The impending hunt for employment in the wake of the recession may seem daunting to many graduating students but, rather than dwell on the state of the job market, some are being proactive with school resources. University of Miami Master of Business Administration (MBA) student Craig Hardeman found a role model working in his professional field of interest.
Through the Mentor Program offered by the School of Business Administration, Hardeman met with a bank executive in Fort Lauderdale every two to three months to explore a variety of divisions. In addition to learning the basics and strategy of the company, he became comfortable working in a corporate environment and building a network.
“I saw that the person at the top of the company had a broad vision, yet invested clear attention in our conversation. It changed the way I communicate,” Hardeman said.
Established in 1991, the School of Business Mentor Program assigns 180 juniors, seniors and graduate students with local alumni and other professionals based on compatible career and personal objectives. Students have the opportunity to attend five roundtables on various topics and even shadow their mentor at work.
“The program introduces students to what the real work force is like,” said Colleen Bernuth, an Alumni Relations and Mentor Program coordinator. “They have someone to talk to, bounce ideas off of and get advice from.”
Student satisfaction with the Mentor Program is further supported by the fact that participants often return to the program in the role of mentors.
“Becoming mentors keep the alumni current in the field from a different level. They get just as much out of the program as the students,” Bernuth said.
Rewarding experiences as an undergraduate in the program led 2006 UM alum Gabrielle Rapke back to the program. As an undergrad, Rapke knew she was interested in working with Latin American countries. She accompanied her mentor to the Latin American Chamber of Commerce to obtain insight into the cultural differences between the United States and Latin America.
“The program made what I was studying real, whereas an internship gives you smaller assignments that don’t give you a vision of what it’s like to be the senior executive of the company,” Rapke said.
Now a Business Development Manager for Citibank, Rapke travels frequently to foreign countries, such as Colombia. Her involvement as a mentor “expanded UM’s alumni network and strengthened its base on Wall Street.”
Last year, Rapke helped a student prepare for interviews and understand the dynamics of the finance division to score admittance into the Summer Analyst Program at Citigroup headquarters in New York. After impressing the employers, the student accepted an offer for a full-time position with the company—prior to her senior year of college.
But joining the program will not automatically result in a job. Students must take the initiative to set up appointments with mentors and follow through with them.
“The Mentor Program provides an infrastructure for you to put energy into. I support even just finding a mentor on your own, but the program facilitates the whole process,” Hardeman said.
Similar guidance programs exist in other schools at UM. The Scientists and Engineers Expanding Diversity and Success Office serves students majoring in sciences with programs, like Speed Mentoring, that enable students to interact in a setting with multiple faculty members and Sponsored Mentors. In the School of Communication’s Peer Mentoring Program, upperclassmen assist freshmen and transfer students with selecting majors and meeting course requirements.
While each program supplies students with useful resources, the Mentoring Program in the School of Business is distinct in its individualized design. Apparent in the personalized matching process and flexible agenda, the program intends for students to create a path beyond academics and form long-lasting relationships with their mentors.
Hardeman emphasized that he not only reaped a real world experience, but even more importantly, gained a “real human experience.”