Add value to your experience at Penn…and beyond

One of the best ways to prepare for life after Penn – as well as to help you make the most of your time at Penn – is to find a mentor.

One of the best ways to prepare for life after Penn – as well as to help you make the most of your time at Penn – is to find a mentor.  Mentoring opportunities can arise in many ways – for example, discovering that you really connect and enjoy talking with your faculty advisor – or be born out of more formal programs for undergraduates and Alumni such as those profiled on the Career Services Networking and Mentoring webpage.

The Penn Engineering Mentoring Program is one such program, pairing first year students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science with SEAS Alums.   Participant Praveen Bains (EAS ’13) has kindly shared her experience in connecting with her mentor below, illustrating some of the many ways such a relationship can add value to your experience at Penn…and beyond.

Pondering Majors: The Penn Engineering Mentoring Program
By Praveen Bains, EAS ’13

I remember when I first applied to the University of Pennsylvania and came upon the question that asked for your major. At the time, I was definitely uncertain as to what I wanted to do with my life, but I ended up checking the box next to “Bioengineering” and thinking “I’ll just figure it out later.”

Later came in the form of second semester, when I still hadn’t decided if Bioengineering was for me. In an effort to figure out what to do, I signed up for The Penn Engineering Mentoring Program.  [Open to SEAS freshmen, students can apply and select potential mentors from a database of SEAS Alumni volunteers.] After reading through the possible mentors and selecting a few of them, I was paired with a Penn Bioengineering alum, Julie, who was currently working as a patent lawyer in New York City. It was an ideal match, since I had been considering attending law school and pursuing patent law upon graduation from Penn.

I sent an initial contact email to Julie, introducing myself to her and giving a brief background on my career ponderings.  A few days later I was greeted by an enthusiastic response from her; she introduced herself and encouraged me to ask her any questions. From there we corresponded by email for the rest of the semester, mainly discussing her role as a patent lawyer, but also about the random happenings in our lives. It was a very casual and comfortable conversation. She was even in the midst of planning her wedding, but still found time to respond.

During the summer, we decided to set up a conference call of sorts. I was a little nervous initially, since we had built the mentor-mentee relationship via email; I wasn’t sure how she would be on the phone, or how I would come across. But the talking session was a success. We chatted for an hour over my motivations for becoming a Bioengineer, the differences between Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering (which I was considering at the time), and her own career path. Julie proved to be an invaluable resource. After talking with her, I realized that patent law was not the right fit for me, and that Chemical Engineering would be a better base for my future career.

Last summer I officially switched my major from Bioengineering to Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. It was a huge relief to finally have my path set. I am very grateful to Julie for helping me with my decision, and for being open to my questions.

Stay tuned for future posts from some of our esteemed Alumni Mentors!

The Benefits of Having a Mentor

by David Ross

Do you ever find yourself with questions on how to prepare for your future?  Ever wonder how others may have gone through situations you’ve experienced?  Unsure just who to ask those pointed questions on things you really want to know but are afraid to ask – for example, what really is the best way to deal with office politics?  Consider identifying a mentor – someone you feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in conversation.

Mentoring can be formal or informal.  Some organizations you are already a part of may have structured, formal mentoring programs.  Take advantage of these opportunities to connect with individuals willing to share their experiences and be a resource for you.  In other instances, you may gravitate towards someone informally and periodically seek their perspectives on different issues.  These ad hoc “mentoring” situations can be just as informative and useful as well. Either way, mentors can be excellent sources of advice who may offer interesting ideas based on their own experience and knowledge.

While mentoring can be great from a career perspective, don’t overlook additional benefits.  Mentors may be interested in your growth and development as a person and can possibly offer their thoughts on any variety of subjects.   Once you identify additional, shared interests, you’ll find your discussions may expand to encompass a wider array of topics.

The strongest mentor/mentee relationships develop over extended periods of time.  Definitely seek out opportunities to connect with a mentor – you may find it a rewarding experience that serves you well both now and in the future.