Meeting – June 2014
Simon and I met again at the beginning of June to discuss what my next steps were after just completing my degree. It had been a busy few months with final exams and dissertation hand ins, so we had a lot to catch up on. I now have an unconditional offer to study my Masters course (in Cultural Policy) in London from September, and we discussed a variety of current issues on arts funding and education systems. The greatest benefit from an alumni mentoring relationship is getting an insider’s perspective of the industry, and Simon’s extensive work in Germany was particularly insightful on understanding the fundamental differences in policy initiatives and the national curriculum relating to arts education.
Additionally as part of the programme I will undertake an internship in a relevant field. We discussed the work experience I already have (and will have gained over this summer) and established areas that could be of interest. Being in London next year I hope to be able to meet the contacts and undertake work experience that we have previously discussed, which had been almost impossible this year due to geographical and time restraints.
End of Year Event – July 1st
On July 1st all mentors and mentees involved with the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme were invited to an end of year event at the AMV BBDO offices in London. It was a brilliant evening meeting with fellow soon-to-be graduates of the programme and the university. Everyone has either secured employment, work placements or higher education programmes for the coming year and we unanimously agreed that the advice and guidance of our respective mentors had significantly enhanced our prospects and career ambitions. We also agreed that the mentoring relationships that we had formed over the year would continue to develop as we embarked on our respective careers. When talking to some of the graduates of the scheme at the event it was interesting to hear how their mentoring relationships had become more like friendships and still maintained regular contact. A great evening to end a great year!
To tell the truth I have been putting off writing this last ALMP post in the vain hope that I wouldn’t be the first ALMP graduate to leave the scheme jobless (yes that’s right, the scheme has a 100% success rate in terms of graduate employment!). Fortunately – and after ten long months of off-and-on job hunting – I have found a job working for an exciting media agency in London. Funnily enough, the events which surrounded the interview earlier this week provide almost a perfect reflection of the ALMP programme and its extraordinary capabilities. As such, instead of just summing up my experience this year with Andrew Garner, it’s perhaps a good idea to share my last week on the programme with you.
In what may sound like a bizarre start to this anecdote, my week began at Glastonbury festival, where I had been volunteering behind a bar and revelling in the infamous mud baths. After six days, four seasons, a combined ten hours sleep and a ten hour coach journey I arrived home to find several missed calls and emails inviting me to an interview two days later. On a normal day this would be plenty of preparation time… but for a sleep-deprived, mud-soaked festival survivor, sleep was my priority. I therefore spent much of the following day in bed before heading up to London for the ALMP drinks reception. Interestingly, once there I spent little time talking to Andrew about my interview the following day, instead I quizzed him about his expanding business portfolio and intriguing love of motor sports. Whilst this may sound like a missed opportunity, one of the most valuable lessons I have learnt through Andrew this year is that interviews are often won and lost on personality fit and ‘soft’ skills. Therefore as long as you know your apples from your pears with regards to the industry, the rest is down to how you come across.
With that in mind I rolled up to the media agency the following day having prepared less than in any of my other interviews this year. Fortunately the company liked my personality, picking up on the keen enthusiasm I had for the industry. After a few hours of returning home I get the phone call offering me the job – at which point I panicked and asked for the opportunity to sleep on it.
What Andrew did next was pretty special. I called him and told him the good news, but also that I was unsure whether this company was the right one to begin my career with (it’s a small, independent agency rather than a major industry player – this may sound snobby but it’s another thing Andrew has instilled within me over the past year – each career move needs to be right, and moving to an obscure company may harm your future employability). Within a matter of hours Andrew had put me in contact with a hugely influential individual within the media planning and buying industry, who explained to me that the company in question was an exciting one to be at right now – so much so that he himself had investigated the possibility of buying it not that long ago.
Needless to say after receiving that type of advice I accepted the job whole heartedly. Andrew’s contact also kindly suggested that I save his number and call him in the future – another huge opportunity. In fact as I think I mentioned in my previous post, whilst the ALMP mentors can’t give you the answers, they can certainly push you in the right direction and – crucially – provide access to their hugely significant networks. Thanks to the programme (and more specifically, Andrew) I have been introduced to three major players within an industry in which I am due to be working very soon. It’s now my job therefore to ensure that the doors which the ALMP programme has opened for me stay open.
My first mentor meeting with Simon Halsey took place in November 2013. We had a very informal coffee meeting and discussed anything and everything to do with university so far to long term career prospects. I have worked with Simon for the past year or so through choirs and other musical events at the University of Birmingham, but this was the first time we had properly got to know each other in a mentoring context. We began by discussing the various career opportunities in the music/performing arts industries. As a well-connected and world-renowned musician, Simon has many contacts and networking circles in the business. After discussing my initial thoughts on where and what I’d like to do, he made extremely thought-provoking suggestions on alternative routes into different institutions, which were related to music, but that I had previously not considered.
I had always intended to pursue further studies at postgraduate level and I was well on the way with my masters applications (for an MA in Cultural Policy) by the time I met with Simon. However he was able to guide me into how I would eventually make a decision on which university I would accept and challenged me on how these courses would help me in my long term career plan. After receiving offers from Goldsmiths College and Warwick University I accepted a place at the former. The time constraints of final year studies and the geographical logistics of placement opportunities have so far proven difficult in undertaking work experience so far, however I am hoping that, with Simon’s assistance, I will be able to gain experience in London alongside my studies.
The last few months have been very busy, both with getting ready for finals, as well as trying to complete patients’ treatments and transfer others to other students. However I was able to meet with Barry in January when he invited me to the National Steering Group meeting at the Department of Health/NHS England in London. There have been many changes within the NHS in the last year, with numerous ‘local professional networks’ having been set up to provide feedback on local services. The National Steering Group communicates between these and NHS England, as well as monitoring the pilot sites for the new dental contract. These meetings are very important in determining the direction that NHS dentistry will take for many years to come and so it was great to be able to observe it. It also gave me the chance to meet other people playing important roles in these developments, such as Professor Jimmy Steele who led the independent review of NHS dentistry several years ago and is now helping the attempt to improve quality of care for patients without reducing access to dentistry.
Watching Barry in his daily life showed a very different side to the clinical aspects of dentistry that I’m familiar with. I was able to observe several other, some more informal, meetings that Barry had scheduled that day, and it made me appreciate the amount of communication and work that needs to take place within different departments/groups in order to be able to make changes and improve even one part of the NHS.
Since then I have kept Barry updated about my application and offer of a foundation training place in September and am now aiming to meet him again in June to catch up and for a meeting of the National Dental Commissioning Group. So far I have very much enjoyed the experience, and despite both being very busy it has been good to make time to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of the NHS and has helped develop my understanding of the profession I am entering.
I updated Alan on the meetings that I had been to since our last meeting – I had a couple more in March at the Birmingham Rep and with the Director of a young people’s theatre company called Fevered Sleep, which is based at the Young Vic. I had also had the opportunity to do some shadowing at the Royal Shakespeare Company (an opening that came out of my February meeting there), which was just fantastic. I am very grateful for these introductions and for Alan’s continued support with job applications. As I said before, the great thing about this scheme and the opportunities that arise from it is that you are not out to gain anything except advice, which people (or at least everyone I’ve met!) are happy to give.
Since my January meeting with Alan I had been to meet the Director of Education at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Director of Arts Connect West Midlands, which is one of the Arts Council Bridge organisations. These organisations were set up in 2012 to provide a direct ‘bridge’ between the work of arts and cultural organisations and young people. Their aim is to help more young people to access quality arts experiences, no matter what their financial or social backgrounds may be. It is a real privilege to be able to speak to these sorts of people. They were both incredibly positive and gave me some really helpful advice. It is also useful to learn about what kind of jobs there are available in the sector and how exactly certain departments are run. The more people I speak to, the more excited I get about future career ideas – as with Alan, their knowledge and experience of the sector is invaluable and very motivating.
My third meeting with Alan was a New Year catch up and re-assessment of my career objectives. He has been brilliant in terms of getting back to me with application feedback and has also said that he is happy for me to put him down as a referee if needed which is great. Over the Christmas break he had sent introduction emails to a couple of people in the organisations we talked about previously, who had all been in touch to arrange meetings. A shorter session this time because things had slowed down a bit career wise due to January essays, but good to catch up and get the ball rolling again.