I started mentoring two computer science undergrad students at the local University, a world-class engineering program and one which my company recruits from regularly. I thought I'd share the email notes publicly, since they're of interest to a wide audience and of course I'd like to avoid restating the obvious for my own kids, when they reach this age.
Our first meeting
It was great meeting you both on Sunday! I really look forward to a fun, productive exchange over the course of the semester (I believe that's the intended duration for this program?). Of course I'm happy to be available afterwards, but for the duration of the program let's set a schedule of meetings every three weeks, which I think is often enough to be productive but not too often where there's nothing to discuss.
A few notes about your questions in our meeting this past week: * Co-op/first job: startup or big company? - My opinion is that it doesn't matter, but criteria should include: 1. Challenging - not busy/monkey work 2. Meaningful for making good connections - at least some of your coworkers should have deep LinkedIn networks and extensive industry experience. 3. Opportunity to learn a new area of expertise - force you to become adept in an unfamiliar domain 4. Ability to contribute directly to the success of the organization - responsibility for deliverables that actually impact the top or bottom line. * Where to live? - My opinion yesterday was that it doesn't really matter, in terms of advancing your career, as long as the work is challenging per above criteria. However considering it now, I think you'll have a wider set of companies to apply to, if you expand your job search to include e.g. Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York.... Having lived in a few of those cities (L.A., S.F., and briefly Tokyo and Seattle) I highly recommend spending some time living and working in a different city, even if not permanently.
A few ideas for structure moving forward: * Meeting somewhere quiet is a good idea, happy to continue at the office, but change of venue would also be welcome. * Suggestions for topics should be sent prior to the meeting by everyone, to allow a little bit of preparation? * Two things I'd like to talk about at each meeting, in addition to whatever topics you'd like to discuss, are: 1. What is everyone currently reading? 2. What did we fail at recently? We touched on failure but I'm not sure that I was able to articulate why it was important. The founder of Spanx talks about how important it is to highlight your own failures constantly: http://www.cnbc.com/2013/10/16/billionaire-sara-blakely-says-secret-to-success-is-failure.html
And in that spirit, here are two points of failure on my end from yesterday's meeting: * I'd like to hear more from you! I felt like I did way too much talking, and I want to learn as much as possible from both of you as well, especially to better understand the context behind your questions and concerns as you work through school and start your careers. Maybe bring some ideas/topics that are current events in your school or world that I wouldn't know anything about! * I'm sorry that we didn't cover two topics that you asked about: 1. Tips for active listening. Generally this involves eye contact, body language, and asking questions related to what's being said. I thought both of you were excellent active listeners, and of course it can be improved with practice. One resource I've found (there are many) is at http://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/11/09/10-steps-to-effective-listening/#1513fa4e26fb 2. Tips for improving written communication. This is a pet peeve of mine, as younger engineers tend to abbreviate a lot and use text-speak even in business communication, which I've never felt was acceptable (especially considering there was no such thing as texts when I started my career!). My tips are, again, to read as much as possible - always have something you're working your way through that's unrelated to coursework, whether fiction or nonfiction. Happy to recommend a few things if you'd like. The Martian is a good start :) Here's a link on writing better emails as well: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2013/11/19/an-editors-guide-to-writing-ridiculously-good-emails/#794946556347 I had a colleague once who would spend an entire day crafting an email, rewriting it up to three times, before sending it out to a wide audience. The importance of being succinct and clear when communicating in an environment where people typically don't spend a lot of time reading email is critical, so take every professional communication seriously. Don't use familiar phrases you would with friends, such as "you guys" when addressing a group of people, or "yo/hey/sup" as a greeting with anyone with whom you're not already friendly.