A key measurement of student success is how they navigate the path from higher ed to employment. To help cross the hurdles that may exist between students and their chosen careers, successful higher education institutions offer a host of supportive structures—like peer mentorship programs—to help students thrive in the workforce. 

On August 11, 2022, Mentor Collective held a virtual roundtable discussion with higher education experts and corporate leaders to share how institutions, mentors, and future employers can collaborate to implement equity-minded and supportive career preparation programs that set students up for success in the labor market. 

The roundtable was hosted by Mentor Collective’s Vanessa Ford, senior university relations director, and Shannon LaCount, principal product manager, and featured experts from around the country: 

Here are some of their findings and insights. 

Know the Barriers & Eliminate Them Artem Gulish_Career RT_2022

For many students—such as those from underrepresented backgrounds and first-generation college attendees—the path to a fulfilling job is full of barriers. Because a career represents economic mobility, goal achievement, and holistic wellbeing in young adults, helping to eliminate those challenges can facilitate life-changing opportunities. 

Early steps in career preparation—such as unpaid internships and the intricacies of job applications and interviews—can be detrimental to some students. Institutions can offer added support here by providing financial assistance during internships, frequent workshops on elements of the job search process, and interview prep and general support from peer mentors. 

“The relationship between education and the workforce is more complex and nuanced than indicated by the traditional rules of thumb. Institutions need to have flexibility to be more adaptable in a fast-changing and constantly evolving modern professional world.” – Artem Gulish, Senior Policy Strategist and Research Faculty, Center on Education and the Workforce, Georgetown University

Starting Early Increases Engagement 

Latoya Watson_Career RT_2022One of the benefits of mentorship is the way it can be applied to proactively improve the transition into the workforce. Early opportunities to attend career fairs as freshmen or sophomores alongside their older mentors allows students to experience the job search environment with low stakes, preparing them for later fairs. A mentor can be very helpful in that career exploration process, providing vital information that can make students feel more at ease. 

“When students are in crisis, many times they feel paralyzed, they don’t know who to go to, they are scared to speak up and say something. With peer mentorship, I’m seeing those barriers that students are having and those walls they put up are starting to come down a little earlier.” – Latoya Watson, Associate Dean, Student Success College of Arts and Sciences, University of Delaware

Widen the Mentor Pool 

Many in the alumni community want to give back to their institutions, but aren’t in a place to contribute financially. Mentorship is a great opportunity for them to stay connected, and in turn offer their knowledge and expertise to the next generation of students. The more students can learn from people who were recently in their shoes, the better the engagement will be.

Lauren Simione Career RT_2022

“People want to give back but they don’t want to give back in the same way, so it’s important for us to be able to provide a variety of opportunities for our alumni to connect back, and we do know that connecting with students is one of the top ways they want to connect and give back.” – Lauren Simione, Associate Vice President of Alumni Engagement, University of Delaware 

It’s also important to note that the rise of digital technology, especially in recent years, allows institutions to tap into a wider and even global pool of alumni mentors. With former students spread across the country and the world, it’s a lot easier to eliminate communication barriers, ensuring that more people can be involved.

Engage With Employers 

Dewey Norwood_Career RT_2022

Many institutions wait to engage students with corporate partners farther into the student journey, but the opportunity exists to make those connections far earlier—and more frequently. The corporate/employer perspective gives students a much-needed peek into the workforce and can help them understand their intended or potential career paths more fully, and the earlier that happens, the better.

“Do little things like inviting your corporate partners to campus. It may have nothing to do at all with the coursework, but I think you’ll be amazed at what those corporate leaders can ultimately bring from a storytelling perspective around their college journey, matriculation, and graduation.” – Dewey Norwood Jr, SVP Senior Lead Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, Wells Fargo

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Mentor Collective roundtables encourage conversation and peer-to-peer interaction. The insights offered were valuable to university leaders as we collectively work to ensure student success & career readiness. Mentor Collective strives to empower every student to form the relationships they need to build resilience, self-efficacy, and a sense of belonging.

The full recording of the roundtable discussion is available here. To start a conversation about how to utilize mentorship to engage and support your students, contact Mentor Collective today.