Behind many great success stories is a fantastic mentor—someone who sets you on the right path, has your back during moments of need, or simply gives you sage advice at an important point in your journey.
But, finding and building a relationship with someone who can give career and personal guidance often takes time. With fewer recent opportunities to network in person, that task has become increasingly more difficult.
Luckily for students in WMU’s digital marketing and eCommerce program, the process of connecting with valuable mentors has become a bit easier. Thanks to the efforts of the Digital Marketing @ WMU student association, the program launched its first-ever, student-run mentorship project this spring.
MENTORS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
Lindsay Rogers, a digital marketing senior and director of the initiative, knows firsthand how a mentor can help set you up for success. As a first-year student, she found guidance through the Business Association of Mentors, a registered student organization that pairs juniors and seniors with first- and second-year students to serve as peer mentors. She benefited from the experience so much that she decided to become a mentor herself during her junior year.
“I found both of those experiences very valuable in my professional growth,” Rogers says. “I also had an internship with a tech startup last summer in which I had to report my progress to a team of mentors, comprised of professors and industry professionals. The feedback was very focused and personal.”
Recognizing the value that mentorship brought to shaping her own future plans, Rogers wanted to find a way for other digital marketing and eCommerce students to reap similar benefits. So, she discussed the idea of connecting students with professionals in the field with Dr. Scott Cowley, assistant professor of marketing. Together, they pitched the concept of a formal mentor program to Digital Marketing @ WMU and quickly found other students—Connor Richmond, Kiana Lamb and Brendan Milliken—who were eager to get involved.
“The mentor program was created for several reasons,” Cowley says. “With the recent growth in the digital marketing program, we knew we needed help from outside to support our students in their career preparation. In addition, we knew we wanted students to get that help in an individualized way, with different perspectives from various career backgrounds.”
The organizers drew in alumni and other digital marketers with ties to WMU to serve as mentors—professionals who could help build students’ skills, strengthen their understanding of different job roles and teach them career strategies.
“Our 2021 cohort of mentors represents careers in search engine optimization, social media, sales, digital marketing, advertising, data science, graphic design, web development and strategy,” Rogers says. “We considered what career fields student participants are interested in and matched them with mentors who work in those areas.”
What does a typical meeting with a mentor look like? “Mentors and students meet virtually once a week, typically for an hour, for five weeks,” Rogers says. “However, students and mentors can decide whether or not they want to meet more often and can choose to continue their relationship when the program ends.”
The mentor and mentee discuss a range of topics, including:
- Key issues in digital marketing.
- Resources for learning about industry news and developments.
- How to prepare a great resume and get ready for job interviews.
- Tips for choosing right-fit companies.
The teams also participate in virtual job shadowing, and skill building activities like creating advertising campaigns, delivering insights from analytics, writing sponsored content, mock interviewing, budgeting, creating a digital strategy and pitching a business idea.
“My mentor had the whole map for this program laid out before our first meeting,” says student participant Elizabeth Heinz, who is working with mentor Ryan Woolaver, B.B.A.’15, a digital sales manager for 13 On Your Side in Grand Rapids. “He gave me helpful ‘homework’ to make the most of our time together. I am excited to apply what I’m learning in my future profession!”
Student participants in the program are typically juniors or seniors who are close to entering the job market. Each applied to be partnered with a mentor in order to gain critical preparation for their careers.
“Having the opportunity to be personally educated, evaluated and challenged in a professional setting, while developing hands-on skills and gaining personalized assistance in choosing a career path is a major benefit to students,” Rogers says. “Conversely, mentors get the opportunity to practice their leadership skills, including empathy and active listening. And, both mentor and mentee get to expand their networks, which is a huge plus!”
“The first cohort of students is learning what good mentorship looks like—and learning about the supreme importance of personalized guidance in regard to careers,” Cowley adds. “For our mentors, I think they're experiencing some personal growth as they consider how to leave their students better than they found them. And for the students who envisioned and created the program, I hope that seeing this experience come to fruition reinforces a truth that the world is run by those who show up.”
The Digital Marketing @ WMU student association looks forward to continuing the program into future semesters. To get involved, contact the digital marketing and eCommerce program.