More than a mentor

As a junior, Sara Leiding (Enterprise Leadership and Communications, 2020) was a bit nervous when she showed up to her first day of Professional Preparation for Enterprise Leadership. At the time, she was unsure of exactly how she wanted her professional career to look. Little did she know, the impact of enrolling into this course would change that.

The Professional Prep course is designed to help students prepare for life after college by giving them opportunities to build a professional network, create a strategy for securing internships and full-time employment, and develop professional skills.  As part of the course, led by the University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC), each student is required to work with a mentor throughout the semester. Iowa JPEC staff strives to match students with UIowa alumni mentors by carefully reviewing both the student and mentors’ areas of interest, career goals, and skillsets. Once matched up, students are required to reach out to their mentor throughout the semester to conduct mock interviews, discuss career plans, and get feedback on their resumes. Based on her interest in marketing and education, Leiding was matched up with Olivia Kaiser (Journalism and English, Entrepreneurial Management Certificate, 2015) a Marketing Manager at McGraw-Hill.

“When I reached out to Olivia, I was totally taken aback. My eyes opened up to this whole new world that I was looking for. She was everything I needed from the get-go. She was friendly, caring, open, and answered any questions I had,” Leiding said.

Right away, Leiding and Kaiser formed a relationship beyond the course requirements. What started out as an opportunity for Leiding to have a professional look over her resume led to a relationship that included everything from interview outfit suggestions to networking tips and introductions to Leiding’s soon-to-be supervisors at McGraw-Hill. Through introductions from Kaiser, she was chosen to be the first UIowa Student Ambassador for McGraw-Hill. Shortly after this opportunity, McGraw-Hill opened applications for summer internships and Kaiser encouraged Leiding to apply. After interviewing, Leiding was hired as the summer Product Marketing Intern at the company’s Dubuque location.

Some students may be hesitant to make the most of their mentor relationships, and really go beyond the required assignments. Leiding said her choice to “step up, initiate the conversations, and try to get the most out of it” really paid off. Not only did she secure an amazing internship and a lifelong mentor, Leiding was also introduced to a career path she didn’t even know existed – and just so happens to be the perfect fit for her.

It’s not just the students who benefit from these relationships. The mentors who are part of the program benefit as well. “My mentor experience with Sara has been drastically different than with others in the past. Sara went above and beyond and took advantage of the program. She puts forth so much effort and it’s exciting to see her succeed,” stated Kaiser. Students like Leiding are the reason Kaiser continues to be a mentor in the program. “Being able to watch a student succeed or to help them find some direction is an amazing experience.”

Leiding attributes these opportunities to the mentorship program and the connections she made with Kaiser. “A lot of times on a bigger campus we are often left running around with our heads cut off. We are constantly trying to figure out ‘who should we talk to?’, ‘where do we network?’, and ‘what do we do next?’ The Iowa JPEC mentorship program was the perfect guidance, everything fell into place when I met my mentor and I could not be more thankful,” she stated.