Several current and former ASU students are some of the first to sign up for a new website that allows students to seek mentors and receive advice regarding their career paths.
Studentmentor.org matches students with professionals who give advice and answer questions about the students’ desired careers. The service is free of charge, and the students keep in contact with their mentors through emails or face-to-face meetings.
The website, which started five months ago, is the first of its kind and has already received acclaim from USA Today and CNN.
Ashkon Jafari, the website’s executive director and co-founder, developed the resource because of his own troubles with career-related decisions as a student.
“Back when I was in college, I actually switched majors several times, even switched colleges a couple times, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career,” Jafari said. “I entered into my college internship and found this mentor, and he helped guide me by telling me which classes I needed to take to succeed.”
Jafari said his experience with his mentor was so profound that he decided to help others find similar professionals that could guide them.
“I looked around and saw that many of my friends needed guidance in terms of their career, yet they didn’t have anyone to speak with,” Jafari said.
Jafari said he noticed there wasn’t a program available to help students, and he began the website to provide free mentorship services to those who needed assistance.
The website hosts approximately 1,000 mentors and serves more than 400 students from across the U.S. There is a wide range of industries represented — writers, engineers, doctors, pilots and others are on hand to guide students, Jafari said.
Nikki Tolia, a December 2010 ASU graduate who majored in chemical engineering, recently signed up for the site.
“I thought studentmentor.org would let me talk to actual people who are in the engineering field and also guide future employment,” Tolia said.
Tolia is looking for a job in engineering and is still searching for a mentor that caters to her educational needs and questions.
“I joined in search of any guidance or information about the ‘real world,’” Tolia said.
Michael Grace, who graduated with an MBA from ASU in 2007 and now works at Phoenix Children’s Hospital as a project manager, is participating as one of the mentors for the website.
“I joined studentmentor.org to give back a little bit,” Grace said. “I wanted to provide guidance and insight and share history on how I got where I got. I figured it would be valuable for others who are in need of guidance and are trying to figure out a work path.”
Grace currently mentors a student at Paradise Valley Community College whose main struggle has been time management.
“She’s struggling with how to make money and live independently, go to college full-time, go to work, still see family, still see friends,” Grace said. “We rearranged her class schedule and we worked with her employer to get some more flexible hours.”
It was important that she talk to someone who was an independent third party and who wasn’t caught up in the day-to-day drama of her life, Grace said.
He said students who sign up for the website need to be active to be able to reap the full benefits of the site.
“They really have to actively use the website and find someone who they can relate to and share knowledge with,” Grace said. “If they do that, the benefits of learning from real-world experience versus the knowledge at ASU which, for lack of a better word, is more sterile, are huge.”
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