Faculty mentors are a great resource when moving through the academic process here at Berkeley. Whether they answer questions about your major or provide insight into life at Cal, it can never hurt to get to know your mentor.
Step 1: First Contact
If you were able to meet your faculty mentor in-person—whether at the Chancellor’s dinner, Mentor and Scholar Reception, or elsewhere—future communication helps to maintain a connection and reminds your mentor that you are still around and ready to learn from them. However, first contact with your mentor usually happens via email. These emails can be short and sweet—a simple hello letting the faculty member know who you are, a bit about yourself, and that you are interested in talking to them about their field, time at Cal, or anything else!
If you haven’t yet contacted your mentor and think it might be too late or strange to do so—don’t worry. Not only are mentors busy faculty members that will think nothing of a potentially later-than-average email, but they also realize that they are a resource for you to use when you may need them. Being proactive and starting early is always a bonus, but it is never too late to form a strong mentor-student relationship.
Step 2: In-Person Meeting
In your initial email, let your mentor know that you’d like the opportunity to meet with them—whether meeting at their office or for a coffee chat, this allows you to learn about what they do, and some of their past life experience working in their field.
At some point, if your mentor invites you to a dinner at their home or elsewhere, try to balance professional and casual in terms of dress (probably business casual!) as well as behavior. Act respectful and professional, perhaps bringing a small thank-you gift or something to add to the dinner table. Good conversation points can be drawn from what you have in common, such as your field!
Step 3: Follow Up
If all goes well, keeping in touch with your mentor can be an easy process that allows you to remain connected to a beneficial resource. Follow-up contact also lets the mentor know that you are interested in their field, work, and any opportunities they may have for you. The most common way to keep in touch after a meeting is via email. A post-meeting email thanking them for their time is always a nice option, and there are also more opportunities to branch off into new topics. Read an article that relates back to something you discussed at your meeting? Send them the link! Further discussion points can blossom from small emails such as these.
All in all, the most important tips to remember when building a strong relationship with your mentor are being proactive and putting your best image forward. Mentor-student relationships are often more relaxed than professor-student relationships, which often makes contact easier. Be yourself—discuss topics that you are genuinely interested in, and be sincere in emails. Mentors are here to help you, so go make contact!