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By Julie Wilson

When many of us were starting out, the chasm between a job that paid the bills and a career that inspired passion seemed insurmountable. If you were one of the lucky ones, you had a guide to help you bridge that gap and set you on the road to a fulfilling professional life. The University of Phoenix Alumni Association recognizes the value of those relationships and created the Alumni Association Mentor Program to help seasoned graduates open doors for up-and-coming professionals.

“University of Phoenix is committed to supporting our students and alumni in their professional pursuits,” explains Alanna Vitucci, executive director of the University of Phoenix Alumni Association. “Our Alumni Association Mentor Program provides the opportunity for our alumni and students to help each other by sharing their real-world expertise, which ultimately benefits everyone.”

Case study

Sellena Ferguson, Master of Business Administration (MBA) ’10, first learned of the mentoring program through her Enrollment Counselor. “I decided to log on and see what it was about,” she says. “I thought I would give it a shot.”

Ferguson, who currently works in human resources, has decided that field is not a good fit for her. Instead, she wants to establish a career in residential property management in part because she enjoys assisting people. Ferguson previously held a position in property management and is eager to return to that field she enjoyed so much. “I like to be that person the residents can talk to and ask for help,” she says. “I take a lot of pride in that.”

After Ferguson requested a mentor, she was partnered with Michael Neveu, Master of Business Administration (MBA) ’08, within a matter of weeks. Neveu brings more than 25 years of professional business management experience to this mentoring relationship. He is currently the general manager of the Yosemite Lakes Owners Association. In his role there, he oversees 2,258 lots and 75 staffers and sits on two boards of directors.

For Neveu, the decision to become a mentor was simple. As he progressed through his master’s program, he recognized the high level of commitment, time and energy he received from his instructors. “With their help, I gained valuable tools that were—and continue to be—applicable in my professional dealings with people and circumstances,” he says. “That experience confirmed the principle that as you give, so do you receive.”

Initially, Ferguson and Neveu communicated exclusively through email. Later, they began talking on the phone. “Michael told me I [could] call him whenever I [wanted],” says Ferguson. “I am thrilled and blessed that he is so accommodating.”

A customized plan

Vitucci stresses that mentoring can be tailored to fit into anyone’s busy schedule. “The beauty of our mentoring program is that alumni can decide how much time they are willing and able to commit to their mentees, whether that means a one-time phone conversation or regular meetings.”

Ferguson is grateful that Neveu found the time to share his expertise with her despite the around-the-clock demands from his job, personal life and seminary studies. He created an action plan for Ferguson that became her roadmap to a career in property management. It describes how to choose a focus area in the field, what additional certifications she will need and which Web sites are best for job hunting.

As a result, “Sellena is paying more attention to a structured approach in defining what she wants in a career and how she is preparing for that career,” says Neveu.

For her part, Ferguson credits Neveu with changing her life forever. Because of the impact his assistance has made, she plans to pay it forward by becoming a mentor once she is established in her new career. “I felt lost and wasn’t sure how to get back into the property management industry,” she admits. “Now there is hope for me to achieve some of my dreams and career goals. I would encourage everyone to participate in this excellent program.”

Neveu sees the mentor program as an extension of the team learning experience at University of Phoenix. “Mentoring is just another version of that team dynamic,” he asserts. “It doesn’t end when you graduate—it just continues at a new level.”

One mentor, one mentee,
two lives transformed

Don’t think you’re mentor material? Think again. The University of Phoenix Alumni Association Mentor Program is seeking mentors from every stage of their careers.

“We know that all alumni have something to offer, regardless of their job titles,” says Vitucci. “Sometimes it’s as simple as words of wisdom to help an overwhelmed student through a rough patch, and other times it might be the advice someone needs to cinch a promotion.”

Likewise, the Alumni Association’s mentoring program welcomes all students and alumni who think they could use a mentor’s guidance. “Everyone can benefit from having a mentor—from entry-level up-and-comers to high-level executives,” stresses Vitucci. “Their needs just differ based on where they are in their careers.”

Why become a mentor?

Simply put, to give back. Chances are, someone helped you along in your career, and it’s natural to want to do the same for someone else. Long-time mentor Cindy Hill, Master of Business Administration (MBA) ’08, vice president of facilities management for Jones Lang LaSalle, enjoys the chance to share her expertise with others. “Every time I offer valuable advice to [my mentee] based on my skills and experience, I end up building my own confidence and self-esteem as well—a win-win!”

Why become a mentee?

For those on the receiving end, a mentor’s guidance can make a dramatic difference in their careers. For Sonya Joseph, Bachelor of Science in Management (BSB/M) ’09, a call center trainer for Sysco Corp., a mentor helped propel her career to the next level. “[My mentor] would say to me, ‘Until you get the offer, your job is to convince employers that you are right for the position.’ I give him kudos for helping me land my dream job by making me believe in myself. I had the skills and background for the job, but he gave me the extra confidence to help me seal the deal.”

Sign up for the mentor program today.

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