The Power of a Mentor: Celebrating UMUC’s Unsung Heroes

They’re seasoned professionals who offer their expertise, insights and networks to help you navigate your professional journey—and they don’t ask for anything in return. January is dedicated to celebrating these unsung heroes: mentors.

Although January is National Mentoring Month, UMUC offers mentoring programs year-round through its Career Mentor Program. By participating in this Career Services offering, students and alumni can tap into the power of the UMUC community by connecting with one of nearly 170 committed mentors. These successful professionals share their time, knowledge and guidance to help up-and-coming employees reach their career goals.

“It’s rewarding to witness the successful mentorship connections through the Career Mentor Program,” asserts Omega McIntosh, Career Services program manager in UMUC’s Office of Institutional Advancement.

Making a difference

Jason Hurst ’15 decided to become a mentor at UMUC so he could help others overcome some of the hurdles he faced in his own life, both academically and personally. He works as an instructor, writer and content developer at the U.S. Army Cyber School in Fort Gordon, Ga., and he wanted to share his experience to give back to the UMUC community.

Once he committed to becoming a mentor, the process was easy. “When the program first started, I received an e-mail asking if I wanted to participate, and I’ve been with it ever since,” he explains.

Since he began mentoring at UMUC, he has helped three students work toward their career goals. One of the best parts of the Career Mentor Program is that it’s s flexible. Mentors and their mentees decide the best way to work together.

“My mentoring style is primarily virtual, with phone calls or Facetime as needed by the mentee,” explains Hurst. “I try to tailor my interactions to the comfort and ability of those I am working with so the relationship is a positive experience.”

“Convenience is most beneficial part of our Career Mentor Program,” agrees McIntosh.

When a mentor is paired with a mentee, the two agree on goals they would like to accomplish within a set period of time, up to six months. They also decide how frequently they’d like to communicate and the best way to connect.

Then, they set to work on the agreed-upon career milestones. With his mentees, Hurst like to share problems he has experienced and how he overcame them to succeed. “I try to share as many resources as possible so they can research and get answers for themselves, as well,” he adds. “As an old story goes, teach a person to fish and they’ll be able to feed themselves for a lifetime.”

Of course this relationship benefits Hurst’s mentees, but he always walks away from the experience all the better for it, too. He finds fulfillment in sharing what he’s learned along his own career path, but the benefits go beyond the altruistic. “I have to stay on my toes and research things, then tie them to experience and information I can relate to for better helping my mentee,” he says. “This forces me to keep learning and adjusting, something which prevents me from getting too stagnant.”

Become a mentor, find a mentor

UMUC’s Career Services is welcoming new mentors and mentees. Hurst has some words of advice for anyone considering becoming a mentor.

“Stay flexible and be reliable,” he suggest. “Remember, the relationship [exists] because somebody [needed help] and believed you had the knowledge and skills to do so. Don’t make it about you, but rather ensure your mentee is taken care of. And make sure to check email and respond in a timely manner so you can build the relationship together as a team. “

In the coming weeks, you will learn about new enhancements to UMUC’s mentor program. Both short- and long-term mentoring options will become available through UMUC’s Community Connect tab soon.

UMUC’s Career Mentor Program “Community Connect” allows mentees to determine if they want to reach out to many different mentors for brief informational interviews via phone or email, or if they want a more established relationship with one mentor to help them complete specific career milestones.

Visit CareerQuest to learn more about UMUC Career Services and to register to participate in the mentorship program, whether you’re looking for a mentor or would like to sign up to become one.