Peer Career Consultants

Silicon Valley program prepares master's students to guide their classmates through the competitive technology employment landscape.

Lynn Shea

Apr 12, 2024

Student at Alumni event

The Peer Career Consultants attend a CMU Alumni and Student mixer at the CMU-Silicon Valley campus.


It's obvious that Leigh Mason loves her job as the Associate Director of Career Services at CMU-Silicon Valley. And why wouldn't she - she gets to help some of the most talented and well-prepared engineering students find internships and jobs in the epicenter of technology innovation.

But with more than 300 students, who are oftentimes seeking competitive opportunities with prestigious companies, there is a constant demand for the career and professional development services she provides through workshops and individual coaching and advising.

Despite her endless energy and enthusiasm, Mason realized shortly after taking on the role, she couldn't do it all herself. So, in the fall of 2019, Mason and CMU-SV Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Lauren Schachar, launched the Peer Career Consultants program.

"I didn't know if our students would be willing to counsel their peers, but I decided to try to recruit them and find out if they were interested," said Mason.

Turns out they were more than interested - many were eager to help fellow students, and each year more students apply to the popular program.

In January, five new peer career consultants were hired based on their own job search experience as well as the passion they showed for wanting to help others. This is the fifth year of the program.

Mason runs a two-day training for the new peer career consultants in how to coach students, review resumes, conduct mock interviews, assess employers, and network in Silicon Valley. She also has the consultants shadow her, practice counseling one another, and she shadows each of them as they begin consulting other students.

Dipam Paul, who will earn his M.S. in Software Management degree at the end of this year, says he appreciates the emphasis Mason put on listening and being empathetic with job seekers.

"We probably spend more time listening than giving advice. It’s important to understand their specific challenges so we can help them come up with effective strategies," said Paul.

He says the tech job market has become more difficult recently and, like any job search, it can be stressful and demoralizing. He believes that as peers, the student consultants are especially good at relating to their struggles.

"They know I have been in the same boat. They know I get it, so they can be open and frank with me," said Paul.

Students pose outside of Volvo Innovation Lab

Leigh Mason, Associate Director of Career Services at CMU-Silicon Valley, and her team of Peer Career Consultants toured the Volvo Innovation Lab. Pictured, from far left: Leigh Mason, Stella Peng, Dipam Paul, Justin Ventura, Shreya Mishra, and Shivani Ghuge.

Shivani Ghuge is another new peer career consultant this year. She says that peer career consultants on campus who helped her in the past were excellent. She wanted to give back.

She also hoped that by becoming a career consultant she would learn to be a better job seeker. The training she received as well as the dozens of students she has already counseled have taught her a lot.

She and the other consultants are available during open hour sessions to meet informally with students seeking advice.

"Thanks to Leigh, we really learned to be careful how we speak to students. She taught us how to put forth our ideas constructively," said Ghuge.

In more formal sessions, Ghuge has reviewed resumes and helped students tell a better story by using stronger action words and highlighting relevant experience. When she conducts mock interviews, she prepares by studying the company a student plans to interview with.

Ghuge, who will also earn her M.S. in Software Management this year, also regularly attends campus events with alumni, entrepreneurs, and speakers from local companies.

"I am amazed at the network in Silicon Valley," she says.

But networking is more than just an important job search skill that consultants teach. Each year, the group builds their own network and forms close bonds with one another.

"We do a lot of activities together and spend a lot of time helping each other. I can always reach out to one of them if I am working on a topic that they’re more familiar with," said Ghuge.

"They really become more of a family," says Mason who is happy that there is now a tradition to hold an event each semester with both current peer career consultants and the alumni who have come through the program.