Campus mentoring event sharpens students’ networking skills

This parent’s weekend, students left their parents to experience a new event, one that would give a competitive edge in the evolving job market.

The BU Mentor Program brought 35 alumni, parents and friends to Westlake Hall on April 13 to the “Meet the Mentor” event. Co-hosted by the parent board and the Smith Career Center, more than 50 students from every college attended the event to find a potential mentor.

The BU Mentor Program, which began through the Smith Career Center in 2010, aims to connect students to career mentors. The program is available for student access online through the “BU Mentor Program” group on LinkedIn, according to Smith.

As of April 13, a total of 430 Bradley mentors are members of the group. The group only contains 225 students. However, it has seen a 22 percent increase in membership in the last month.

Smith said while LinkedIn is an “extremely powerful tool” in networking, it isn’t enough to teach the basics of networking, which is why the “Meet the Mentor” took place.

“We wanted to host an event where the mentors and the students could physically come together [to practice networking],” Smith said. “This is a learning environment. You won’t do anything wrong.”

Vince Gravina, finance manager at Kraft General Foods and Smith Career Center committee chair of the parent’s board, said he hopes they repeat the event. He said he believes networking is essential in all levels of the working world.

“[I’m here to tell students that] social networking is important,” Gravina said. “It’s especially important for your generation, but it’s important for ours too.”

Many students, like junior advertising communications major Scott Boersma, said they heard about the event through the email and joined to learn from mentors.

Boersma said he wanted to gain some practice in networking before he graduated.

Other students said the connection to a mentor would help them make decisions about their education now.

“I want to get a better feel for what classes to take and what to do with my major,” sophomore hospitality major Layne McCabe said.

However, being the first event of its kind, some students were unsure of how to fully take advantage of the resources. McCabe said she was nervous.

“[I was a] little nervous because I’m trying to find who I’m supposed to talk to,” McCabe said.

Katelyn Hofstetter, a senior social work major, said she thought the unannounced approach “took some getting used to.”

“It would be more helpful if more [mentors] had pictures next to their names,” she said.