Mentoring Network Lessons Learned
Last fall, we launched the U-M Entrepreneurs Mentoring Network to facilitate the mass exchange of questions and needs between our students, faculty, and alumni. Over the past ten months, this new tool has provided 2,500+ responses to 1,200+ student-submitted questions. As a dedicated mentor in our Network, we want to share a few ‘lessons learned’ from this launch:
1. Add System’s Email to Your Contact List: SPAM folders have been an enemy that at times resulted in mentors not seeing the student’s submitted questions and in-turn students not receiving responses from alum. U-M IT has now whitelisted the system’s emails as “safe” but we’d ask that you do the same by adding “firstname.lastname@example.org” to your contact list.
2. Formally Reject Poorly-Matched Requests: The Network leverages a smart system, so if you receive a question, and it is not a good match, please click the ‘Reject’ button in the email. Helping us educate the Network’s AI will improve the matches you receive going forward. Students do not know who their question(s) are being sent to, as all matches are done on the back-end, so no need to feel bad for rejecting a question.
- Reduce Inbox Clutter: While we have reduced the number of reminder emails you’ll receive, data shows that many mentor responses are produced from the system’s second reminder email. The best way to avoid extra emails is to respond within the initial request (‘Accept’, ‘Reject’, ‘Share’). That said, please know we’ll constantly work to reduce unnecessary emails.
3. Be Empathetic with Responses: Please keep in mind that the students behind the questions being submitted are typically young, inexperienced, and without certainty or understanding of the industries they might be asking about …. thus while we want you to be candid and honest, please be empathetic in your response and refrain from using any explicit or derogatory language.
Lastly, the system is set-up to support alumni too and we want you to submit your question/need! The Network is a deeply-rich reservoir for questions/needs related to niche expertise, to expand your contacts in an industry/geography, and to supplement your company’s business development needs.
Our ability to create quality learning and networking experiences for our community of students, alumni, and entrepreneurial partners is dependent upon your help and we sincerely appreciate your support. Thank you for serving as a mentor to our students and for taking a few min to read this note.
– From the desk of the CFE Director of External Engagement and Mentorship