Keyara Johnson came to Virginia Tech with enough credits to be classified as a second semester sophomore. She realized her career clock had already started ticking, and she needed to figure out what she was going to do with her degree and career.

Armed with a “lab rat habit” of trying out new things, Johnson, who is studying management, applied and was selected to participate in the pilot session of Hokie Mentorship Connect - Virginia Tech’s online platform that unites undergraduate students with alums for career-related support.

Johnson was paired with an alum in a structured mentorship, which is a six-month commitment for mentor and mentee. Johnson’s mentor did not fit the criteria she originally desired, but according to her, that was the best part. “Your mentor shouldn’t be an exact copy of you,” she said. “I felt like we fit together like two pieces of a puzzle that didn’t look like they fit, but they definitely did.”

Johnson, a first-generation minority student, felt lonely and clueless on campus, until she met her mentor. “She made me feel as if she was my family away from home,” she said. “She listened as I worked through my thoughts out loud, and she offered different perspectives that I had not considered.” Johnson was struggling to choose a major, so one of their earliest discussions centered on her mentor helping her see the connection between the majors she was considering and a career.

During the six-month mentorship, Johnson worked with her mentor to develop and work through a list of goals focused on career exploration, and as a result, she landed a summer internship with Epic Records in New York City.

“Hokie Mentorship Connect is a hidden gem on campus,” Johnson said. “We have access to an entire platform that connects us with professionals we’d like to be in five years, and through this connection we can figure out our career path and purpose at Virginia Tech.”

Hokie Mentorship Connect offers first-year through senior-level students access to flash mentorship and public discussion boards that allow students to get quick answers on career-related questions, such as interviews tips, requirements for specific careers, and even just questions of curiosity. Sophomore- through senior-level students can participate in structured mentorship, which pairs the student with a Virginia Tech alum for six months. “This is when you’re partnered with your dream mentor,” Johnson said, “which can enhance your networking skills, help you achieve smart goals, and maybe even develop a lifetime relationship.

“Patience is the key. Don’t go into the mentorship with a set of expectations,” she said, “because you need to get to know each other to set a good foundation for the mentor/mentee relationship to flourish. Students who use Hokie Mentorship Connect are going to find an alum who will share their experiences, both good and not so good, that helped shape them as a professional. Unlike reaching out to someone on LinkedIn or social media who is unaware of who you are and why you are contacting them.

“I hope every student at Virginia Tech hears about Hokie Mentorship Connect and takes advantage of this invaluable resource,” Johnson said, “Virginia Tech is all about providing guidance and resources to students to make sure we have jobs after graduation. What better way to increase chances of that than having a direct connection with employers?”

- Written by Kelly Shannon