Lehigh Connects, a new mentorship program from the Career Center, allows students to pair with alumni who can serve as their mentors and give them career advice.
When students sign up for Lehigh Connects, the website recommends connections based on the information they provide. Students can then browse alumni by industry, major and location.
“The process of using Lehigh connects was successful,” Stephanie Huynh, ’20, said. “At first, I noticed there were some glitches with the website, some minor details, but overall it was easy to use.”
Huynh was able to find a mentor who graduated in 2014.
Lehigh Connects is open to any alumni who are willing to participate.
“Over the years, hundreds of alumni have expressed interest in mentoring students,” said Jennifer Cunningham, the assistant vice president for alumni engagement.
Cunningham said nearly 800 alumni have already signed up and more will be recruited over the summer, so when students return in the fall there will be an active online mentoring community they can tap into.
Within the next two weeks, Lehigh Connects will have all on-campus majors represented on its website.
Jake Bernstein, ’20, who studies mechanical engineering, said he has been successful using Lehigh Connects and was able to find a mentor.
“(My) mentor was able to assist me by walking me through his particular career area and he was also able to help me learn more about other areas,” Bernstein said. “Besides career-related information, the alum also provided me with general advice regarding networking and career searching that I found to be helpful.”
However, Bernstein thought the Career Center could improve the algorithm that matches students to mentors so the list of matches is narrower and more frequently updated.
Andrea Skimbo, the associate director of the Center for Career and Professional Development, said there is an advantage to having a wide range of alumni mentors. For example, a brand new professional whose experience ranges between a year or two can help students with the process of applying to jobs. On the other hand, having somebody with 10, 15 or 20 years of experience is also beneficial because they’ve had a number of positions — or, in rare cases, have made career switches — which could help students in different phases of their career development.
Skimbo stressed that students should reach out to mentors after signing up. Many students who already signed up for Lehigh Connects aren’t actively engaging with their mentors.
There are several options for communicating with a mentor, like scheduling a meeting via Skype, phone or in person, or sending messages with prompts like, “What advice do you have on this topic?”
Skimbo said this type of mentorship is ideal for freshmen and sophomores who are still deciding what their careers will be. It’s also beneficial for juniors who are looking for different experiences to build upon and seniors who are gearing up to find jobs.
“Students have been getting leads on a job opening that either already exists or are going to open in the future,” Skimbo said. “They’re getting feedback based on things that are specific to a company or specific to an industry. Those are the things that coaches here cannot be an expert in for every single company out there. This is why we want to connect you with people that have hands-on experience.”