Becoming a Leadership Mentor

Leadership Mentor Program (LMP)

Thank you for becoming a leadership mentor for the Department of Leadership Studies.  You will be paired with a current undergraduate or master's leadership student to better prepare the student for their professional life through career-focused assistance in the development of interpersonal skills, guidance in the internship and job search process, and networking opportunities. The time you put into developing a professional relationship with your mentee will put him or her at an advantage during school and after graduation.

Leadership Mentor Matching

As a leadership mentor, you will choose your mentee. Our staff will review the student applicants and select several they believe match your career and interests and present them to you.  You will then select the student you feel is the best fit. Once selected, your mentee will be notified of the match and required to attend a program orientation. During the student’s orientation, he or she will be reminded of the program’s expectations of the student mentee and instructed to contact you. Once mentors are matched, the student is responsible for making first contact.

All Department of Leadership Studies undergraduate and master's students are encouraged to participate in this program; however, they are not required to do so. The students who choose to apply are looking for the type of career guidance that you can provide.

First Meeting

Although technology makes getting in touch from far away easy, we encourage you to meet your mentee for the first time in person. Depending on your schedule and geographic proximity, this may or may not be possible. If you are unable to have your first meeting in person, a phone call or video chat is also perfectly acceptable.

Meeting on campus is likely to be the most convenient for students, especially for undergraduates.  This provides students with the opportunity to give you a tour, show off their beautiful campus, and connect you with the place where they spend a lot time.  USD has several outstanding lunch spots and coffee shops, or you can meet at the nearby Trolley Square on Linda Vista Road and Napa Street for more options.  Master's students are more likely to be able to meet you at your organization or business.

Students will be advised to dress casually for the first meeting, unless coming to your place of work. A first meeting usually lasts an hour.

The only goal for the first meeting is getting to know each other. To make this easier, we suggest the following:

  • Talk about yourself.  While you have been able to review your mentee’s bio, your mentee will not know much about you until the first meeting. Talking about your career and personal life, when applicable, will allow the student to get to know you, and will often start other topics of conversation.
  • Ask about their fears, whether in graduate school or beyond receiving their degree. Knowing what your student is afraid of will give you an idea of the areas in which he or she may need more coaching.
  • Ask your mentee if there is something you can assist them with. They may be afraid to ask you if you don’t let them know that you are there to help them.
  • Ask about their career aspirations.

On-going Professional Relationship

Your mentee is expected to take initiative in this relationship. He or she should contact you at least once per month and follow-through on items the two of you discuss.

Our office will also help facilitate communication by sending emails alerting you of difficult times in the year, such as midterms and finals, as well as tips for maintaining positive interactions.

While the academic year will perhaps be the time when you will be most active with your mentee, it is a good idea to maintain contact during breaks. Summer jobs and internships bring questions for your mentee as well as many opportunities for learning from you.

Your professional relationship will consist of at least one interaction per month and will last for your student’s entire career at USD.

Just being able to talk with a professional is great help to a student; however, there are several activities that will enhance both of your experiences in the Leadership Mentor Program.

  • Even if you’ve already seen it, you can ask your mentee to send you their resume and cover letter. You can review it and offer feedback, and even have the human resources department in your company do the same. If it is appropriate, you can offer to be a reference.
  • Give your student clear, objective feedback regarding their attitude, presence and other skills, then offer suggestions on how they can improve on them.
  • Help your mentee create a strategic plan for their academic career and professional advancement year to year, including looking for relevant part-time jobs, or searching for the best internship. Help your mentee achieve their goals.
  • Suggest your mentee join a professional organization in their career of choice as a student member, and encourage them to join soft-skill enhancing programs, such as student chapters of service clubs or civic organizations. For instance, there is a chapter of Rotaract at USD.
  • Have your mentee shadow you during your workday, accompany you to meet a client, join you at a meeting or go with you to a professional networking session; this will give your mentee a real view of what your professional life is like.
  • If you come across a news article that you think might be of interest to your mentee, send it to them. You can also encourage them to subscribe to publications you think are useful for a future leader.
  • You can give your mentee short assignments, such as doing research on top companies. This assignment will give you topics for conversation for your interactions, but it will also expand your mentee’s view about the industry they are about to enter.

Leadership Mentor Program Events

The Department of Leadership Studies will begin hosting events for program members in 2015.

Additional Resources

We want you and your mentee to have the best experience possible. For that reason, our office will stay in regular contact with you and post relevant resources here on our website to help you along the way.  Our program will also offer opportunities for you to connect with other mentors and our staff in real-time to discuss best practices, strategies for mentoring college students, and idea sharing.

Do not hesitate to contact us at any point if you have a question, concern, or want to share a story about your experience.

Teresa VanHorn