How to nail Online Opportunity and Scholarship Mentorships – Chimezie Anajama
In 2019, while working hard to secure a prestigious scholarship for a foreign Masters, I reached out to a previous winner of a MasterCard Scholarship for African Scholars at UK, who was studying my intended specialization (Master of Science, Africa, and International Development) via LinkedIn.
Basically, I went to the scholarship site of the university, at the alumni page, found his profile which matched what I intended to study and sent a Premium-activated LinkedIn message, asking him to hand-hold me via my application process. This MasterCard scholar had no prior relationship with me, did not know me and we had no mutual friend. In Nigerian Twitter parlance, I was “shooting my shot” in his message box (lol). But somehow, I was really optimistic that he would come through for me. I mean, why not! We were Africans; we both want to better our lives and that of the African continent. What better way for him to demonstrate his commitment to Africa’s development other than by helping another Young African reach the same height as his (premium entitlement, loooool).
After two days or so, he read my message, viewed my LinkedIn profile and IGNORED me entirely. Zero reply. But I continued waiting for his reply even as the submission date approached. One week to submission was when it dawned on me that I would not get any hand-holding and I moved on.
What do you think that I did wrong?
I felt entitled to his help which was absolutely wrong. I think the entitlement also slipped in via the tone of my message to him. Based on my later review, I won’t say that I was rude or exhibited negative energy, but I have come to realize that the frame of your mind when requesting for things can be felt in how you demanded it — in my case, via words.
I assumed that I was the only one asking him for help; the only one that researched him and tracked him etc, thus, he should have time for me.
I did not take into cognizance that he might be very busy then — writing a thesis, exams, seminars, field works etc which would have made it impossible to help an absolute stranger.
It took me time to realize that it is not everybody that will be willing to help a random stranger, just like that.
I did not give him a strong reason why I deserve that mentorship and motivation. Context: My LinkedIn profile was very barren then (it has been rectified now) even though I had an amazing CV and early career achievements then that would have demonstrated that I was a good investment of his time. So I failed myself the most here too.
So how could it have been better for me and how can you clinch online mentorship when you ask for yours?
Don’t assume that everyone is willing to help you when you need them. Don’t assume that when you need mentors like that, that they will be easily available at the time needed. Be in the right frame of mind which involves eschewing entitlement completely.
No matter how little, try to engage with their general posts on social media repeatedly before you ask. Please, always engage intelligently. If you can have this person check out your social media profile prior to the request, the better. At this point, you are applying the technique of advertising — where the first mental image this person has of you is intelligent engagement when the person finally sees you in his/her message inbox.
Build an irresistible digital footprint, CV, and LinkedIn profile before requesting an online mentorship for an opportunity or scholarship. This is an easy way of demonstrating that you don’t want to spoon-fed and the mentor’s time will be worth it. For example, as a winner of two international scholarships, once people send me a message to mentor them via social media, I first check their LinkedIn profile, then google their names. I want to see their level of expertise and visibility and what they have been doing earlier. Summary of those will increase their chances of getting selected for the opportunity/scholarship they are applying for. Personally, my ideal mentee that I could easily work with and accept to mentor is someone with an irresistible profile/CV in his or her field and can write well (storytelling skill) — because getting a scholarship/opportunity is about telling an irresistible, convincing and consistent story. So just like how renowned surgeons are kind of selective of the cases that they accept to operate on because they are watchful of their track record and reputation — that is also how mentors are. The success of a mentee is also the success of the mentor as it adds to the mentor’s profile. As a result, many mentors go for the best mentee that could easily be selected for that opportunity/scholarship. I am basically saying that you have to do your homework, do extra things, gain more experience in your field, join great networks, learn to write, and boost your career profile (no matter how insignificant it might first appear).
Finally, be specific of the help you want when you are asking for mentorship. Many of these scholarship and opportunity previous winners are extremely busy. Many may not have time to hand-hold you throughout the entire process of your application. But if you are specific, for example, ask for help in reviewing that your perfect Statement of Purpose (SoP) or other essays that you have to submit, they might be willing to help, against spoon-feeding you the entirety of the process. Thus, examine the scholarship/opportunity process and choose the areas that you need the most help. I think this was where I messed up entirely when I asked the MasterCard scholar in 2019 (lol).
NB: I am still your favorite plug for advising, reviewing, and proofreading your documents for university admissions and scholarship applications. I put in extra to see that your documents are in perfect order for clinching that acceptance. Shoot me an email at [email protected] Or Visit Chimezie Anajama on her medium blog