One of the things that helped me decide on the MIM program was the fact that I didn’t need a minimum number of years of work experience – most other programs I was looking at required at least two years to even be considered as an applicant. However, now that I am in the MIM program, and am studying with people that have had years of work experience, my year or so spent in the working world makes me feel I am at a slight disadvantage compared to my peers. Specifically, I feel less prepared than my cohort members when it comes to having an established network of professional contacts, that they’ve acquired through their careers to this point, and the clarity with which they seem to be focusing their studies towards a definite career. Thankfully, PSU and the MIM program give me some of the tools that can help answer many of the questions I have when thinking about what to do after graduation, namely: the mentor program.
As a part of the career services program at PSU, made available to the MIM cohort is the mentor program – a program designed to match students with local business professionals and help them gain a better grasp on the world that lies beyond graduation. Students are matched with individuals that are in a field that the student would like to pursue after they finish their program. That’s as far as the coordination from the program goes – from then on out, it’s up to the students to keep in contact with their mentors, and schedule times to meet up. That kind of structure, or relative lack thereof, was perfect for me, as I felt as though it gave me an experience similar to one that I might find in a real work environment. After scheduling, the flow of the meetings depend solely on the decisions of the mentors and the students – they get to decide on a format that is most suitable and beneficial to the students. Now, what was made plainly clear is that this program is not an opportunity for students to be given jobs (or even ask for a job from their mentor), but rather an extended informational interview – a chance to learn and a chance to ask questions.
Personally, I was matched with a Commercial Manager from Vestas, a wind energy company with worldwide offices, including one in Portland. This was great for me, not because I necessarily want to pursue a career in renewable energy or sustainability, per se, but because my mentor was actually a graduate of PSU’s MBA program, and could offer me incredible insight into what I can expect not only as a Master’s program graduate, but a graduate in the Portland area. For me, the open ended format for mentor meetings was ideal for my first meeting with my mentor yesterday, as I really have no idea of what I want to do after graduation, as far as a position title – or even what’s out there for me. These mentor relationships aren’t just a one time kind of deal either – once matched up, you and your mentor get to decide how often to meet. I plan on using each meeting with my mentor as a chance to ask an evolving set of questions, to get me more familiar with the professional world, and better refine my own set of job specifications and expectations.
Do you have your own stories about work experience? Leave us a comment! While you’re at it, let us know what you want to know about the program, or different aspects of the program, either as a comment, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.