We’re not mind readers, but when you’re writing a cold email to a potential mentor, how often have you thought, “How can I stand out?” along the way? Here’s a secret from us to you: You can stand out by not asking this person to coffee or lunch. (Think about it: If Marissa Mayer accepted every coffee invitation in her inbox right now, her head would probably pop off from caffeine overload.) Below, we’ve come up with seven creative ways to spend time with your mentor. And even if you do end up connecting over lattes or kale salads, she’ll appreciate the out-of-the-box effort.
Ask to shadow your mentor at work or sit in on a meeting. Keep it to a one- or two-hour block, then debrief afterwards. While the purpose of job shadowing is to gather career insight and expand your network, it also allows you to build interpersonal skills, become aware of trends in the field, and see workforce technologies in action.
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Skip the in-person chat. Make things easy and actionable by hopping online for a 30-minute powwow. Prepare by getting your key questions ready, know what scenarios or challenges you’d like help navigating, and have a pen and paper near your laptop for note taking. And remember, don’t just dive in to what you need. Ask your mentor or the individual about his or her day and how you might be of service.
Sure, face time with an influential person is ideal, but sometimes it’s better to focus on the brass tacks. Send your resume or a grad school application to your mentor for review, giving her three to five days to respond with feedback. And be clear on what type of feedback you need. (Are you looking for grammar and punctuation, or to ensure that you’ve described your previous work experience in the best way possible?) Bam! E-mentoring at its finest.
If you and your mentor are close, practice a little self-care by signing up for SoulCycle or a hip-hop dance class. (There’s nothing like bonding to the beats of Beyonce.) Getting the adrenaline pumping will not only keep you in shape, but it’ll connect you and your mentor in an unexpected (albeit sweaty!) way.
Instead of becoming yet another to-do on your mentor’s workday schedule, send the details to an interesting networking event or panel her way and offer to meet up there. You’ll get valuable 1:1 time, plus there’s the possibility of free wine and cheese. Win-win!
Identify a community service project that your mentor already participates in and offer to lend an extra hand one Saturday. You can bond, talk about career goals, and give back at the same time.
Many mentors don’t have the time (or tech savvy) to create, update, or manage their social media accounts. That’s where you and your unofficial minor in Facebook come in. In exchange for a one-hour mentor meeting, offer to revamp or update your mentor’s social media accounts. A fair exchange will not only endear your mentor to you, but you’ll also get to learn a lot about her career journey by setting up things like her Levo profile.
This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.