Friday, July 9, 2021

Seven SJMC students partnered with alumni in a pilot Mentor-Mentee match program this past semester. The program paired upperclassmen and alumni with similar experiences and interests. Students and mentors then met freely to accomplish individual goals. Carson/Stoga Communications President Susan Stoga was one of the program mentors. 

“To be a good mentor you need to not only have technical skills but you’re part teacher, you’re part coach, you’re part cheerleader depending on what the person needs,” Stoga said. “It’s overwhelming to look for a job and even more overwhelming when you’re doing it for the first time.”

Stoga was partnered up with 2021 graduate Mary Hartel. Stoga and Hartel met once a week throughout the semester while other pairs met more sporadically. 

“I really lucked out with my partnership,” Hartel said. “First, I was a little bit intimidated but [Stoga] made things so comfortable and easy. She helped me figure out what my own brand story and voice was.” 

The pair worked on refining Hartel’s self-presentation through LinkedIn, job interview conduct and resumes and cover letters. They discussed whether Hartel should look for a permanent position or an internship after graduation. Stoga also molded Hartel into a confident networker. 

Stoga said, “That is a critical skill that anyone graduating needs to have.”

While the program was intended to build relationships between alumni and students, some students landed employment opportunities through mentor guidance. 

“If she saw something on LinkedIn she thought would be a good fit for me, she’d send it to me,” Hartel said. “That’s actually how I ended up getting my internship. She said ‘I think this would be perfect for you’.”

Hartel currently works as a Regional Content Assistant for Rotary International. Both Stoga and Hartel said the Mentor-Mentee program was rewarding and that they accomplished what they’d hoped to during the program.

“As a mentee, the opportunity to have someone that the j-school has already vetted for you is incredible,” Stoga said.

The Mentor-Mentee program contributed to the SJMC’s year-long focus on students connecting with professionals through conversation. All j-majors were invited to the “Finding Your Starting Point” webinar series where professionals talked candidly about their careers. Professionals from CBS Sports to Cosmopolitan to CNN to Snap, Inc. volunteered to speak to current students. Additionally, Speed Networking continued for its 11th year. Students rotated around Zoom breakout rooms instead of the third floor of the Adler Journalism Building. In a year filled with isolation and online classes, the SJMC achieved its goal of keeping students engaged and connected. 

As classes move into the AJB classrooms again, the school is working to keep up the mid-pandemic networking momentum.

The SJMC Mentor-Mentee program will return this fall. This time the program will run for the full academic year and target third year students. SJMC Internship and Placement Coordinator Paul Jensen says they are grateful for the alumni who piloted the program and to continue the program’s success, more volunteers are needed. If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out this survey.