Guest blog post written by current student and Manchester Gold mentee, Judith Scholes
“Now students, we have Jane from The Careers Service to talk to you…”
During my first two years at university, my mind would drift at the mention of these words. ‘I don’t need to think about this yet’, I would reassure myself naively, scrolling through social media and thinking about what I was going to have for dinner. However, as third year loomed ahead of me at the beginning of September, I reluctantly pricked up my ears and listened.
As a Music student, I face a daunting career paradox: I’m simultaneously very qualified for most graduate jobs, yet I also have no idea about what lies outside of the music bubble and how my degree can function outside of this environment. I also had no idea about my transferable skills; how can playing in an orchestra or writing a composition be useful beyond the music niche? It felt as though my tutors were equally as uninformed as I was. I explained to my tutor (a composer) that I had been in contact with a recruitment consultancy about opportunities for graduation. His bemused response hardly inspired confidence in the careers advice that he could offer: ‘I don’t know about that… have you considered teaching?’
As a confused and lost final year, Manchester Gold Mentoring therefore appealed to me as an opportunity to get some information about what life after graduation is like, the different industries there are, and where I could fit into the wilderness of graduate life. I had nothing to lose by applying. Following acceptance onto the programme, there was then an introductory session to the scheme and ‘The Manchester Network’.
Perhaps the best way to describe this process would be online dating, but for careers. You scroll through all the potential mentors, filtering by industry, job, or location, then pick the three people you like the look of the most. I’d encourage you to choose a broad trio of mentors if you’re not sure about what you want to do. Be open-minded about industries and use this as an opportunity to test the water before you commit to anything. It’s much better to find out over a coffee that a career as an accountant isn’t for you than it is to commit to a graduate scheme and be miserable for the next two years. I sent off my request, along with a cheesy careers-based pick-up line and awaited a response.
I ‘matched’ with Lewis (it really does feel like online dating), and we arranged to meet at a pub to get to know each other and discuss what we both wanted to get out of the scheme. We chatted about my CV, what I enjoyed, where I had come from, what I wanted to do, and what he did. Lewis’ experience and insight meant that he was able to see a lot of things that I was looking for in a career that I wasn’t even aware of. I discovered that I want to be in a people-centred environment, where I can think creatively, and where there is a bigger goal than just making a profit. Even from just one meeting, I was already more confident about finding a career and applying for jobs.
From this point, we met monthly and improved my CV, developed my LinkedIn profile, practised applying for jobs, and discussed interview techniques. However, aside from these practical benefits, I always left each meeting feeling encouraged and reassured. Lewis was able to introduce me to other people that he knew, who worked in industries that I was interested in. Through Lewis, I have expanded my network and been able to reach out to his connections in other industries. By investing in a mentoring relationship, you not only benefit from their experience, but also from their connections.
With improved confidence, increased self-awareness, and an understanding of my experience and skills, I felt confident to apply for graduate roles in industries that I’d assumed I was excluded from because of my degree subject. It is often difficult to look at your experience and assess how it will transfer to graduate life, which is where a mentoring relationship is beneficial. Their perspective can really help you to see all the amazing and unique qualities that you (and only you!) have to offer employers.
If you’re considering whether to apply for a mentor with Manchester Gold, I would certainly encourage you; applying can only help, whereas burying your head in beer and trying to forget about graduation will almost certainly have the opposite effect. Manchester Gold provides an opportunity to tackle graduation head on, with the helping hand of someone who has already done it all and made mistakes so that you don’t have to. Not only this, but just by being on the scheme, you are making yourself more appealing to employers. It displays a proactive attitude to employment, and it shows that you take your future seriously.
Moreover, this is a careers-based relationship that lasts longer than just a single meeting. Your mentor will get to know you, and you will get to know yourself. They will see you progress, and help you to reflect on your experience in an environment that is personal and entirely tailored to you and your future. Finally, from my experience, a mentoring relationship can be for life, not just pre-graduation crises. If all goes well, they may become a contact for the rest of your career, which is a unique opportunity to have at this stage of life. I’d hope that it’s apparent by now that I’d recommend Manchester Gold Mentoring.
Next time ‘Jane from The Careers Service’ comes to give a talk, I hope you’ll have the confidence to take a step in the right direction.
Manchester Gold is open exclusively to University of Manchester students. Apply now.