Career Corner: Establishing a Mentoring Relationship

By: Nadezda Semenova, Peers for Careers Correspondent

(As orginally published in the Ticker:

Very often, we do not realize how important having a mentor is. However, as history has shown, successful people do not achieve greatness without the help of others. “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself” is how Oprah Winfrey once described her relationship with her first mentor, Mary Alice Duncan.

Specifically, she was the fourth grade teacher who helped Winfrey “to not be afraid of being smart.”

While mentorship is crucial to developing our careers, students who are starting to build their personal network may face the question: where do I find a mentor?

As Sheryl Sandberg writes in Lean In, “[mentoring relationships] probably won’t develop from asking a virtual stranger, ‘Will you be my mentor?’ The strongest relationships spring out of a real and often earned connection felt by both sides.”

You may already experience such connections with your parents, professors, peers and friends. Although you may not refer to them as mentors, these people may provide you with advice, guidance and constructive criticism.

Another way of finding a mentor is through networking. As Julie Winkle Giulioni wrote in her book Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: “Today, the lines between mentoring and networking are blurring. Welcome to the world of mentworking.”

Mentoring is especially relevant to Baruch College students who have access to weekly corporate presentations, panel discussions and other networking opportunities. Finding a mentor can be as easy as engaging in meaningful and thoughtful conversations with professionals during an on-campus event and then following up with them afterwards.

Baruch also provides a formal mentoring program, Executives on Campus (EOC). The program provides a forum where students and willing mentors come together with programs like the Academic Year-Long Mentoring Program and Mentor for a Morning. Jacqueline McLoughlin, Director of EOC, notes that both programs have grown significantly.

This year, the program made 360 mentor-mentee pairs for the year-long program, compared to 200 pairings last year.

The foundation of a good mentoring relationship is mutual trust and respect.  It is also important to be clear on expectations. Often, students have the misconception that a mentor will do all the work for them or will hand them a job. Either of these assumptions is wrong. Having a mentor is a privilege and involves showing effort.

The mentor-mentee relationship is about becoming a better communicator, figuring out career goals and aspirations, and developing professional connections. For example, mentors can share their insight in the industry, help you to create and polish your resume, and prepare for an interview.

Another important aspect of mentoring relationship is communication. Because people have different personalities and schedules, it is good to learn of a mentor’s preferred method of communication and have a clear time frame for meetings and follow-ups.

Do your homework before coming to the meeting, have questions ready, and think about topics you want to discuss. Communicate your goals, obstacles and achievements on a regular basis, and be open for an honest feedback.

In addition, it is necessary to remember that mentoring relationship is two-sided. Mentees mistakenly believe they have nothing to offer and feel uncomfortable constantly asking for help.

However, each mentee has his/her interests, actions, and progress, which can entice mentors to want to help. Read articles authored by your mentor, learn more about their industry, invite them to speak on a panel at your club event, or simply ask what they are working on now. All these actions will help you to contribute to cultivating a stronger relationship.

Once this relationship is established, like any other, it will have its peaks and hollows. As a mentee, it is your responsibility to stay in touch. Keep your mentor updated about your achievements and progress.  Having a mentor requires work, but it definitely pays off.


Career Corner: Your options for graduate school

By Christina Badali, Arame Mbodji, Brittany Masi and Arisleydi Garcia: Peers for Careers Correspondents

(As orginally published in the Ticker:

Applying to graduate school can be overwhelming. In order to narrow the search, students should answer the following key questions:

Why do you want to go to graduate school? How long do you see yourself in school? Are you willing to move for school? Would you enroll full-time or part-time?

How are you going to pay for school? Are you willing to take out student loans?

Once students have an understanding of what they are looking for, they can form their list of programs using online resources like Information on this website includes duration of the program, location of the school, degrees offered, tuition costs and financial aid.

Keep in mind that there are independent scholarships available to students based on field of interest, demographics and military experience, to name a few.

You should also contact the admissions office of specific programs to ensure that the information you obtained is accurate. Next, you will have to determine whether or not you need to take an entrance exam.

Graduate school entrance tests are field-specific. These exams are prepared by teachers and practitioners in the industry and are used to determine if you have the skills required to succeed.

Some graduate programs will give you the option of different exams that you may take while others may ask you to take more than one. For this reason, it is important to find out which tests are required for your program. GRE, GMAT and LSAT are some of the requisite standardized tests.

In cases where taking an entrance exam is not a requirement, it is important to consider costs and whether taking standardized tests will make your application stronger.

There are various ways of studying for entrance exams, and you should choose what best fits your learning style.

However, the cost should also be taken into


Private tutoring and test preparation classes are often very expensive.

A cheaper alternative is to use study guides that can be purchased at bookstores. Additionally, online guides and sample tests are available at minimal or no cost. It is important to give yourself plenty of time to study.

The more you study, the more confident you will feel.

Students will most likely apply to more than one program, and it is likely that each program will have varying application deadlines.

For this reason, it is important to stay organized throughout the application process.

It may be helpful to create a spreadsheet that lists all of the programs to which you will be applying with a column specifically for important deadlines. In another column, you should include the personal statement prompt required of the admissions application.

Lastly, in order to remain as organized as possible, it is important to keep track of when you are submitting application documents.

These include entrance exam scores, undergraduate transcripts, a personal statement and the application itself. By keeping track of when these documents are submitted in your spreadsheet, you will eliminate the chances of submitting an incomplete application.

By taking these tips into consideration, you will be able to survive the graduate school application process, hopefully with an offer of acceptance from the school of your top choice.

Finance Recruiting Step 2: Developing Soft Skills – Asking A+ Questions

By Michael Jimney, Financial Leadership Program (FLP) Correspondent

Generally speaking, soft skills refer to your ability to interact with others.  Think about that.  How you address someone, what subjects you raise, and how you smile or nod during a conversation are considered skills.  These nuances feed into someone’s impression of you. In Finance, it is critical to be aware of the impression you are making on others.  Because you will only have one chance to make a first impression, try to develop your soft skills before that first handshake.  Knowing how to create a good impression is important.  Luckily, there is one weapon that can be the key to your networking arsenal, and it will be the topic of this post – specifically: How to Ask a Question.

Networking is an essential component of your finance internship/job search.  To effectively build your network, you need to create a connection with your contact.  This means doing more than listening to them speak at a company presentation and collecting their business cards.  One way you can build a rapport that will establish a real connection is to ask questions.  In addition to creating a connection, it also allows you to gain insights and information into a particular career.  Before I explain how to craft a question effectively, it is important to know there really are such things as good and bad questions.  In order to better understand how your thought process works, professionals look at the kinds of questions you ask as a reflection of your judgment.  Asking a bad question may not do you any irreversible harm, but a good question can make a big impact in making an impression.

Consider the four kinds of questions students generally ask when meeting with professionals (listed below in order of importance):

  1. The insightful question
  2. The attentive question
  3. The typical question
  4. The wrong question

Starting from the bottom, there are some questions which are just wrong.    How much leeway you have with asking a wrong question is directly dependent upon the person with whom you are speaking.  If you are talking to a Managing Director, you do not want to ask him what an investment banker does.  That will make you seem lazy and gives off a bad impression, because you could easily have read about it on your own time,.  However, asking that question to a current student who interned at an investment bank or a recent graduate is reasonable (albeit typical).  Another wrong question would be “How much do you earn?” This is a question that makes most people feel uncomfortable.  Asking about something they just explained is another no-no, as it shows you were not paying attention.

Typical questions are those you will frequently hear being asked.  Those old standards include:

  • “What does a typical day look like?”
  • “How do you like working at company XYZ?”
  • “What do you do for fun?”
  • “Do you recommend any books or reading materials?”

Truthfully, these questions are an effective way to get information about the company and/or a position.  Questions about what their typical responsibilities are or what skills they view as the most important are a good way to understand if the role fits your interests.  When you first start networking, these will likely be the types of questions you will frequently ask.  Just keep in mind that these questions will not get you noticed or remembered.  Over time, try to shift from these typical questions to the insightful and attentive questions, otherwise known as the “good” questions.

The attentive question is where you take something the speaker has said and dig deeper.  For example, “Earlier, you mentioned your involvement in the ABC transaction; could you tell me a little more about it?”  The benefits of such a question are: 1) the speaker will know you are actively listening, and 2) you will get additional information about a subject where you might be lacking knowledge.  A good rule of thumb: people like to talk about themselves.  If you show a bit of interest in something they have done or mentioned, they will be more than happy to talk about it.

The final and most important of the aforementioned categories are the insightful questions.  These questions connect outside learning to the subject at hand.  For example, asking a banker “Considering the recent growth of the ABC sector, do you see the focus of your group shifting over the next few years?” shows that you are paying attention (like an attentive question) and you are also looping in outside information.  Here, you get all the benefits of the attentive question with one key difference: you demonstrate that you are learning about the finance industry on your own time.  The more detailed or complex the outside info, the higher the return will be when it comes to making a positive impression.  Make sure you understand what you are bringing up because it is easy for a professional, who probably knows more about the topic than you do, to tell if you are just trying to sound smart.

In Step 1, I discussed the significance of researching the finance industry.  Asking questions while networking is one way you could use that knowledge.  It is also very important to stay up on current events.  The Wall Street Journal is the standard (students get a discount price:, but there are plenty of other periodicals or news sites like the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Reuters, Barron’s, and The Economist that are worth reading.  The more time you spend reading, the better your questions will be.

When it comes to speaking to professionals, you want to spend most of your time asking insightful and attentive questions.  That way, you get meaningful information from your networking contacts while leaving a positive impact.  Questions are a great way to make a great first impression, but it is not the only skill you need to cultivate.  In the next post, I will be going over how to develop your own personal pitch.

Diary of an Intern, Episode 2: Learning My Limits

10/28/13, 2:45PM

When I finally made it to the office to start the first day of my internship, only one thought filled my mind: my career was officially over. I was half an hour late on day 1; way to make a first impression, Bob! After I regained my breath, I decided to calmly explain the circumstances to my supervisor and own up to the responsibility. He was surprisingly calm and seemed impressed when I offered to stay overtime that day to make up for my lateness. One thing is for sure: I am going to give myself extra time on my commute from now on to avoid this issue.

It has been a week and a half since then, and thankfully, I haven’t been late again. Now I can just focus on getting used to the job and my new environment. The office is built like a maze, and I feel embarrassed when I have to ask full time staff for directions. Everyone seems so busy, tucked away in their cubicles. I always worry that the clueless intern will only interrupt their workflow. Instead, the staff is generally warm and welcoming.

The workload is finally picking up. I’ve been working on a few projects from my team’s senior staff. I know I can handle this – after all, I’ve been juggling classes and activities at Baruch.

This is starting to be a little overwhelming. I have been stuck on a problem for hours and I can’t figure it out for the life of me. It’s hard to balance between work and meetings – I was almost late for a meeting today. Sometimes I wonder if I can really handle all the expectations they have for the interns. Will I ever get comfortable in this new place?