Written by Graduate Career Coach Intern, Justin Goldberg ’22
Often on University campuses, students experience culture shock in their transition to college. They feel inundated and anxious from the enormous change that is taking place in their life. Many students come to their college campus ill-prepared. There is unspoken tension between knowing what they want to major in and the path they need to follow to the career they want. If these students had a mentor to educate them on the importance of career development and provide them with direction, it would help them find their career paths more easily and with less stress. Since the pandemic, we have had such an arduous task in providing normalcy, especially in communication and collaboration, due to virtual platforms becoming a staple in our educational foundations. The ease of anxiety for students would be one of the most effective and altruistic reasons an individual may choose to become a mentor.
Mentoring is a well-established social support strategy that can enhance recipients’ academic, social, personal, and career outcomes. Often, students are disengaged and unaware of the beneficial resources that are available at their disposal. Undecided students haven’t had enough exposure or field experience to solidify what they want to do, which correlates to their difficulty in committing to a major. Our society holds a damaging standard for individuals when they attend college. Questions, such as “What is your major?” “What interests you?” and most popularly, “What do you want to do?” are more harmful than helpful. These questions can make students feel alienated or worthless when they cannot provide “simple” answers. Career exploration is undoubtedly not a one sized fits all solution. Many early college students are unaware of future career goals and aspirations, allowing career services to be exceptional in guiding a student.
The Career Center at Stony Brook University utilizes a career community model with seven industry-specific communities, with the eighth one for our exploring population. I am a graduate career coach intern in the Career Center, specifically working with the exploring student population. This population of students have not declared a major, want to make a switch, or are unsure how to connect their major to their career path. Many students lack the best practices or strategies to gain experience and jobs. They may believe that the best way to conduct a job search is through the internet, not knowing that this method purportedly yields a 5% success rate. Students who are unknowledgeable about the purpose of career services would ultimately have little interest or reason to sit with a career coach. In my experience as a Graduate Career Coach Intern, I have noticed that many students seek career services aid in a panic because they have not utilized our services until graduation is near. The mentor could fully pique their mentee’s interest in their career exploration by motivating them to sit down with a career coach to take their first measurable step. Mentoring could eliminate the time when students are apt to not engage with career services for many reasons.
The Stony Brook University Career Center’s micro-mentor program connects students and alumni for career conversations and helps to pave the way to success. Publicity about the perceived importance of mentoring in business careers has created interest in the phenomenon in higher education. If having a mentor leads to success in the highly competitive, profit-driven corporate setting, then it should hold even greater potential in a collegiate, learning-oriented milieu such as higher education. This quote provides evidence that mentorship programs are highly transferrable in various sectors and would be beneficial in Higher Education. Mentorship is a relationship between someone who is experienced and someone inexperienced. It has been proven through many educational pieces that mentorship programs offer students academic, social, and long-term satisfaction.
I know personally that my experience with a mentor, who attended Stony Brook University as a recent alumna in the program, Ashley Perrone ’19, was pivotal in my journey to seeking a master’s degree in Higher Education. At the time, I was stuck between 2 prestigious universities and felt bewildered not knowing which one to apply to. I shared with her some concerns and hesitancies which she relieved with her own experience. She gave me insight into the multitude of reasons why she chose to attend Stony Brook University instead of other institutions. Her experience really struck me when I was weighing my options. Ashley allowed me to ask as many questions as I had and was incredibly warm and friendly. While she showed professionalism, there was a sense of comfortability I felt around her while she was serving as a mentor. She guided me on the courses I should take that she enjoyed and what opportunities I should apply for. As an undergraduate student, I was arrogant and ignorant of the experiences or services that could have benefited me. Ashley with her care and knowledge laid down the groundwork for me to follow and seize the most opportunities possible. She influenced me to join the HEAA which is the Higher Education Alumni Association, which allows me to communicate and network with professionals in the same field. Since the pandemic and the subsequent changes in our new reality, virtual networking in the HEAA allowed me to make professional and personal connections with individuals I am still in touch with. Without her mentorship, I would not have had the meaningful academic and social awakening that I was privileged to acquire. My anxiety and stress were lessened since I had this mentor who acknowledged my concerns and truly cared for my well-being. Her mentorship was instrumental and vital to the success I am achieving in my graduate experience.
If you would like to mentor a student at Stony Brook University, have a one-time career conversation, or learn more, please contact Marie.Parziale@Stonybrook.edu or share your information with us.
Justin Goldberg ’22
Graduate Career Coach Intern
MA, Higher Education Administration