Many of us picture college as the one place we can be completely independent and not let anyone influence our decisions. In reality, it’s pretty common to get lost along the way and need a helping hand. Turning to your school’s staff can seem intimidating, and sometimes your parents don’t have all the answers.
Who better to get help from than someone close to your age, who has experienced the exact same thing you’re going through? More and more students are choosing to have a peer mentor rather than experience the crazy rollercoaster of college alone. A peer mentor relationship is beneficial when you have an idea of what career you want to head into. That way, you can partner with a typically more senior student who is going into the same career and already has the experiences you hope to gain over the next few years. Here are five reasons you’ll want to get a peer mentor before graduation.
1. Helping you find the right fit
Even if you don’t have the slightest idea of what career path you’re pursuing, signing up for a peer mentoring program can speed up that process. Being a part of a peer mentoring program can expose you to a variety of different career possibilities.
Jasmine Gibbons, a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University, participated in a career peer mentor program that helped her discover who she wants to be. “I participated in a lot of workshops, programming and [meetings] with my mentor that helped me rule out a lot of future careers and finally declare a major,” she says.
If, by the end of the process, you haven’t found the career that’s right for you, you’ll still walk away with essential skills and life lessons that you can take into the real world.
2. Building interview skills
Interviewing for your first real job after college can be a lot more intense than any interview you’ve experienced for an internship or part-time job. It’s hard to know what to expect, but partnering with a peer mentor can prepare you for the big interview. Some peer mentoring programs even offer mock interviews specifically tailored to the company you aspire to work for.
Tamara Peters, a career development specialist at Rutgers University, believes the mock interviews and critiques are a key component of peer mentoring programs. “First of all, when a program participant hears what’s required of him/her from a peer, it carries much more weight than hearing it from career services staff,” she says. “Many of the peer mentors have gone through, or are about to go through, the rigorous interview process that the mentees are preparing for.”
Mock interviewing provides you with an opportunity to make all the mistakes you need, free of judgment, before it actually counts.
Your relationship with your peer mentor could be the way to get your foot in the door of your future career. Not only may they introduce you to the people they’ve met in your shared career field, but they could also be the one to hire you a few years down the line.
Kenzie York, a junior at Kennesaw State University, scored her job as a resident assistant through her school’s peer mentorship program, which she participated in her freshman year.
“My peer mentor was an RA, and she inspired me to apply to be one as well,” she says. “I needed a recommendation, and she gave me such a good one. I think it was basically the icing on the cake to getting the job. Now I have the chance to be a mentor to other students.” Sometimes the best connection is waiting for you on campus.
4. Resume advice
Let’s be honest—we’ve all spent hours looking at online examples of how our resume should look. Your peer mentor can make the process easier by providing resume and cover letter critiques. They may have already landed the internship or job that you’re dreaming of, so they have the resume advice you need.
Not only can they help with how you look on paper, but they can also help you master your LinkedIn profile. Employers now recruit online through this website, so it’s important that your online presence is equally as strong.
Julia Verona, a senior at Claremont McKenna College, worked as a peer mentor to younger students. “Although there’s staff on campus that help construct student resumes, I think it’s more beneficial that peer mentors help their mentees create resumes,” she says. “Resume etiquette has changed over time, so I feel we are more knowledgeable about what works today and what doesn’t.”
Your resume can make or break you, so your peer mentor can help you make the best first impression.
5. Setting you up for future success
At the conclusion of a peer mentoring program, students are typically more prepared for what to expect when it comes to applying to their dream job. Having been coached along the way gives future applicants a leg up on the competition.
“A peer mentor relationship is most effective when the mentor is really invested in helping the mentee, and the mentee takes the mentor’s advice seriously with a willingness to apply what he/she learns,” Peters says. “In the instances I’m aware of, the successful result is that the mentee is more informed about the job search process, how to network, how to present him/herself, and is better prepared to interview.” Both parties will ultimately benefit from the relationship.
Overall, having a peer mentor can only help you. Not only will you likely find a friend in them, but you will also have a resource, guide and helping hand that will help you make all the best choices in college. Look into joining any of your school’s peer mentoring programs before you leave campus because you won’t regret it.