What better way to recognize National Mentoring Month than to introduce you to alumnus Gary Matus (‘69), who has been providing guidance and inspiration to students since the Alumni Association’s mentoring program began in 2008. Gary reflects on his years of experience as a mentor and tells us why he thinks Cal State LA students are unique. Learn about Gary’s inspiring commitment to mentoring and why, as alumni, “We will all be better the more we do.”
Tell us about your experience with mentoring students at Cal State LA
When I re-engaged with Cal State LA many years ago at the invitation of the Alumni Association, I began to appreciate that, with over 215, Cal State LA graduates and 3.8 living California State University graduates, we have a universe of allies in our circle of influence. Many schools, some of note, have the advantage of students living on campus bonding and networking as a way of life. Because Cal State LA is a commuter school, the bonds, although meaningful, are not as easy to tap and develop. I worked with the Alumni Association to launch a mentoring program, which we modeled after the alumni association mentoring program at UCLA. I was surprised and overwhelmed by the engagement of students and mentors and remember many, such as alumna Sharon Grigsby (’71), who engaged and supported the mentoring program of the Alumni Association.
Mentoring is our way to give back and support our students and fellow alumni with guidance, understanding, access, and opportunities. We will all be better the more we do.
Why do you support the Cal State LA Alumni Mentoring Program?
Mentoring and networking are valuable tools for advancing one’s life and career. It provides you with access to successful people, new ideas, new institutions, and possibilities that can only be imagined.
Did you have a mentor? How have they influenced you?
Over the course of my career, I have had many mentors who have not only influenced and guided me but supported me and helped me open doors. Part of the quid pro quo is that I work as hard as possible to repay their support and kindness and to thank them through my success.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever been given?
Early in my career when I worked for Colgate Palmolive as a Product Manager, my boss at the time who was a Vice President and head of a major region for Colgate called me in for some discussion and pulled me aside. He said, “Look out at the floor where you work with colleagues. I note that all of you have a good education, skills, experience, and a drive to succeed. One thing that makes you more successful than some of the others is how nice you are to be with.”
I have found over the years that people you like are the people you want to be with and support. Don’t forget this special gift.
How and where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in the success of others particularly in those I have mentored and guided. It is amazing what one can accomplish when one tries.
Would you do anything differently if given the opportunity?
The only thing I would do differently is to do more. Sometimes we get too busy to pay attention to some of the more important things in life. It is easy to get distracted and one must stay focused.
Why is networking so important?
Networking is important because it gives you a reason to stay connected to people you like and value.
Work and life balance is important. How do you balance your work and personal life?
Although I am getting better at work-life balance, my dedication to my career often came at a cost. It is clear for happiness one must succeed at both.
What types of skills do you look for in a potential hire?
Cal State LA students are unique in that they are tremendously hard-working and humble. Many go to school, work, have families, and sometimes outside interests. This allows people to grow and learn how to balance and manage many competing demands. I always look for commitment, dedication, and discipline which Cal State LA students have in abundance.
What career advice do you have for recent graduates?
At any point in your academic life, undergraduate, graduate, or beyond, you should look to enhance your skills and experience. Undergraduates should definitely seek internships or gain experience in whatever way they can. I have found that experience pays dividends in every way and allows you to build on your best skills and learn from others.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Mentoring others is a form of giving, sharing what you have, and living on through others. When you give, you get. Be faithful to your school.
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