DON’T violate confidence. Discussions should stay between you and your mentor. Preserving an environment of confidentiality and trust should be your top priority.
  • DON’T ask your mentor to be a reference for you before you have gotten to know them. Asking your mentor (or anyone for that matter) for a reference is a request that should be reserved for people who know you well as a professional (former boss, former or current coworker). To ask your mentor before developing a rapport or relationship could make them uncomfortable or put them in a difficult position. It is best to wait until a relationship has developed and they have gotten to know you as a professional before making such a request.
  • DON’T ask your mentor for a job within their organization. If your mentor knows of an opportunity for which they think you may be a good fit, they will mention it to you. Asking them for a job could make your mentor uncomfortable or put them in a difficult position.

How do I delete my account?

If you would like to delete your account permanently, please email mentor@northwestern.edu for assistance.

The system won't let me request another mentor. Why is this?

The maximum amount of mentors you can have at once is two. Pending requests count as well, so if you have two pending requests still out (and both prospective mentors haven't responded yet) they are taking up your two open spots. If you'd like to request someone else, you can cancel your pending request(s) to one or both of those mentors to open up 1-2 spots for a new mentor request. Once you've been matched, one spot is filled.

You can close out that relationship at any time in the platform and make room to search for a new mentor. We encourage you to discuss this action with your mentor before doing it to make sure that you are both comfortable ending the mentorship relationship. A Closure Conversation Discussion Guide can be found in the resources section or by visiting this link: Closure Conversation Discussion Guide. We encourage you to meet with you mentor and use this resource to guide a closure conversation.

You can close out your relationship by visiting the homepage of your account or the “Connections” tab in your account. Navigate to your mentor’s icon and click on the button below that says “Interact”. You will see a button that says “Move to Past Connections”. Clicking that button will move that relationship from an active connection to an inactive one.

I've found a mentor I'd like to work with, but the button for "Request Mentor" isn't there. Instead there's a button that says "Request Unavailable". What does that mean?

The mentorship platform only allows mentors to work with up to three mentees at one time. Mentors can select in their account settings how many mentees they're willing to work with at one time -- one, two, or three mentees. If you see that the button for "Request Mentor" has been replaced with note that says "Request Unavailable", this means that this mentor has been maxed out with the number of mentees they're willing to work with at this time. Once they close out one of the partnerships, they will become available again and you can request them. In the meantime, we suggest you bookmark their profile by clicking the button for "Add Bookmark". This will add a quick-access link to their profile in your Bookmarks tab, meaning you can easily get to their profile and check to see their availability anytime you log into the platform.

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Mentors

I've signed up as a mentor. Why haven't I been requested yet?

We are grateful for your willingness to help students and alumni in this way. After you register for this Mentorship Program, it could take some time before you are matched with a mentee, since this is a mentee-driven program. Mentees are able to search for mentors in our database using select search criteria. It is important, therefore, to make your profile as complete as possible and to update it regularly. Here is a resource for how to make sure your profile is as complete and compelling as possible. There is a possibility that you may not be selected or that being selected could take a number of weeks or months, so prepare yourself for that possibility.

Note that you are able to search for and contact other mentors through this Mentorship Program. This is a great way to grow your Northwestern Network. Connections can be made through shared personal or professional interests.

How many mentees can I have at one time?

Mentors can select up to three mentees at one time. This is only encouraged if you truly have the time to commit to three mentorship relationships. A mentor can also host a “mentorship circle”, which is a group that meets together and has one individual serving as a mentor to several mentees. This can be a one-time arrangement or a repeating circle that meets a number of times over a few weeks or months. Our suggestion is to host 4-8 mentees max in one group. An added benefit to this arrangement is that each of the individuals in the group (mentees) can serve as peer mentors to one another. If you are interested in this option, please email mentor@northwestern.edu for assistance in setting up a circle and be sure to check the box in our mentor profile that you are willing to host a mentorship circle.

Will I be bombarded by mentees requesting to speak with me?

No, the platform has parameters set up to limit the number of people who can request you as a mentor. Once you have accepted a relationship with a mentee through the platform (i.e. “matched”), you will no longer be available to other mentees in the database. You do have the ability to have more than one mentee at a time, if you wish to; you are allowed to have up to three mentees at a time. To adjust the number of mentees you can take on at one time, log in and click on the “My Account” tab either at the top right-hand side of your screen or in the ribbon on the left-hand side of the screen, click on the “Participation” tab, and use the drop down to set the max number of mentees you’d like to work with at one time (1, 2 or 3).

How do I adjust the number of mentees I will take on at one time?

To adjust the number of mentees you can take on at one time, log in and click on the “My Account” tab either at the top right-hand side of your screen or in the ribbon on the left-hand side of the screen, click on the “Participation” tab, and use the drop down to set the max number of mentees you’d like to match with at one time.

Can I suspend my account without deleting it if I need a break?

Yes. If you find that it is an especially busy time for you or you just need a break, you can suspend your account indefinitely or for a set amount of time by visiting the “My Account” section when you are logged into the platform. Click on the tab that says “Participation”. Uncheck the box that says “I want to be searchable in Northwestern Network Mentorship Program”. Below that, list the start date in which you want to become invisible and the date in which you want to become visible again. If you need to suspend your account indefinitely, just uncheck the box and you will no longer be searchable in the database. When you’re ready to be searchable again, log back in and check the box to be opted back into the program.

What if I am worried about my mentee? What if my mentee discloses concerning information about their personal state?

If you learn that a student is in danger or if you have serious concerns about your student mentee, please immediately inform the program administrator by calling (847) 467-4518 or emailing mentor@northwestern.edu. Any information given to us about a student will remain confidential and the University administration will step in if the situation warrants attention. Our priority is always our students’ well-being, so when in doubt, air on the side of caution and reach out to us.

For mentors: What are the big mentorship DON'Ts?

  • DON’T expect to have instant rapport with your mentee. It may take time to develop a relationship, so be patient.
  • DON’T violate confidence. Discussions should stay between you and your mentee. Preserving an environment of confidentiality and trust should be your top priority.
  • DON’T tell your mentee what to do. Instead, make suggestions, share ideas and give encouragement.
  • DON’T be afraid to admit that you do not know the answer or that you have made a mistake. Find the correct answer and learn together. It helps your mentee to see that you are learning too.
  • DON’T forget your own adolescence or young professional life. What do you wish a more experienced professional had said to you or done for you? Try to remind yourself what it was like when you first graduated from college or what it was like for you when you were a young professional – putting yourself in your mentee’s shoes will help you connect with your mentee and see things from their perspective.

How do I decline a mentee's request?

If you are requested by a mentee and decide you need to decline the request, you can do so by logging into your account, navigating to and pressing the button just below the mentee's headshot on your home page that says "interact", and then clicking on the red button that says "decline". You can send the mentee a message if you'd like or simply press decline. The mentee will be alerted via email that their request has been declined and they are encouraged to search for and select a different mentor.

How do I delete my account?

Remember that if it is an especially busy time for you or you just need a break, you can suspend your account indefinitely or for a set amount of time by visiting the “My Account” section when you are logged into the platform. Click on the tab that says “Participation”. Uncheck the box that says “I want to be searchable in Northwestern Network Mentorship Program”. Below that, list the start date in which you want to become invisible and the date in which you want to become visible again. If you need to suspend your account indefinitely, just uncheck the box and you will no longer be searchable in the database. When you’re ready to be searchable again, log back in and check the box to be opted back into the program. If you would rather delete your account permanently, please email mentor@northwestern.edu for assistance.