Students looking for some guidance have a new online tool to tickle their professional fancies, studentmentor.org.
Executive director and co-founder Ashkon Jafari founded this non-profit online mentoring service when he saw a need to bridge the gap between willing professionals and curious college students.
The website’s office is located in Silicon Valley. Jafari, who is one of four staff among a team of 25 volunteers, attributed the location of the enterprise to his ability to produce the site.
“Silicon Valley is the hub of technology,” Jafari declared. “We are able to leverage technology to improve society through this site.”
According to the site, Studentmentor.org is defined as, “a nonprofit organization matching college students seeking career or academic advice with professionals nationwide.”
College undergraduate or graduate students using the site are able to receive help from mentors on issues ranging from financing education, to finding an internship, to balancing work and personal life.
The service is completely free to use by both mentors and students. Interested mentees are signed up in just a few minutes and are shown potential mentors immediately.
Jafari is proud of the enthusiastic mentors already on the website.
“We represent a lot of the industries out there,” said Jafari. “We have a Harvard law student, doctors, business executives, and authors, to name a few.”
Mentees can also choose to be shown mentors located in a specific region. After a match is made, the mentor and the mentee have the liberty to decide how the relationship will work. Mentoring can happen in person, online or over the phone, depending on convenience and availability.
Jafari appreciated the benefits of mentoring through his personal experience as an undergraduate student. While in college, he started questioning the applicability of his major and other career paths he was considering pursuing. His former boss at an internship he had held became his mentor.
“He let me know what classes I should be taking, he helped me to get a job and to succeed academically,” Jafari explained. “He went out of his way to really tell me what classes were pertinent to the workforce and what I needed to be studying.”
His co-founder, Stephanie Bravo, had a similar experience as an undergraduate psychology student. Her true aspirations were to follow a pre-med path, but she felt as though no one was available to help her figure out the convoluted course of study.
The mentorship program Bravo participated in through her college paired her with a mentor who facilitated her success as an honors student and her eventual acceptance to medical school. Her mentoring experience fueled her desire to provide the same opportunity to students across the nation.
Ginger Goldsbury, associate director of career services at the University of Massachusetts, encouraged students to link up with alumni through the Career Services office on campus, or on the alumni website.
“Students are afraid to call someone who has a lofty title,” said Goldsbury. “It is important to contact them, they want you to call; They love it.”
Goldsbury reflected on the experience she has had with students at the University, mentioning that what she sees as successful students are ones who take advantage of the advising and mentoring resources available to them through Career Services.
“There are students here who come in to talk, seek out internships and practice interviewing,” said Goldsbury. “Those are the students who are successful.”
“Making connections is so important,” she went on, “but so many students are so reluctant.”
Jafari hopes his website can alleviate some of the uncertainties undergraduate and graduate students face through a positive, professional mentorship match. The convenience of the site and freedom both mentors and mentees have in building a relationship may make the tool an attractive method for some students to seek out long-desired help and advice.
Katie Byrne can be reached at [email protected]