As a college student, it’s challenging to juggle the daily responsibilities of classes, jobs and extracurricular activities, not to mention the added pressure of answering the question every college student dreads: “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?”

However, that decision is a huge part of what being a college student is all about. As I approached my third year as a double major in marketing and finance at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), I wanted to find a way to marry my love for numbers with my desire to be creative but was unsure how to make that happen.

Most companies have some form of corporate mentorship program, usually for new employees. But extending that program to students in the community can be equally valuable for both the company and the mentee. It was shocking to me to learn that one in three Americans will turn 19 without having had a mentor. That’s too many potential future leaders without career guidance.

The Dean’s Student Executive Leadership Council at NJIT’s Tuchman School of Management introduced me to the mentorship program at Siemens Financial Services (SFS). On our first meeting, my mentor, Laura Schneebacher of SFS’ marketing communications team, immediately asked me what I wanted to gain from the program and specific areas of my career path I needed help with. She also laid out the goals of the program and what I could expect over the next year.

It was refreshing to know that this mentorship wouldn’t just be a one-way street. If I was going to get the guidance I wanted, I would have to communicate my expectations. And at the same time, my mentor would, as well. It has been helpful to reflect on my own goals while Laura provided her professional experience and guidance. But even more helpful was the opportunity to spend a day at the SFS offices.

During my day there, I met with Laura and her manager, Jillian Lukach, to learn more about their roles on a global marketing communication team. I even sat in on a call with their global counterparts to discuss SFS’ recent Siemens Finance Week campaign. I also had the pleasure of meeting with Kirk Edelman, CEO of SFS in the Americas, to discuss future trends and challenges in the financial industry. Hearing about a day in the life of a financial executive was thrilling, but it was the connections I made that really made a difference.

As a mentor, Laura not only provided me with advice and resources to help guide my professional development but also introduced me to an entire network of financial services employees representing many aspects of the industry. For example, I chatted about study tips for the upcoming Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification exam with a financial risk professional at SFS. I not only learned some important tips for the exam, but he also offered up his expertise over the coming months as I prepare. That’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have had without a mentor.

It’s hard to imagine what my life will look like five years from now, but meeting with the employees at SFS helped solidify my career path plans and made me that much more excited to see what my future holds. I encourage other companies to learn from my experience. Open your doors and see what the next generation has to offer. Who knows – they might be the next leader at your company.

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