Going in to meet Cilla, I had a set of expectations. I expected Cilla to offer me really helpful advice about my CV, job prospects, and career plans (which she did do). I expected to get lost in London (it was a good life experience). However, I didn’t appreciate the true range of topics that we would discuss, nor how helpful and insightful Cilla would be concerning all of them. We covered so many things, from how to increase my confidence (and why struggling with confidence can be a big positive in the long run) to what exactly makes a good leader. I went in to the meeting quite nervous and worried about how I would come across; I left excited about the future, raring to start planning how I could discover what I want to do with my life. If we fast-forward to a few months later, that feeling is still there, and I think that’s one of the amazing things about my ALMP experience: it’s transformed the future from a blank wall into something full of potential. If I could say one thing to any final years going on the scheme, it’s that what you can get from your mentor isn’t limited to job advice, contacts, or academic help. It’s an opportunity to face everything that you feel is really standing in your way head on. For instance, Cilla and I talked about the future, my CV, and different career sectors, but we also discussed how I could get over confidence issues, what the true nature of business is, and how to balance your work with everything else in your life (spoiler: there’s sadly no set way). Cilla also had a way of challenging my ideas and offering me insights about myself that I hadn’t realised. I went into the Scheme hoping to build a five-year plan of the future, but Cilla quickly challenged that idea and make me realise how unrealistic building a structured plan for such a long time would be. She also helped me realise that looking my future in such a big scale was what made it so scary. I needed to break it down into a much more manageable size. Overall it was a really useful meeting and stands out as one of my most memorable experiences at university. Cilla hit the perfect balance between being welcoming and friendly and being ready to speak honestly and openly. Talking to someone so successful is also helpful in that it makes you realise that people are still people even when they’re at the top. It strips away your preconceptions, and I found it very encouraging to realise that to be successful does not mean you have to become the stern, workaholic stereotype of a CEO that I had in my head beforehand. I’m really looking forward to our next meeting, and until then have been given plenty to think about!
Hannah Coakley’s blog – Dr Rowan Hillson
I applied to the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme to increase my understanding and knowledge of possible future career options. I wished to learn from the experience and wisdom from an accomplished alumnus and gain a greater appreciation of how to succeed after university.
I was fortunate to be paired with Dr Rowan Hillson, a retired consultant physician and former National Clinical Director for Diabetes for the Department of Health. I was particularly interested to learn from her about the realities of combining clinical work with academic research, something which I hope to do in the future. I have considered public health policy as a possible career option and I wanted to learn more from her about this particular area of medicine where there are few accessible role models.
From our first phone call, I have found Dr Hillson to be a very encouraging and helpful mentor. I didn’t know quite what to expect from the mentorship process but I have really appreciated her advice and found her counsel invaluable. During our first chat we got to know one another and I explained what I hoped to get out of the mentorship programme. She explained her experiences and the ways in which she could support me during my final year of medicine, and later during my future career.
We arranged to meet in November for dinner and she was kind enough to review my CV and offer tips and suggestions for improvement. There was also opportunity to discuss in-depth her career and, in particular, the work she has done for the Department of Health. We chatted about my aspirations to work in public health and she offered a fascinating insight into the realities of working with the Department of Health to develop public health policy. During her role as the National Clinical Director for Diabetes Dr Hillson drove improvements in diabetes care nationally. She was able to share her passion for improving patient care and health outcomes, and reminded me that that is the ultimate goal for all medical professionals. I was inspired by her enthusiasm and appreciated her advice as I look to begin my first job as a junior doctor.
Dr Hillson subsequently put me in touch with her colleagues who work in public health. I had a fruitful and interesting conversation with the training programme director for public health in the West Midlands. I was given practical information about how to purse this career path which has given me food for thought and possible avenues to pursue.
Dr Hillson’s support during my final year at university has been invaluable and I am appreciative of her support as I prepare for my medical school finals and beyond in my future career.
One of the key things Cilla and I discussed in our first face-to-face meeting was what I wanted to do in my future career. I’d brought a nice list of different sectors that I’d either decided I definitely didn’t want to do (e.g. Sales) or was thinking of as a solid maybe (e.g. a career in writing). There was no area that I felt certain I wanted to do. I felt quite bad on going in for our second meeting, as after hours of thinking and planning and researching (mostly in Costa), I’d actually made the list wider rather than narrowing it down. I needn’t have worried, as Cilla was once again wonderful, taking the fact I was considering a career in writing OR computer science OR neither in her stride and offering me help however she could.
Here I appreciated how helpful having Cilla was in terms of contacts: we decided that, after I’d spent a lot of time thinking introspectively about my future, it would be really useful to get out and talk to people in the sectors I was interested in. This was just what I had hoped for: the chance to get a taste of a sector from someone deeply involved in it. The contacts Cilla got me in touch with were amazing: for instance, I’m getting to talk to the CEO of a tech company, a sub-editor of the Daily Mail, a senior account manager at Comic Relief, and many other amazing people. Having this opportunity is something that I could only dream of otherwise, so I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve been so lucky to get Cilla as a mentor.
We also talked about life in general, touching upon a ton of exciting topics, particularly about managing people and building relationships as a whole. Cilla stated that fundamentally business should be approached as a series of relationships, and with this in mind it’s easy to see how she’s been so successful. From the start of the very first meeting, I felt engaged yet at ease, and felt like I could be completely honest. She’s not only been a great mentor but a wonderful role-model. Looking back on how she’s helped me and the influence she’s had, it amazed me that we’ve only met face-to-face twice. Once again I’ve emerged from the meeting very energised and inspired: so much so that I didn’t even mind that London Midland cancelled one train and delayed both others on the way home. If that doesn’t show how good the Scheme has been, then I’m not sure what does.
I am a final year Business Management student and my mentor is Andrew Garner, CEO of Andrew Garner Associates, a leading Executive Search Consultancy.
I first heard about the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme (ALMP) whilst on my year in industry working for GlaxoSmithKline. My role at GSK was in HR and by its nature and the type of people that I was working alongside, I was encouraged to think about my future career during the 13 months that I was there. I think I came across the ALMP via an email that had been sent to my University account, and at first I probably didn’t pay much attention to it.
However when I did get around to having a look at the ALMP I was amazed at the seniority of the mentors, and the fact that they were willing to give up their time to help students like me. Having spotted a couple of mentors in the HR sector, and even some in other sectors, that I thought could benefit me, I decided that this was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss out on.
I have to say, selecting my top three mentors and ranking them in order of preference wasn’t an easy task, and there are lots of great factors to consider, but then again I think that this just illustrates the high calibre of the mentors on offer! I was really excited when I had successfully progressed through the application stage and interview, to find out that Andrew was going to be my mentor.
I immediately set about researching him on Google once again, and I was just as impressed, if not more, than I had been about the prospect of him mentoring me for the year. One of the first emotions that I did feel, and discussed with my colleagues though was a feeling that I would be in awe of Andrew when the mentoring began and that this would hinder me. Of course everyone reassured me that wouldn’t be the case and I put the feeling to the back of my mind.
Come September I was invited to an ALMP induction session where I was able to meet the other ALMP mentees and learn a little bit more about what was expected from ourselves and the mentors along the process. At this session I also found out that a few of the mentees had already been in contact with their mentors, and the fact that I hadn’t heard from Andrew began to make me a little nervous.
Fortunately Andrew made contact that afternoon, and his PA had arranged a date for us to meet in a few weeks’ time. Unfortunately Andrew had to cancel the meeting at short notice, but I didn’t let this deter me, and we swiftly arranged a new meeting.
I met Andrew in Costa Coffee in the Guild and the first thing he did was to buy us some drinks, which was really lovely of him. The second thing Andrew did was to apologise for the meeting which he had to cancel. I replied saying that it didn’t matter, and Andrew’s response was that “it could have been”. This particularly struck me, as Andrew genuinely appreciated the fact that I had been able to rearrange so easily, which I presume isn’t always the case when you’re working with CEO’s!
We began to talk about me, my upbringing, my education, my placement and my future aspirations. Andrew was really engrossed in what I had to say, even more so than I would have expected. Andrew also spoke to me about his education and the start of his career which was really interesting to hear about, and to understand how he navigated the graduate job environment. Andrew was keen to understand where I felt I needed his support, and from having heard about my life, he was able to input into what I was saying, and add insightful comments about how he could help me.
Andrew set me a task at the end of our meeting to go and purchase a Financial Times newspaper, and scan the FTSE 500 Company pages at the end of the paper. He wanted me to pick out the industry and companies that literally gave me goose bumps because I would be excited to work for those companies, and then learn about their cultures and values, so that I could truly decide if I want to work for those companies or not.
This was the first time I had approached choosing graduate companies like this (as opposed to applying to 20 different companies for no good reason), and when I was carrying out the task in the following few weeks, I could really understand why I was doing it. It was a very good exercise for making sure that you are actually passionate about a company before you plan to commit 2-3 years of your life to them, at a minimum.
During our next conversation/meeting Andrew and I plan to work on my interview techniques to ensure that I can demonstrate my abilities at an interview, and secure the job that I want.
Andrew has been very forthcoming in that he is happy for me to call him at any time, and he will get back to me as soon as possible, and he is more than happy for me to use his name in a situation if I feel that it will add something to a conversation/interview.
My mentor relationship with Andrew has been great so far, he is hugely supportive of me, and he really wants to help me get a job after graduation, which is something that is important to me.
Having only met Andrew once so far I can already say that the ALMP is an invaluable opportunity, so make the most of it whilst you can and apply!
Sarah invited me to the DWP Digital Academy in Leeds, so it was an early start to arrive at the station for 9am. I met Sarah and we took the short walk to the Academy where she introduced me to her staff and other Directors. I was shown around the Academy and was able to speak with the Director about their progress and plans for the future. I took the opportunity to speak to one of the Directors about the possibility of partaking in one of the programmes and she was more than happy to offer me a place. I spent the remainder of the morning shadowing Sarah who was responding to messages, dealing with various tasks and preparing for the afternoon meeting. This was an invaluable opportunity for me to see first-hand the type of work that Sarah is involved with and the skills required in order to be successful within this field. After lunch there was a meeting involving all of the heads of the Departments regarding changes to the delivery of the services. Again this was a hugely invaluable experience as I was given a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ perspective that I would not have been given without this programme. Sarah asked for my input at various stages throughout the meeting which, even though it was slightly daunting, was great experience plus I got a lot more out of the meeting seeing as I had to concentrate! By the time the meeting had concluded I left with Sarah to catch the train home where we debriefed about the day and spoke more about some of the challenges of this sector in the near future. Overall, this was a great experience and I feel that I have learnt a lot and much more confident within this working environment.
Sarah was visiting Birmingham and this seemed like a great opportunity to have a catch up regarding my applications and talk over my plans for next term. We met on campus and discussed the progress of some of my applications and took this opportunity to discuss other schemes and internships that I may be interested in. Sarah gave me some ideas to go away and research including looking into areas that I did not consider before within the private sector but would still let me impact on people’s lives. I had brought along a copy of my CV as I wanted Sarah’s opinion and suggestions about how I could improve this to help me ‘stand out’. It was really useful as Sarah has had a wealth of experience of sifting through applicants’ CVs so she knew what worked well and because of her insight into the field was able to help me highlight those skills which are sought after. Although our meeting lasted around half an hour this was useful in refocusing my applications as well as dramatically improving my CV. After the meeting I felt confident that I am now in a better place regarding my applications and revitalised in my career search.
After exchanging a few emails, my first official meeting with Simon was on the 1st of December. We met in Staff House and I brought my questions about my career, the music industry, and my options after university. As a student conductor I was aware of how difficult it is to become a professional conductor and that there is no necessarily obvious career path to follow. Simon was extremely encouraging and recommended several options I hadn’t considered. We talked about various masters courses in postgraduate orchestral conducting (MMUs or MA) in conservatoires and universities predominantly in the UK, but also in the US – which I hadn’t considered yet. Simon personally knew some of the professors running some of the courses and could give in-depth information about their experience, specialities and the nature of the courses. An option I hadn’t thought of was attending a conducting summer course and he recommended some examples, and again knew some of the conductors running the courses. He explained that not only the tuition would be beneficial but that the networking I could do there could lead to professional contacts, and that, of course, is extremely important in the music industry.
As well as conducting, we also discussed other career options including PGCEs, starting casual work in my home town in Southend, applying for masters courses after one or more years, teaching privately and composing and orchestrating. Previously I was concerned about making the “right” choice before it was too late as it seemed but Simon was very encouraging and not only brought new suggestions but helped me realise the benefits of keeping options open and taking things one step at a time.
It was great to see that Simon wasn’t trying to push me in a particular direction but was always trying to open my eyes to new options, encourage me to keep several options open, and inform me (based on his career experience and contacts) so I could make confident and informed decisions.
The whole conversation was friendly, informal and motivated me to immediately start looking at further courses. I look forward to our next meeting.