If you’re like most of the students in our high school entrepreneurship clubs program, you may be wondering how to make the most of mentorship. How should you go about scheduling meetings with your mentor? And, once you do meet, what should you even say?
In this two-part series, we’ll discuss:
The role of your mentor
How to communicate with mentors and schedule meetings
How to build a meeting agenda and lead a productive meeting
Who are the LaunchX entrepreneurship club mentors and what is their role?
The most important thing to know is that LaunchX Clubs mentors are volunteers. Our mentors generously donate their time, efforts, and insights to the students in our clubs program because they are passionate about entrepreneurship and education, and they know that young innovators have the potential to create real impact, now. As a volunteer, your mentor has agreed to meet with your team once a month, virtually. Be respectful of their time and don’t ask for additional meetings.
The second thing you need to know is that your mentor is not here to tell you what to do or how to do it. While it may be tempting to look to your mentor for answers, you and your team are in fact in a better position to make decisions for your company because you know your customer better than anyone.
Your mentor is available to be a sounding board and to give you real-world perspective, but your team is responsible for all decisions, actions, and results. Your mentor will check-in on your progress and to ask questions about your choices. In some instances, your mentor may even ask you “Have you considered asking this interview question?” or “Are you sure you have enough customer feedback to prove this MVP works?” By asking open-ended questions, rather than spoon-feeding you their own opinions, your mentor will help guide your team to determining your next steps.
How should you schedule meetings with your mentor?
As a LaunchX Clubs member, we expect you to interact with your mentor professionally, representing your company and school in the very best light. If you’ve never worked in a professional setting before, it may seem intimidating to initiate communications and schedule meetings with your mentor. Not to worry—so long as you are gracious for their support and respectful of their time, you will be fine.
Here are some tips for your first email to your entrepreneurship club mentor:
What should you include?
- Thank your mentor for their support
- Briefly introduce your company and team
- Tell your mentor what you’ve accomplished so far and how they can help you
- Suggest three potential times to for your meeting
- Ask your mentor which meeting platform they’d like to use
What should you not include?
- Long explanations of what your company is or what you’ve done so far (one to two sentences is enough!)
- Too few or too many meeting options (keep it to three!)
Show respect for your mentor by keeping your communications as brief as possible. It may feel strange at first to suggest meeting times, but your mentor will actually be grateful that you provided them with a few options to choose from, so to minimize the back-and-forth.
Once your meeting time is set, send your mentor an invitation on Google Calendar, or a similar platform, to ensure you both remember your meeting time. After your first meeting, we suggest that you put a monthly standing meeting on the calendar (example: you always meet on the first Tuesday of the month) so that your team and mentor can set aside that time in advance.
Here’s a sample of the first email that you’ll send to your mentor:
Hi [Your mentor’s name],
It’s a pleasure to meet you! Thank you for offering your mentorship to myself and my team.
Our startup is called [Your company’s name here ]. We do XXXXXXXXXXXXX for XXXXXXXXXXXXXX [Your value proposition—what do you do, and who is your customer?]. So far, we have conducted primary market research to determine our target customer [Tell them what step you are at—there is no shame in being early in the process!]. When we meet, we would love to share our progress and hear your thoughts on the best way develop our MVP.
Here is a brief introduction to our team members:
- Juan —10th grade student who has great web design skills and a killer sense of humor
- Mackelya —10th grader who is fluent in two languages and is passionate about the environment
- Lara —11th grader who enjoys learning about 3D printing and runs track and field
- Victor (me!) — 10th grade student on student government who loves building relationships
Are you available to meet on December 20, 21, or 22? School gets out at 3pm, so we would be available for a call anytime between 3:30-6:30pm.
Please let us know what time will work best for you and if you prefer:
- Google Hangout
What should you do if your mentor doesn’t respond to your email?
If your mentor doesn’t respond to you, don’t panic! LaunchX Clubs mentors often have busy lives at school and work. Chances are, they simply forgot to respond.
Wait one full week and if you still have not heard from them, write them a polite follow-up note on the same email thread as your previous message.
Here’s an example:
You’re probably very busy right now, so I wanted to push this back to the top of your inbox. Please let me know if you are available for a meeting on any of the dates I suggested. If an afternoon meeting time is too difficult, our team can also make time in the mornings before 9am.
After you send this second email, wait five to seven more days for their response. If, at this point, you still have not received a response from them, please document this on our student/ mentor engagement form so that we can match you with a new mentor.
How should you follow-up with your mentor after the meeting?
Within one day of your meeting, follow-up with your mentor to show them that their time was well spent. Include the following:
- Thank your mentor again meeting with you
- Tell them what was most helpful/ valuable about the meeting
- Restate the goals your team will be working toward over the next month
- Remind them of your next scheduled meeting
Thanks again for taking the time to meet with us yesterday. Talking with you about our plans for testing our prototype helped us to gain more clarity around how we should be running these tests so that we get honest feedback from our customers.
Before our next meeting, we hope to test our product with 30 customers. We look forward to sharing these results with you at our meeting on January 22 at 4pm.
Do’s and don’ts for scheduling meetings with mentors
In sum, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to help you manage your mentor communicastions like a professional:
- Choose one person on your team to be the mentor’s point-of-contact
- Only use email for scheduling meetings (not for sharing ideas)
- Suggest potential meeting times
- Show gratitude for the mentor’s support
- Send a calendar invitation (here’s a how-to!)
- Share your agenda with your mentor one or two days advance to remind them of and help them prepare for the meeting
- Be respectful of your mentor’s time and show gratitude for their support
- Send lengthy emails
- Send emails with your ideas or questions in between meetings
- Be discouraged if your mentor doesn’t respond right away
Need some tips and tricks on building a positive mentor relationship? Check out part-two of this article on building a meeting agenda and leading an effective meeting.