No Mentor? Seek Career Advice from Faculty


Frequently students who are seeking guidance approach us.   Many of the issues are not specific to a class they are taking, but relate to their own careers in the service industry. These questions can range from guidance on where to look for a job and how to format a resume, to more complex issues such as what is the appropriate career path and how to handle tough interview scenarios.  

However, in reality, for every student who approaches a faculty member for guidance, there are likely many other students who are apprehensive to ask for help.  Maybe they are shy, don’t know the faculty very well, or are intimidated.  In the professional world, questions related to a career would traditionally be posed to an individual’s professional mentor.  The role of a mentor is varied, but frequently this individual provides professional guidance to their mentee, the employee, to help them navigate the complex waters of the business world.  This may include, office politics, difficult colleagues, and best practices for success in a particular organization.

While the role of a mentor in the business world is common, we don’t see students taking advantage of relationships like this while still in college.  In the business world, you may have one specific mentor you go to for advice, while in college you have a variety of faculty who can be highly beneficial for you, and can potentially help you prepare for careers upon graduation.  We think the benefits of seeking guidance from faculty can be broken up into several key areas: 

1.      Career GuidanceFor a student, choosing the career path they will take after college can be a daunting task.  Parents, advisers, friends, and other influential people in your life all seem to have an opinion on what’s best for you in terms of your career.  Because faculty have likely worked in industry, and are often non-biased, they can provide insight to what career may be the best fit for you as you pursue your career.  

2.      Professional Development & Networking Opportunities: Faculty members not only interact with other faculty members, but they frequently network with industry professionals and community members.  Through these interactions, faculty hear about scholarships, part- & full-time job openings, and professional development opportunities.  By seeking guidance from faculty members, there is a chance you could get your “foot in the door” for these opportunities early.                    

3.      Alternative Perspective on Issues: Most of us can attest that college and starting your career can be a stressful process filled with “drama,” “politics,” and sometimes can lead to feeling overwhelmed.  Faculty members can offer a non-emotional perspective on many issues, and help you look at challenges from a variety of perspectives.  Here’s a little secret:  The faculty members, when they were a student, probably went through something similar to the struggles you may be going through. 

Approaching a faculty member for guidance may seem difficult, but here are some suggestions for making the process a little easier.

1.       Find a faculty member with similar interests or experience with your question or help you needEvery faculty member at your college or university is unique in their own way.  They often have diverse industry, teaching, and research experiences that may be similar or different to your own career interests.  Ideally, you’d like to find someone who is familiar with the industry you hope to have a career in.   Frequently, you can learn a lot about a professor by doing a search for them on their faculty webpage, Google Scholar, or similar sites.  In some cases, faculty also posts their resume (also called a “CV”) for people to review.

2.      Be honest about assistance you need. In order to provide the best guidance, we need the best information. Avoid sharing stories about “your friend” or leaving out details that would be relevant when making a decision, such as your apprehension to move away from family when looking for a job.

3.      Flexibility. Faculty have many different responsibilities, in order to get the best response and most successful response, you’ll need to be flexible enough so you can fit in to their schedule. Traditionally, faculty members have their entire week, and sometimes month, scheduled in advance.  Be sure to schedule meetings or make your requests known as soon as you’re able to do so.

Don't be offended if the faculty member declines your request or suggests you ask someone else.  From research, to teaching, to service, faculty members are frequently busy with other commitments that take priority.  While most want to help every student in any way they can, there is only so much time they can allocate to doing so. 

- Drs B & T

photo credit: Tulane Public Relations via photopin cc