How to be an Effective Mentor

Usually I write about entertainment news, but occasionally I write career development pieces for HoosNetwork. Here’s my latest article about the mentoring process.

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Up until now, my career advice has focused on how to advance one’s own prospects. To reach your current position, it’s likely that you networked (in person or through LinkedIn) and met individuals who gave you invaluable guidance. Today I’d like to address the other side of that: how do you give meaningful advice to younger friends and acquaintances asking for your help? How can you be an effective mentor?

“Send the Elevator Back Down”

I’ll never forget the speech that actor Kevin Spacey delivered at the University of Virginia last October. His House of Cards quotes were pithy and well-received (which had nothing to do with his Frank Underwood voice). The best line he delivered was not from House of Cards, but from his mentor, the late Jack Lemmon. Reaching our career milestones is all very well and good, but don’t forget to “send the elevator back down” and give someone else a boost.

First Steps

It’s vital to listen carefully to your mentees when they approach you. Schedule a phone call or chat session to discuss their interests and questions thoroughly. Ask them to briefly share their concerns or fears about graduate school or the job they are aiming toward. That last point is very important because you can explain the obstacles you wrestled with. It can be reassuring to your mentees that others underwent similar trials.


Don’t be afraid to question a mentee and ask why he or she wants that particular program or job. Look over their professional portfolios carefully to understand their strengths and weaknesses. If there’s a noticeable gap in a resume, dig deeper and see if a hobby or volunteer work was inadvertently left out. Your guidance is useful not only for a mentee’s immediate questions, but also as preparation for their graduate school or job interviews.

Open Your Address Book

I’m quite relieved that address books are stored electronically in the 21st century. I can’t imagine flipping through a Rolodex to search my nearly 400 professional connections. LinkedIn is one of the best networking tools because it comes with excellent search and filtering options. You can drill down by school, location, company, and other terms.

I recommend that you pick no more than five connections for your referrals. Be sure that these picks are individuals who are indeed compatible with the career interests of your mentee. You don’t want everyone to wonder why these introductions are being made. To protect the privacy of your mentee and your LinkedIn connection, ask each one separately if they grant their consent to establish the introduction. After you receive their consent, send an e-mail to your mentee and list your referral in the cc line. Here is an example of an introduction:

Hello, (Mentee’s Name),

I’d like to introduce you to my friend/classmate/former colleague, (Insert name). We were in the same group at (Insert school or company name). (Insert name) attended/worked at (Insert school or company) and is happy to answer questions that you have. Please contact him/her at this address.  Thank you again, (Insert name), for your help!

My template can be customized easily to add fun facts or include someone’s interesting accomplishment. Don’t underestimate the effect of a brief introduction that both parties will see as warm and positive. It allows the momentum to continue into a fruitful discussion.

Notice that I instructed the mentee to contact my connection. I see it as turning over control of the exchange back to the mentee, who can continue with taking the initiative in their educational and career aspirations.

Why Should I be a Mentor?

Mentoring is not a quick, one-time activity. These consultations take a lot of patience, critical thinking, and time on your part. However, you come away with remarkable insight about how far you’ve come and the vast store of knowledge that you can offer to others. Your mentees, in turn, will be grateful for your aid. They’re likely to surprise you as well with what they know about the latest apps or other things that happened after you graduated. So press that button and “send the elevator back down.” There’s plenty of room up here.

This article was originally published on HoosNetwork on November 28, 2016.


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Concert Review: Seth MacFarlane and the Great American Songbook at Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, August 5, 2016

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Seth MacFarlane. Credit: Art Streiber.

Family Guy creator, writer, and voice actor Seth MacFarlane made his Wolf Trap debut last Friday (August 5) in Vienna, VA. He’s currently on his “Great American Songbook” tour, featuring the pop standards from the 1940s and 1950s. The National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Steven Reineke, joined MacFarlane at the Wolf Trap’s Filene Center.

Many selections that evening came from the works of Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins, who collaborated with famous crooners such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Ella Fitzgerald. Other songs were from arrangers Don Costa, Ira and George Gershwin, and lyricist Adolph Green. MacFarlane’s baritone voice is well-suited to these numbers with a flair and strength that are similar to Sinatra’s. His rendition of “Old Man River” was quite spectacular and easily one of my favorites of the night. Read the rest of this entry »

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Concert Review: The 2016 Summerfest Concert Series on the Plaza: Magic! and Other Popular Artists

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Nasri, lead vocalist for Magic! Credit: Pat Cuadros

The Plaza is still a relatively new addition to Tysons Corner Center, one of the premier shopping venues in Northern Virginia. However, the public square has quickly become a top spot in offering alternatives that are comparable, if not better, than the events within Washington, D.C. I’d like to spotlight the 2016 Summerfest Concert Series, which closed on July 31.

Summerfest is held annually in the summer at the Plaza, which partners with radio station 94.7 Fresh FM. It’s notable for bringing in top artists that are popular locally and across the U.S. This year’s series featured artists such as Shawn Hook, Rachel Platten, the Legwarmers, and even former American Idol contestants. The 2016 Summerfest closed with Billboard artist Ingrid Michaelson.

I arrived 15 minutes early on July 22 and I was able to stand close to the front of the throng by the stage. The winning act slated for that evening was Magic!, the Canadian reggae fusion band well known for the hit song “Rude.” They have a new single out called “Red Dress,” which is also getting airtime on the D.C. area radio stations. Read the rest of this entry »

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Theater Review (DC): Jonathan Pryce in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at the Kennedy Center

The Merchant of Venice is generally classified as a comedy, but the Shakespeare’s Globe production emphasizes the darker aspects of the play. Shylock the Jewish moneylender, brilliantly portrayed by Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall), stands upon the stage as a sympathetic and tragic figure by the end of the evening. It’s a pity that the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts featured only five special performances in Washington, DC.

Photo of Jonathan Pryce and Dominic Mafham

Jonathan Pryce (Shylock) and Dominic Mafham (Antonio). Credit: Manuel Harlan.

Director Jonathan Munby weaves together the acting and music in a way that immerses viewers in the merriment and excesses of the Venetian setting. A masque sequence is added at the beginning with dancing, drums, and shouting wonderfully choreographed by Lucy Hind. The actors moved about in the aisles to greet us, even going so far as touching the shoulders of theatergoers hurriedly taking their seats. The opening scene also displays the outsider status of passerby Shylock when these Christian revelers cease the music and attack him. Munby confronts us with persecution and thus directs our sympathy toward Shylock from the start.

Shylock is subject to manhandling and insults by Antonio (Dominic Mafham), the titular character who borrows 3,000 ducats. Interestingly, the worst taunt is when Antonio intentionally drops Shylock’s pocket-sized book of Hebrew texts. It’s a small yet moving moment, as Pryce stoops wearily to pick up the book and reverently brushes off the dust. Read the rest of this entry »

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[For the Archive:] Theater Preview (DC): Shakespeare’s Globe Brings ‘The Merchant of Venice’ with Jonathan Pryce to the Kennedy Center

Here’s another piece for my archive, originally published at Blogcritics.orgThe Merchant of Venice had a great run in Washington, D.C. The production has since moved to Chicago and continues on its world tour. See the Globe Theatre on Tour site to see future performance dates and locations.

The Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater will host five special performances of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice from July 27 through 30 in Washington, D.C. The production, directed by Jonathan Munby, stars Jonathan Pryce CBE (Wolf Hall,Game of Thrones) as moneylender Shylock. I reached out to the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts to learn more about this leg of the Globe Theatre on Tour.

Photo of Phoebe Pryce and Jonathan Pryce

Phoebe Pryce and Jonathan Pryce in ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ Credit: Manuel Harlan.

“The range and depth to which Shakespeare’s works have influenced storytelling throughout the ages is what makes his original works so timeless,” said Robert Van Leer, Senior Vice President of Artistic Planning. “His prose reflects themes and messages that are still relevant to our society today, such as the strong familial bond forged between father and daughter at the very heart of The Merchant of Venice.” Read the rest of this entry »

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6 Tips for the Aspiring Journalist

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View from the Front Row: Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, Awesome Con. Credit: Pat Cuadros

I moved to Washington, DC, for a great career opportunity recently. Relocating inevitably meant joining other social groups, where I faced the usual inquiry: “What’s your line of work?”

I have a regular office job Monday to Friday. Outside of that time, I’m a freelance writer. I write film and television reviews, and interview actors, and recap festival events. Within the past couple of years, I’ve covered famous actors and directors like Kiefer Sutherland, Robert Carlyle, and Wil Wheaton. This month, I attended Awesome Con in DC, where one of the headliners was Peter Capaldi from the BBC hit series Doctor Who.

Instead of resting on vacation, I’m all out with my voice recorder for interviews, my Nikon camera for photo ops, and a notebook to write ideas. Sometimes my older brother (COMM ’97) joins me on these adventures.

The most common reaction that I receive is, “How do you get into that?” That’s a good question. I’ve gotten the sense that people feel uncertain about branching out into new hobbies or skills. Here’s a list of quick tips if you are an aspiring journalist, which apply no matter what fits your topic of interest. Read the rest of this entry »


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Made in Hong Kong Film Festival: A Salute to Kara Wai

If you’ve never heard of the Made in Hong Kong Film Festival, it’s a wonderful event cosponsored by the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office. 2016 marks the twenty-first year since the Festival’s inception in Washington, D.C., with a spectacular line up of films from July 15 through August 7 at the National Museum of American History.

Photo of Actress Kara Wai

Photo of Kara Wai courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

Sunday afternoon featured the second day of a Salute to Kara Wai with a special screening of My Young Auntie (1981). The fifty-six year-old actress won her first Hong Kong Film Award for her performance in the funny and intense kung fu classic made by the Shaw Brothers studio. She plays a young student who marries her dying teacher to protect his inheritance. She delivers the deed to her new nephew and grand-nephew, but greedy relatives are not too far behind. Read the rest of this entry »

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