Phase 1: Reach out
Your mentor is given your name and contact information and may
contact you before you get a chance to do it. However the impetus
is ultimately on you to reach out to your mentor. You are
encouraged to contact your mentor as soon as you receive their
contact information and are required to reach out before October 1,
via email or phone to set up a time to meet. (Note: "Reaching out"
does not mean that you have to settle on a plan to meet. You may
find that it will take a few tries to actually make contact with
your mentor. You should make your first call or email during this
Sample Language for Contacting your Mentor
Here is some sample language for initiating contact, either by
email or phone (it is a very loose guideline for a phone
conversation). If you call and do not reach the person, this is the
message you should leave, either on voicemail or with a person:
Dear Mr. /Ms. "Last Name":
My name is "name" and I have been assigned as your mentee in
the UB School of Social Work Mentoring Program. I am
calling/emailing to introduce myself and to arrange a time and
place for us to meet. I am generally available (insert information
here—"on Fridays", "any day after 3:00," etc.) My phone
number is (insert information here, including alternate contact
method if desired). Thank you so much for taking the time to
participate in this valuable program. I look forward to hearing
Phase II: First Meeting
During this period, you will make contact with your mentor and
meet for the first time. You may need to follow up a few times to
get a hold of them.
Dear Mr. /Ms. "Last
My name is "name" and, as you may remember, I have been
assigned as your mentee in the UB School of Social Work Mentoring
Program. I am calling/emailing to follow up with you to arrange a
time and place for us to meet. (Insert something about your
enthusiasm here, like, "I am looking forward to discussing your
work at the Buffalo Schools.") My phone number is (insert
information here, including alternate contact method if desired). I
look forward to hearing from you.
If you have continuing difficulty making contact with your
mentor, try calling the reception or main number for his/her
workplace to see if he/she has an assistant who can help you
schedule your meeting. If you still cannot get in touch, please
contact Associate Dean, Denise Krause (716-645-1223, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Once you have made contact with your mentor, you should set up a
time and place to meet. This is usually at his/her office, at a
café or restaurant, or any other mutually agreeable place.
It is standard to set the time of the meeting for about an hour,
but certainly, you can agree on the duration with your mentor.
Preparing for Your Meeting
Before you meet with your mentor, take some time to prepare:
- Learn about yourself. Do some self-assessment. What do you like
to do? What kind of work do you excel in? Why did you choose social
work? This will help you describe your goals and preferences to
your mentor, so he/she can help you make choices about professional
- Learn about your mentor, his/her workplace, and other
information that is available.
- Be prepared to talk about yourself. This first meeting is a
"get to know you" event, and the goal is to relax, have fun, and
find common interests. Talk about your life before graduate school,
your family, your personal interests, etc. Ask the mentor about his
or hers, too!
- Think of some questions that the mentor can answer. What
information would be helpful to you? What do you want to know about
the profession, professional organizations, licensure,
Phase III: Continuing Activities
Don’t forget to follow up with a quick thank-you note,
either by email or written card. Remember, your mentor needs
positive feedback too, and will be more likely to continue the
mentoring relationship if he/she feels that you are benefitting
from it and appreciate it!
If you hit it off, you should keep in touch with your mentor,
and ask if you can meet again, or if he/she is willing to
participate in any further activities with you. If appropriate, the
following are some suggested follow-up activities, but you are not
limited to these:
- Accompanying your mentor to a work-related event
(non-confidential), such as a community- based meeting, workshop,
conference or class.
- Accompanying your mentor to a professional social event, such
as a NASW meeting, SSW event, or employer social event.
- Meeting with other people to whom your mentor refers you,
either with our without your mentor present.
This is also the time to be following up on advice that your
mentor might give you, such as joining an association, reading a
specific article, reaching out to a contact he/she gave you, or
subscribing to a blog he/she recommends.
Phase IV: Progress Report to
Mentoring is a reciprocal process. At least once, you must
contact your mentor to follow up and update him/her on your current
situation. You should include some feedback on the outcome of
advice, information or referrals he/she has given you, e.g. "I took
your advice and attended the meeting on Medicaid reimbursement, and
met a really great person named Jane Smith. Do you know her?"
Even if your mentor’s initial advice didn’t have an
immediate effect or outcome, check in anyway, to say that you tried
it, and that it wasn’t quite right for you. Ask if he/she can
advise you on how to get the most out of his/her advice, or if
he/she can suggest an alternative, e.g. "I joined the NASW as you
suggested, but I haven’t seen much activity about school
social work. Can you suggest a way I can get more out of my
membership? Or, is there another more active organization you can
Your mentor may be able to advise you to contact a particular
person, or to volunteer to help with a particular event. Ideally,
when you do follow-up on a mentor’s suggestion, you should be
letting him/her know the outcome. This needn’t be lengthy and
onerous. It might involve a quick email, or a short follow-up
meeting to go over your progress.
Phase V: Program Feedback
This program improves based on your feedback! We will ask you to
fill out a feedback form to let us know about your experience.
Finally, here are a few tips to consider as you progress through
the mentoring program:
Myths Associated with Mentoring
- Mentoring only happens on a one-to-one, long term, face-to-face
basis. (With modern technology mentoring can take place by e-mail,
telephone, texts or fax and may need only a few hours over the long
- Taking time to mentor decreases productivity. (Mentoring
improves productivity through better communication, goal clarity,
increased commitment and success planning.)
- A mentor needs to be older than those he/she mentors.
(Innovations happen so rapidly or personal experience is such a
great teacher that younger people often have opportunities to
mentor older people. Peers are effective mentors!)
- Mentoring is a rare experience and only occurs for a few great
people. (Informal mentoring is probably the most frequent method of
transmitting knowledge and wisdom in society. Virtually everyone
has experienced it in some way.)
- Mentoring requires a great time commitment that most people
can’t afford. (Being mentored does not guarantee career
advancement, but it does significantly increase learning, thereby
accelerating opportunities. In this way, most people can’t
afford NOT to become involved with mentoring.)
- The person being mentored is the only person who benefits from
the relationship. (For mentoring to be effective, all parties must
- The best mentors are those who set out to be mentors. (The
majority of mentoring occurs without conscious knowledge of either
party, but it does help to cultivate key mentor attitudes and