Mentorship @ Purdue

Akash Raju
Draft · 4 min read

How you can utilize the Purdue entrepreneurship community to find the right people to guide you

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Introduction

If you’re reading this, you are probably a college student who has a startup idea and don’t know what to do next. That’s okay, because there are probably lots of people who have been in your shoes and a lot of people who want to see you succeed. This post will outline basic steps to find people who could be of help you and how to approach them.

Where to look

There are multiple resources on campus already designed to support entrepreneurial endeavors:

  1. Purdue Foundry — They have various Entrepreneur-In-Residence’s (EIR’s) who have expertise in various industries, programs for specific types of people and startups where they bring in guest speakers, and more.
  2. The Anvil — It is a student run co-working space on campus and they have a strong network of alumni of the space, industry connections through past speakers and sponsors, and they run their own programs where they will bring in a suite of mentors. For example, their startup accelerator, The Boiler, offers both a suite of local mentors and virtual mentors though the Purdue-SV alumni network.
  3. Student Organizations — When you join a strong community of students, there will be students who have been in your shoes and can always provide advice on a more intimate level because they will feel your exact struggles. Whether it is balancing a startup/job with school, struggling to find customers as a student, or more, someone has been there. Joining clubs like Delta Mu Kappa or Ms. Tech will give you peer to peer mentorship and tons of connections. Each person can really make a difference.
  4. Attending Events — Tons of alumni come back to Purdue everywhere for a various number of reasons. Though they may be attending for more professional reasons, they always want to interact with students and share their stories. Your job is to attend these events and wait those extra few minutes to talk to them personally — try to collect their email or grab coffee while they are still on campus.
  5. Personal Research — Do some research on successful people in the industry you are interested in! If you find exceptional people who also went to Purdue, more likely than not, they will be interested in talking to you because you share an alma mater. You never know what a simple search of {{company name}} + {{purdue}} can lead to. Some things that have worked for me include checking out past speaker lists of big events like Old Masters and the BMC Competition, following Purdue related news on Twitter, and finding alumni groups like SVBIG.

How To Approach Them and Build a Relationship

  1. Take the first step to reach out — An introduction through a mutual connection is the best way. A cold email or a cold message on a social media won’t have as high of a probability but you never know. Here is an example of a message I’ve sent that worked:

“Hi {{name}}! I’m currently a student at Purdue working on building {{project}} focused on {{brief description}}. I’d love to talk to you to learn more about what you’ve done in this industry after your time at Purdue. Could we set up a time for a quick phone call? Hope to hear from you soon!”

2. Set up a time for a phone call/coffee chat

3. Show a willingness to learn — When someone is taking the time to give you advice, the biggest form of gratitude you can show them is your interest in what they have to say and how it can help you. Have a notebook, put your phone on silent, and make good eye contact.

4. Share your story — If you have an idea you are passionate about, you have to show that passion to people for them to believe in your vision. If you ever have a fear of doubt about sharing your idea for various reasons (someone will steal it, its not good enough, etc.), nobody will ever know what you are capable of! Mentors that believe in you will do whatever they can to help you succeed.

5. Set up a time for a follow up meeting — The people you want to learn from are most likely very busy so you can’t bombard them with questions 24/7 (unless they want that), but you can take the initiative to talk to them again until it becomes a consistent thing.

6. Keep them updated on your progress and show them how their advice helped you get to your goal.

7. Repeat

Conclusion

You can always learn something from everyone you meet. You won’t know what that something is unless you take that leap of faith and start the conversation.

Listen, share your story, and repeat! Trust me, it’ll work.


If you have any suggestions that you would like us to add to this guide, please let me know by emailing me: raju3@purdue.edu

The Anvil is a student run, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire and empower the entrepreneurs of Purdue University and the Greater Lafayette, Indiana community. We provide a space for students interested in creating their own companies to meet other like minded peers and exchange ideas with one another, while providing events and resources for the student-run ventures getting their start in West Lafayette.

Delta Mu Kappa is Purdue’s premier entrepreneurship fraternity whose mission is to build a strong entrepreneurial community and instill the entrepreneurial mindset in the Purdue student community.