Alumni, a guiding light for graduating students
LAU’s Alumni Mentoring Program helps students bridge the gap between university and the job market.
Graduating can be a worrisome stage in a student’s life. Being finally confronted with the reality of the job market often leaves many young people feeling adrift in a sea of possibilities they don’t know how to navigate.
“Students graduate with a strong education but with little clue of what to expect in the market,” says Abdallah El Khal, executive director of the Alumni Relations Office that established the Alumni Mentoring Program (AMP) in 2014. “Mentors have practical knowledge of the field, studied the same major and also suffered before reaching their current position,” El Khal adds.
Thanks to the AMP, LAU alumni who can boast a history of success in their field of study are matched with graduating students who have the ambition to follow in their footsteps. In order to maximize the program’s benefits, the Alumni Relations Office and the offices of the Deans of Students are responsible for screening the applications of both mentors and mentees and to bring them together according to shared interests. For mentors, this is also an opportunity to stay in touch with the academic reality and to get to know talented students who might turn out to be assets for the mentor’s own company.
Rana Zeitouni (`01), is an engineer who specialized in electrical design and consultancy and currently teaches a course in electrical design application at LAU. According to her, most graduating students are undecided when it comes to choosing the best career path. Even those with a clearer idea often struggle to understand the real mission of a company, which most of the times differs from the one presented on their website. “I told my mentee to search for companies to apply to, in order to see which ones she came up with,” says Zeitouni. “And I realized that a student can be really confused. I sat down with her and went through the same exercise again, this time giving her insight as to the companies’ real scope of work.”
“I learned how to be a professional, to understand the company’s profile and to ask the right questions that would help me figure out its real identity,” says Zeitouni’s mentee, Mira Wehbé. “On the personal level, it is very encouraging to have a person motivating and reassuring you.” Wehbé graduated in the spring and her mentor is still by her side, helping her find not just a job but a position that will launch her career.
So far, the Alumni Mentoring Program has involved around 75 mentors and mentees across the board of schools and subjects. Mentors must have at least ten years of experience in their field, while mentees are in their last semester prior to graduation. Face-to-face mentoring meetings are the backbone of a relationship that lasts a year or more.
“I witnessed the alumni’s eagerness in wanting to help students,” says El Khal, remarking that mentors apply to the program on a voluntary basis. “They want to share their knowledge with their mentees and, ultimately, this also shows a very high level of trust in our graduate students.”