Baroness Massey and I arranged our first meeting via email. After the initial email I received one asking if I could come down to London for tea in the House of Lords! Not what I was expecting, but it was a really nice surprise.
I went to the House of Lords and our meeting went really well. We got something to drink and discussed what I wanted to get out of our sessions and what I was hoping to do after university. As I don’t know what I want to do, we are both going to do a bit of research into possibilities. We discussed the idea of taking a year out next year to clear my head since I never took a gap year and we agreed that it was difficult to make a decision with so much other stuff going on this year. Next time we will make a list of all the things I might like to do.
I got a brief tour around the House of Lords, and I then got to sit in and listen to proceedings! Finding out you have a mentor is great, but you never know what to expect until you meet them. Now that I have met Doreen, I’m so pleased. She made me realise it was OK not to have a long term career plan already laid out, which was a relief.
Five months after the mentoring scheme began I travelled down to London to meet Mike for our final face to face meeting. Whilst Mike is obviously incredibly busy he has always made time for us to meet and is genuinely enthusiastic about the scheme.
At our previous meeting after initially discussing both Mike’s and my own experiences we had quickly settled to discussing what I wanted to get out of my career. This was something I found really hard to answer and I defiantly left the session with more questions than answers (in a good way). I found it really useful to be able to discuss ideas and get honest feedback from Mike and I think this really helped when it came to deciding the career I wanted to pursue.
Armed with info from our first meeting I was able to decide on the kind of role I would like in a future career. I completed the appropriate applications and went to assessment centres. Again Mike’s advice was really useful during this time, and he was able to give some good advice as someone who is part of the interview process. After this I was lucky enough to receive offers for graduate schemes at a couple of companies, and accepted a role in the oil and gas sector.
All this meant that as I travelled down to London I was in a very different position to our previous meeting. Whilst we had kept up to date with my progress, the first part of our meeting was spent catching up with each other and discussing Sainsbury’s involvement in Red Nose Day. Following this we discussed the role I would be taking and Mike was able to provide great advice for settling down and making a good impression at a new company, it was interesting to see how many of the skills required for my role were transferrable even though I will be entering a completely different sector.
We both agreed that as I had now secured a graduate place and we both had busy periods coming up that there was no need to schedule another meeting for the immediate future. We have however left it open if anything should come up during the rest of the term or even after graduation. It was a really enjoyable last meeting with Mike and great to have a successful conclusion to the relationship.
I first met Jane Lodge in October, then November, and again in March this year; she has been a constant help throughout always available to talk to and filled with useful information and stories of her experiences travelling around the world – something I am very envious of! Jane has been a great help with giving me some perspective.
On paper Jane and I don’t necessarily have many professional links as she is a business women specialising in manufacturing and auditing- being a partner of Deloitte for over 25 years and currently a non- executive on the board of Devro; myself, I have a background in marketing and branding and am still very much an undergraduate. However what the first meeting with Jane in October and the two next meetings have taught me is that our mind-sets are very similar. Jane has been a great shoulder to talk to when deciding whether or not to take a year out after university, or what kind of graduate scheme suits me best rather than what ones I have heard of. Also, during the application process she has always remembered what I have applied for and asked me how it is all going.
In terms of skills I have gained so far, Jane has communicated to me the importance of focus. Working hard, researching and planning your decisions means you can ensure it will pay off in the end. As my final second term has drawn to an end and I have firmly decided on a year out and am applying for six month internships, Jane has given me the confidence to make this decision, encouraging me even when finding a six month internship looked bleak. She has also been the voice of reality making sure that I always have a plan A, B and even C with all of my decisions, making sure I will not be disappointed.
So although we may not be initially matched in professions I feel we have been matched perfectly in drive (and hopefully success!!). Jane has been an incredible woman to meet and her confidence and ambition are something that I will take forward with me. This whole ALMP experience has been a useful guide throughout my third and final year in university, constantly reminding me that there is a life outside of the red bricks of Birmingham University; I am now excited to leave and start the new chapter in my life.
It’s been five months since the beginning of the AMLP and since then my relationship with Mayank has continuously developed. I think both of us are really enjoying the scheme and benefitting from each other’s experience and different outlook on the world.
Right now I am on the train back from London to Birmingham, after being invited by Mayank to a prestigious event organised by YPO (Young Presidents’ Organisation) and WPO (World Presidents’ Organisation). The focus of the event was social entrepreneurship, a great interest and passion of mine, which Mayank has well remembered, hence his invitation to me for the event. It was a fantastic evening – networking and a short conference led by Ashoka UK (well-known global network of leading social entrepreneurs) followed by dinner. Mayank introduced me to many of the YPO and WPO members and I also met his wife, who I’ve wanted to meet for a while as she is the one running their family charity and I am interested in finding out more. I had the chance to speak to the head of Ashoka and other social entrepreneurs, which strengthened my network of contacts in that field.
Yesterday evening was the second time Mayank and I meet in person. Our first meeting happened last month when he came to Birmingham and we had lunch together. It was great to finally meet in person after several conversations on the phone or via email. He shares his experience and knowledge with me with great excitement and I can see why he’s been such a successful entrepreneur. He expressed his passion and drive for success in all his business decisions. It was inspiring to listen to his stories about the early years of his career and all the challenges he has faced and what he has done to overcome them. His company, Currencies Direct, is the pioneer private company for foreign currency exchange. Before Mayank came up with the idea, it was only the big banks doing currency exchange. That’s why he is known as the “Man who beat banks at their own game”: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2002/dec/28/raceintheuk.mbas.
Mayank has also expressed great interest in my future career plans. I talk to him about all job applications I do and he has even offered me to look over my CV and cover letters. He’s encouraged my application for the New Entrepreneurs Foundation (http://www.newentrepreneursfoundation.co.uk/) which as a prestigious organisation developing future business leaders and fast-growth entrepreneurs. He’s even expressed interested in his company entering the foundation as one of the host companies for the young entrepreneurs.
My relationship with my Mayank now is based on a mutual exchange of experience and interests and it is very much one of friendship. He has been a great mentor so far and I am looking forward to our next meeting when he has invited me to an insight day at his company.
First Meeting – Mike Coupe
I am a final year mechanical engineering student and my mentor is Mike Coupe, currently acting as commercial director of J Sainsbury’s.
I first had the opportunity to meet Mike here at the university during the second half of autumn term, whilst Mike was visiting to deliver a lecture as part of the distinguished leader’s series. To begin with we spoke about our various backgrounds and discussed our aims for the scheme. It was also interesting to discuss the numerous changes to the university since Mike’s last visit.
I am currently deciding the direction I would like to pursue with my career, with options engineering or in a management role. Obviously it was a great opportunity to tap into Mike’s experience and get a real insight into management and retail options. I was especially interested in how Mike, as a Physics graduate, had developed a career in the retail sector.
In turn Mike asked some thought provoking questions regarding my career direction and I was left with a lot of thinking to do before our next meeting!
My name is Lincoln Smith. I am studying Chemical & Energy Engineering with Industrial experience. I was extremely pleased I had been selected to be mentored by Mike Welton in my final year, the chairman of Premier Oil, and former director of Balfour Beatty.
The main reason for wanting a mentor was to give some focus to the decisions I would be making about graduate placements, and to learn about leadership skills.
It was not until early December when we finally made contact. On the phone we talked about careers, and the steps I was taking to make my career choices. One of the best things he said was that I was free to contact him whenever, which made it very easy for me to feel comfortable to talk to him from the outset.
I was interested to know about his career and the decisions he had taken, in order to help guide my own. There were other things I was interested to learn about from him, such as the perception of young graduates within industry; gaining an insider’s perspective on the operation of the oil and gas industry; and his thoughts on what it takes to be an effective leader.
I met up with Mike in Birmingham at the end of January. His advice on leadership was to gain an understanding of what motivates people, and to create good personal relationships with people. A great tip he gave for when I start work was ’have a chat with people who you work with, even if there is nothing to talk about as it can help organise your own thoughts.’ I will keeping in touch with Mike over the coming months as I prepare for my final exams and graduate job.
Breaking the Ice
It just so turns out that my first blog doubles up as a helpful lesson for anyone who will ever find themselves in the same situation. To set the scene however, I will start from the beginning.
My name is Lola and due it being such a great opportunity, I have been looking forward to applying for the ALMP scheme for a long time. You can therefore imagine how thrilled I was to find out that I had been offered Baroness Patience Wheatcroft as a mentor. Given her phenomenal credentials, it made sense that I was more than a little bit excited to start the mentoring process.
The day finally came after we arranged to have our first talk via the phone. Up to that point, I had been very eager to speak to Patience Wheatcroft for the first time but I hadn’t stopped to give it any thought. It was not until I had found a very quiet place to sit down in, a couple of minutes before the phone call was scheduled to take place, that I stopped to think about what our conversation would be like. Then I got nervous. Very nervous.
I think it was probably to do with me being acutely reminded of the fact that I was about to speak to an experienced and distinguished professional. It was this sudden realisation however, that led me to encountering my first lesson in the mentoring process.
After what may have been a shaky start from my end, the conversation flowed easily. Patience was very easy and helpful to talk to and she soon started pointing out important things that I needed to begin to consider. For example, did I want to embark on a masters straight after university and if not, what were my other options? Also, if I was considering applying for graduate schemes, I should start them sooner rather than later because many of the deadlines were earlier than people expected. I finished the phone call feeling clear about where I needed to start in terms of my career pursuit and also excited about how the mentoring process was going to pan out.
The moral of this blog post? It’s only natural to feel a bit worried about your first conversation with a mentor or anyone of a distinguished position. However, like my experience indicates, if they have agreed to get in touch with you then it means they are here to help you rather than judge your conversation skills. The first meeting/ call is bound to be a little bit nerve-wracking of course, but just take a deep breath, be yourself and you will be fine. It definitely gets easier over time. I have spoken to Patience on a different occasions after this and each conversation has successfully taken place without me having a slight panic attack before hand!