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One of the biggest concerns any student faces, beside coursework and whether to go to Sultan’s or Pizzeta for dinner, is what happens next. When we hand in our final exam paper and receive our degree, what then? What career will we go into? What path will our life take? One thing I have found very interesting is the number of students I’ve met who haven’t answered these questions yet. People as far along with their education as their second year were still uncertain about their future and their career path.
Perhaps this isn’t too much of an issue. There’s plenty of time at university to decide what we want to spend the rest of our lives pursuing, and the various careers fairs and other services offered by the university certainly give us food for thought. But one thing that has greatly improved my confidence in getting a job is a scheme CEEC (The University’s Centre for Employability, Enterprise and Careers) has been running for the last few years: the Career Mentoring programme.
I received an email about the programme in May last year and it struck me as a great opportunity. I would say the goal of the Career Mentoring programme is twofold: it helps you to work out what career you want to get into and to build up the skills you actually need to get there. That was certainly the case with my mentor, Ian, who had worked in a variety of places and was in the Department of Work and Pensions at the time. Although we were wanting to do different things – I had gone into the scheme with an interest in journalism, for instance- that wasn’t a barrier. The skills Ian helped us get and the activities he had me and my fellow mentees doing applied across a variety of career paths.
So what did we actually do? Much of our correspondence was over email and telephone since there was a considerable gap in distance between us (Ian lives in the London area.) We began by talking about our CVs: what made a good one, how to lay it out, what to include and so on. Next we looked at competencies- essentially a way of gaining key work skills like writing effectively and working together- and how we should communicate our achievements to other people.
The programme rounded off with interview practice. We would conduct a (competency-based) mock interview with Ian whilst being recorded, and then look back at things like body language and communication. It was stressful, but important to help us prepare for the challenges we would inevitably face in the future. It wasn’t all work and no play however, we also went out for meals and trips in May to accompany our interview practice. The practical, serious element of the programme is accompanied by a nice spot of relaxation and socialising.
Why am I telling you about this? Because I felt the programme has been (and will be) an invaluable source of knowledge and experience. It helps you to prepare for your future career and gives you advice and help from a person interested in you and your exploits. The scheme has encouraged me to build up a wide variety of skills and think more intelligently about how I can communicate my skills to my employers.
This year’s programme closed officially on the 30th of May. It was a chance for all the mentees to meet up, talk about our experiences and share them with other people, with speeches and certificates rounding the year off nicely. I can say without a doubt that the Career Mentoring Programme has been enlightening and illuminating and we’ll be continuing our correspondence with Ian into the next year and beyond.