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Mentor Advice

career adviceGathering Mentor Advice is invaluable and so helpful to current students.  Below you will see comments mentors have made to help you.  If you want to contact one of our 600 plus mentors in the Mentor Network, click here.  You will arrive at the Career Connections home page.  Log in and you will see a link on the blue menu bar on the top left side of the page that says "Mentor Search".  Click on that link.
-Click here to view the "Career Services Alumni Hall of Fame"

Mentor Questions/Responses:

"How should you conduct yourself in the workplace, especially that first year of employment?"

Mr. Brian Willhide
Technical Recruiter
nTech Solutions Inc
Graduated from SU 2010

"One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received was: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Therefore, taking that into account, it's absolutely imperative to behave politely, appropriately and professionally in the workplace, especially when fresh out of school and trying to make a great first impression on the first company/organization that has decided to employ you. First and foremost, you want to focus on yourself as a person, because that's something you can prepare for and work to improve outside of the office on your own time. The other things, such as how others perceive you, how your Supervisor evaluates your work performance, etc., are things ultimately out of your control and will ultimately have a way of working themselves out. However, if you consistently dress appropriately, comport yourself in a professional manner when communicating with other employees, customers and clients, then you've got the makings to be successful in whatever career you decide upon. Build good working relationships with colleagues and supervisors very early on, so that they know they can go to you at various times of the day and that you can be dependable. It's only the first piece of the puzzle towards making a strong first impression, but it can ultimately lead to having personal success, harboring company/organizational success as well, and potentially setting yourself up for growth within your organization and/or industry."

Melissa Graves, CPC
Office Administrator
Gateway Pediatrics, PA
Graduated from SU 2006

Professionalism is a given. It is going above and beyond that counts. Show up to the office before your supervisor. Show initiative in the workplace. Don’t wait to be asked to do something. Dress appropriately and modestly. If it’s your first year in the industry, absorb as much as you can from your coworkers and supervisors.  If it’s not your first year, continue to learn, improve, and never be satisfied with what you know.

Lee Roth
Chief Marketing Officer
Graduated from SU in 2000

In your first year, no matter how good your education is, your green.  My advice to you is two-fold: first be a sponge and listen/learn as much as possible and second, use these words as often as possible "how can I help".  Volunteering to take on any task that comes your way is a great way to learn, to gain trust, demonstrate a strong work ethic and advance.

Alexis Morrell
Alexis Morrel
TV/Film Producer
Funny or Die
Los Angeles, CA
Graduated from SU Class '08

My advice to people entering the workforce is the following list:  
-Be hungry for success and work smart (sometimes people think it's just hard work, it's not. You burn out if you're not smart about it.).
-Your mom and dad can't do this for you, so step-up and learn from mistakes. Good work ethic goes a long way.
-Pay attention to details, and don't expect anyone to do anything for you.
-Leave your ego at the door unless it will get you somewhere, you may have done 16 years of school, but you're a freshman in life, be patient with yourself.
-If you don't know how to use a copier, fax machine, MS Office, and Outlook, learn ASAP! It will put you ahead of your peers and gain you an easy dose of respect from your employers and the village elders.
-Double check your emails. This means everything from spelling and context to tone and confidential information that can be used against you in court or on television.   
-Always say, "please," and "thank you."
-I live by the advice of Tina Fey: "Don’t hire anyone you wouldn’t want to run into in the hallway at three in the morning." -- Be both sides of this statement, it will help you in the long-run.
With all of this said, the MOST important advice I can give to graduating seniors is ALWAYS -REFILL THE COFFEE POT. Don't be a jerk about it, be a hero.

Mary A. McPherson
Program Manager
Washington County Health Department
Hagerstown, MD 21742

-Come to work on time and don't skip out early.
-Don't ask for days off except a summer vacation. 
-Cover up the tattoos
-Wear simple jewelry
-Tight fitting clothes makes us (women) all jealous and crazy
-Do not believe what you hear in the hallways. it's often wrong.
-Talk less and listen more
-Be helpful but not boastful
-Understand when you are over your head and don't be afraid to ask for help
-Be creative and innovative. 

Pam Barrington
IT Operations Manager
Coppell, TX

"I remember when I first started out in IT thinking that those folks over 50 were dinosaurs and I didn't understand why they were still here.  What I learned is that those folks have a lot of knowledge.  So what I would say is to try to find a person that is older that can become a friend and mentor.  Also, remember you are new and you will get tasks to do that seem small and insignificant, but do them well and with a positive attitude."

Chris DiPasqua, RN, MS, MAT, CCRN
Department of Nursing
Salisbury University
Graduated from SU with an undergraduate degree in 2007

"My best recommendation for answering this question would be that students maintain their humility and be willing to learn. Especially in nursing and the health professions, experienced colleagues appreciate those new to the field who state their limitations and ask for help when they are unsure in an unfamiliar situation. It is always best to ask for help versus engaging in a situation where an error or patient harm can occur."

Jane Bidwick
Bidwick & Associates, Inc.
Executive Recruiter
301 924-6480

"Work hard!  Go in early, stay late – you will learn more and do more and in the meantime, you will develop and demonstrate an excellent work ethic.  Work ethic is one of the best character traits to develop for a successful career."

Lindsay Smith RogersLindseySnithRogers
Web Writer/Communications Specialist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Salisbury University Graduate Communications Major, '04

"Treat your first job as a continuance of your education. While some careers deviate, many honor the 10,000 hours rule (and if you don’t know what that is, look it up) and you should too: workplace decision-makers are often people who have put in their time and respect experience as an indicator of readiness to take on more responsibility.

To make the most of your learning experience, start a personal document that you can save and refer to. (Make sure it’s something you own, either saved to your personal computer or your own Google drive so you don’t lose it if you change jobs.) Write down everything you're learning about your new office's procedures and culture. Be prepared to come in as a blank slate, ask lots of questions, don't assume, and keep track of everything. Be respectful of your new workplace - you're there to learn.

As you learn more about your new environment, start a separate personal document and begin to craft facets of your "ideal job."
For example, the first document might look like this:
•    People regularly send and respond to emails during off hours (10 pm, on Saturdays, etc.)
•    Coworkers tend to wear jeans but managers/directors wear business casual
•    It’s an unspoken expectation that I attend work-related events even if they aren’t mandatory – my boss always asks me where I was if I don’t show up to things
•     Coworkers prefer Slack/instant messenger over emails
•    It is required that I get signatures of approval from 3 different people for certain things

And the corresponding second document might look like this:
•    I want an office environment that has stronger boundaries between work and personal life and does not require after-hours communications
•    I prefer an environment with more formal work attire
•    I prefer a manager who clarifies specific expectations, such as “I expect you to attend even non-mandatory work events”
•    I prefer an office that uses more informal means of communication like Slack
•    I prefer a work environment where decisions are made more casually and with less bureaucracy, and where I am empowered to make decisions on my own

Throughout your first couple of years on the job (and throughout your working life!), you can build up both of these documents. If you change organizations, you can see what attributes were unique to one particular environment and what kinds of things are part of the sector you’re working in or maybe just universally part of the modern workplace. You’ll also be building up your “ideal job” document. You may never find a job that ticks ALL the boxes, but as you gain more experience and learn more about what kind of worker you are and in what environments you thrive, you’ll be better prepared to land a job you truly enjoy and can stick with for awhile.

Side note: It’s not always possible to suss out whether a job will tick all your ideal boxes during the interview process, so you’ll have to learn to ask the right questions. For example, if you’re trying to ascertain whether or not a workplace is going to expect you to be glued to your phone 24/7, you could ask what a typical day on the job for your role looks like."

Angela Balsamo
Publisher, Coffee News
(410) 360-0588 office  (443) 790-1358 cell

"Show up on time! 10 minutes early is on time. Anything else is late. Not sure how traffic is going to be? Leave the house even earlier. Never assume your boss knows how bad traffic is every day. If you’re going to be late, call! Not at the time, you’re supposed to be there, but at least 15 minutes beforehand. Leave a message if you have to. Do not have them guessing if you’re showing up today. It will be harder to be given more responsibility if they don’t know if they can trust you.

Dress professionally. Even if you have to get a Kohl’s credit card to get new clothes.

Do not get onto Facebook, Snapchat, etc. during office hours (unless it’s your job). Do not complain about your place of employment or your co-workers online. They will find out. It will be awkward. It can hurt your career. Vent to friends in person (talking to people is still a thing, right?).

Above all, listen and learn. Not sure what a co-worker is talking about? Ask questions. Do research (guess schoolwork never really ends)."

Regan Pasko
Area Sales Manager
Hughes Network Systems
Lexington Park, MD
Graduated from SU with a degree in marketing.

"Be humble and nimble. Understand that everything will not be exactly how you anticipated, but that is normal. Just offer your help wherever you can and meet as many people as you can. Your reputation is extremely important, so protect it by being professional, hard-working and offering help for whatever projects and tasks you can."

Martha Bennett, CPA
Finance Administrator
Town of Ocean City, Maryland

"1)      Be on time.  This is both for reporting to work each day and for completing assignments.
2)      Ask if you don’t know how to do something, but learn quickly. No one wants to have to tell you how to do the same thing over and over.
3)      Learn everyone’s name and what they do.
4)      Find out who really gets things done and form a mentoring relationship with her.
5)      Done with your work early? Offer to help others even with mundane tasks like handling mail. You will be appreciated.
6)      Someone will be asking for a donation at least once a month.  If you are able, contribute to the cause. Bring in a covered dish or at least a bag of chips to the party."

Josh Esworthy
Blue Water Golf – Ocean City’s Golf Pro
9919 Stephen Decatur Hwy Ocean City, MD 21842

"Respectful – be respectful, you never know who the other person is or will be someday. This goes for anywhere – beach, store, restaurant or workplace – BE RESPECTFUL of everyone." 

Kevin Hooker
Project Scheduling & Earned Value Management
General Atomics
Graduation year at SU-2008

"Remember that you are fresh out of SU with a lot more knowledge than you started with but still have a lot to learn from the people who have been working within their specific industry for much longer than you. Ask lots of questions and make sure you write down the responses to reference back to so you aren't asking repetitively. It also shows you want to learn and take it seriously. Don't overstep your boundaries with senior employees but also don't be afraid to challenge people's ideas and actions in a constructive and positive manner (unless it's your boss... then they are always right - unless they ask you specifically your opinion). Continue to be a sponge. You are still a student, just at a different institution and one where you get paid."

Marc KlineMarc

Customer Care Manager
Business Banking Customer Care Center
Wells Fargo | 8480 Stagecoach Circle | Frederick, MD 21701-4747

  • "While college can be enlightening and enriching, be sure you have a tenured mentor to help you navigate the new company. 
  • Keep an open mind to new ideas and don’t be afraid to share your ideas.  A good manager will appreciate a “fresh perspective”.
  • Always be open to change.  Change is the only constant that I have had in my career.  Change can offer new career perspectives within the company.
  • Enthusiasm and eagerness are great traits for a new team member but also be respectful of your colleagues who have been there for a while.  They were once new as well and can be a great resource as you navigate through your career path.
  • Finally, be patient.  You didn’t get your degree in 1 year so you shouldn’t expect to be running the company in the same amount of time.  promotions and opportunity will present themselves when you are ready but you need to learn everything you can while you are in your position.  Always ask questions."

Amanda Baker
Federal Police Officer
Supreme Court of US Police
Washington, DC

  • Be on time
  • Be willing to stay late occasionally to complete a task
  • Review your work and your replies prior to submitting
  • Be cognizant of your personal brand and act mature
  • Be confident in your work and willing to learn
  • Good luck!


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