Carls are destined to mentor
The concept of mentorship is an old one: An experienced professional guides a young person into the ways of the field. You know, like Obi-Wan and Luke, Batman and Robin, or Giles and Buffy. In the movies, these pairings are made through serendipity or destiny. But Carleton’s Career Center helps destiny along by connecting young Carls with seasoned pros through its 30 Minutes program.
Alumni volunteers meet with students in a crash-course sort of mentorship: In a 30-minute meeting, they discuss the daily challenges and rewards their work brings, along with the career and educational paths that led them to their current job. The meetings take place on campus or via Skype, and students can ask questions, get a clearer picture of a field they are drawn to, and make a connection with a mentor that might last well beyond this meeting. The program began in 2009, and 150 alums and 959 students have already participated.
“After the recession, we changed the way we guide students,” said Career Center Associate Director Jessica Mueller. “Now connections are much more important, so we offer a variety of ways for students to connect with alumni. The 30 Minutes program is very popular because students get candid, one-on-one advice from people in the field they are interested in exploring.”
Jeff Appelquist ’80 can offer insights on a variety of worlds. His first stop after Carleton was a stint in the U.S. Marines. Next, he attended law school, and topped off his JD with an MA in public policy and administration. Today he is president of Blue Knight Enterprises, an organization he founded that takes business groups to historic battlegrounds to learn leadership skills. The work uniquely blends Appelquist’s liberal arts education with his military knowledge and business world experience.
“I had a number of important mentors in the military, in law and in business. They were all willing to spend time with me, they were genuinely interested in me as an individual, and they were all great teachers. I owe them a lot,” he says.
In the true spirit of mentorship, he repaid that debt forward by becoming a mentor for the next generation. Appelquist has participated in two half-day 30 Minutes sessions. “I hope that I can be helpful to these young people, even in some small way, as they contemplate a challenging future.”
Katherine Lohmar Exel ’00 is a development professional at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, and she’s also worked as a law professor at Hamline and St. Thomas. She helps students interested in human rights and law navigate the career and educational paths that lead to work like hers. “When I was at Carleton, I found myself scrambling to make career connections in my senior year,” she said. “I would have really liked a program like this, so I wanted to be a part of it.”
She says the students she’s met with on her two visits to campus have asked great questions. And she says Carleton students haven’t changed. “Everyone was very inquisitive, fun to talk to, asked great questions. A couple students reminded me exactly of people I went to school with—in a very good way.”
Students don’t need to have a clear picture of their career destination to participate. Ben Southgate ’13 has attended multiple 30 Minutes sessions, meeting with alumni in public policy, business, and finance. “Each meeting gave me a better idea about what is necessary to enter different careers,” he says.
Shannon Virginia Mueller ’12 also used the program as an exploration tool. She started college as a premed student, and met with various doctors through 30 Minutes. But in her senior year, she switched to health care administration, and met with Robert Meiches, director of the Minnesota Medical Association. “I learned a great deal about how to follow this career path,” she said. “He also gave me his contact information and suggested a book for me to read. He was very encouraging and stressed the importance of perhaps broadening my career path from hospital administration to healthcare administration.”
Another 30 Minutes meeting led to a job offer at Cerna, and Mueller has since helped three other Carls find work there—meaning she’s well on her way to becoming a mentor herself.