“If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for a person.”
Behind every successful person is a mentor. A mentor can be a friend, family member, athletic coach, acquaintance or even a stranger. But not all of these types of mentors are easily found. Many overlook the importance of career mentors. As students enter their first job or internship, they will discover that their professors’ syllabus did not cover e-mail etiquette, company politics, dress codes, politically-correct communication and industry-specific jargons, professional branding, importance of culture fit over work, career development tactics, etc. The result of this lack of career guidance is what I call The Mentorship Opportunity.
The Mentorship Opportunity encompasses a number of initiatives that aims to connect a professional with a student or a professional with another professional who is looking to advance his or her career or transition into a new industry. Companies that are doing this include Everwise and Clarity.
Everwise uses an indvidiual’s LinkedIn profile and a personalized questionnaire to pair an individual with a volunteer executive from a company with complementary skills.
Clarity helps connect mentors and individuals via phone calls. The mentor can either choose to talk for free or set a price for their time, and Clarity lets them either keep that money or donate it to a charity of their choice.
The challenge for these mentoring services is that they require constantly active users from both the mentor side and the mentee side. Profitability is highly reliant on volume and user activity. Inactivity from either the mentor or mentee of any of these services would result in a potential loss of users and impact the service’s credibility. There is also the fear of one time users who sign on and are inactive after trial. Finally, colleges are beginning to realize the power of the online alumni network and the demand for mentorship among their students and have started their own Free alumni network and mentoring platforms, questioning the sustainability of these independent mentorship service providers. And as we all know, connecting with an alumnus is much easier than connecting with a stranger. The opportunity lies in providing colleges with branded platforms and support features to help colleges grow their online community and reconnect with its alumni. Additionally, an online alumni community complements the increase of educational offerings and resources online.
I am proud to say that my college UC San Diego has recently launched its own UC San Diego Alumni Advisor Network. The Alumni Advisor Network was created through Evisors.com, an online mentorship platform. Evisors University Solutions allows colleges to create a customized, branded platform for their students to connect with their alumni as well as alumni to connect with other alumni. Students are able to search alumni by industry, employer, geography, services, languages and years of experience, and request and receive mock interviews, resume critiques and informational interviews from alumni. Evisors also offers career webinars that typically cover an industry overview, how to land jobs in the industry and how to succeed on the job. Evisors is trusted by over 50 universities.
In my junior and senior year of college, I struggled to reach the resources and individuals who would help me break into my first job. Access to the professional world was limited on campus. I was told by some professors that their advice may no longer be applicable because industries and recruiting processes have evolved. They, too, advised that I reach out to current industry professionals. It took a trip to New York and Los Angeles as well as numerous phone calls, e-mails and even handwritten letters to find the mentors who would reveal to me another world with a whole set of new rules. My new mentors provided me with a new understanding and perspective on my industry of interest and offered me valuable advice as to where to start and how to enter. These conversations and my network prove to be instrumental in my career.
I am excited that UCSD has taken on this initiative to help students in their next steps and is creating an online community that will bring together its alumni.