DePaul University Career Center's Blog

Handshake Hacks: Connecting with Mentors

By: Leslie Chamberlain, associate director of DePaul’s Alumni Career Services & Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK)

Connecting with a mentor allows you to explore college and professional transitions, life challenges, and university and career questions.

As you connect on Handshake with DePaul mentors or alumni in the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) network, follow this guide on how to maximize your mentoring experience.

1. Be clear on your purpose: What are the top two or three reasons you want to connect? What are your expectations for this connection? Be prepared to address these topics, and make sure the questions you have are clear. Base your mentor search on who might be able to answer your industry, career, college or life questions.

2. Use appropriate search terms: You can browse through the mentor directory on Handshake by clicking Mentoring in the left menu, and then visiting the Find Mentors tab in the top right corner. From there, utilize the search bar by typing in specific keywords that correlate with your career and life interests or goals; choose strong keywords that communicate your reasons for connecting with a mentor. You can also use the Industry, Major, Job Function, Employer, Organization, Skill, and additional search criteria for an excellent, more advanced search.

3. Reach out to a variety of mentors: Your mentor search results may have multiple pages. Check the full list before making requests. The best fit for you might be listed on the last page, so make sure to take your time and browse a variety of profiles. The value of speaking with several professionals is that you can compare their experiences.

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Consider requesting at least five mentors. For example, you may reach out to three within your major or field of choice and two that share an interest with you (ex. running, art, movies, etc.). You never know what a mentor has to share until you meet!

4. Write a great introduction letter: Make your introduction letter stand out, and personalize your request based on the mentor’s bio. A short three-line message is best that includes the following:

  1. Explain what interested you about the mentor
  2. Share some background information
  3. Request a specific time range to meet (ex. 15-minute chat in the next two weeks)

In addition to reading the mentor’s Handshake profile, see if the mentor has a LinkedIn page, as you may be able to find more information.

5. Follow up and stay connected: When a mentor accepts your request, you will receive an email notification. Here are a few steps to take once you receive that notification:

  1. Send the mentor a follow-up message thanking them
  2. Schedule a time to speak in person or over the phone
  3. Schedule an “update” meeting after you meet
  4. Give the mentor updates about discussed goals

To send and read your messages, click, View Mentorship Details, on your list of mentorships.

[Please note: Handshake has a built-in direct messaging function, so your email address will not be displayed or public.]

6. Be remembered for your strengths and interests, not for your needs: Share your values, goals, strengths, and interests with your mentor. For example, instead of being known as an English major who needs a job, be known as an English major who enjoys understanding the needs of the community and making a difference through writing. Go beyond job discussions and share with your mentor what motivates and inspires you. This will help you build a stronger connection with your mentors – you never know what door that conversation may open.

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7. Show appreciation and gratitude: Show your appreciation by thanking your mentors whenever they set aside time to meet. Honor their generosity by making your meetings more convenient for them. For instance, offer to meet them at or near their office rather than asking them to meet you at DePaul. Try to be more flexible with your availability so you can accommodate their schedule. If you tried something they suggested, tell them what happened. If they assisted you in selecting a career path, preparing for an interview or a job application, or simply building your courage and confidence to pursue the next step, share with them your progress and acknowledge how they helped. The best way to thank someone is to express how his or her support has helped you.

The ASK team is here to help! At any step of the way, please do not hesitate to contact the team by email at or phone at 312-362-8281, if you need assistance connecting with ASK mentors on Handshake.

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