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News & Blog > Mentoring & Advice > Ask an Alum: Help with your first message

Ask an Alum: Help with your first message

Help with your first personalised message to your potential mentor or advice giver via Ask-an-Alum

Once you've found an alum you would like to connect with on Ask-an-Alum (see our practical guide for Ask-an-Alum) you're ready to write your first message.

This is the part of the process which many people feel anxious about. But don’t worry – with the right preparation, you can make it easier and improve your chances of success. 

  • Make sure you have an introduction and opening question worked out in advance (whether you are making contact online or in person). This should cover who you are, what you want and a question- we recommend one question to keep it short.
  • Try and reference something specific, either something about their work, or perhaps something that you have in common, like you are both from the same city or region, or did the same course at IDS. You are not applying for a job, so you don’t need to go into your skills and motivation in any depth.
  • Always say thank you; both at the end of the email and in any responses.
  • Double check before you hit send that your message is clear and precise, check your spelling and ensure that what you have written will be understood by the recipient, and use the recipient’s name in the email.


Dear Michelle,

Like you did in 2016, I'm studying MA Gender & Development at IDS and would like to know more about working for UN Women. How did you get started? Can you give me any advice on routes in? 

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Kind regards

IDS Student

Once you've made contact, the next step, might be to arrange a conversation for advice or knowledge sharing. This is where you can dig a little deeper and find out more. You should:- 

  • make it clear you are information-seeking not job-seeking – it takes the pressure off both of you
  • ask for 30-60 minutes of their time
  • use telephone, Skype/Zoom or even email
  • do some research – don’t ask basic questions that could be answered by the company website.

More help on how to have a successful one-off mentoring, advice or knowledge sharing session a success.

Discover Ask-an-Alum

Ask-an-Alum: A practical guide for online mentors

Ask-an-Alum: How to find an online mentor

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