City alumni inspiring success
City’s Professional Mentoring Scheme is one of the University’s outstanding success stories: in the 2013/14 academic year, over 325 students benefitted from relationships with mentors united by their commitment to support, encourage and inspire. Here, we talk to Professional Mentoring Leader Thalia Anagnostopoulou and we meet four of the Scheme’s stars.
Ask a group of mentors why they give their time to the City Professional Mentoring Scheme, now in its 12th year, and you should be prepared to receive an array of answers. For some, the deciding factor might be a desire to help students facing a highly competitive employment market, in which professional skills and knowledge are increasingly important. For others, the chance to share the lessons they have learnt over the course of their career might be what appeals: many emphasise the difference they feel a mentor would have made to their own experience of university. Others still might emphasise how much they learn and gain from the mentoring process and from the students with whom they are partnered.
There are, then, probably as many answers as there are mentors. What is apparent, however, is the degree of loyalty that mentors feel towards the Scheme and the belief they have in its capacity to develop and empower students. There is no greater indication of this than the fact that so many mentors return, year after year. Of the 312 mentors in 2013/14, 54 per cent have been involved in previous years. As Thalia explains, many mentors consistently go beyond the commitment they make to their mentee:
I think mentors feel quite a connection to the University and to each cohort of students, not just their own mentee. We see mentors interacting through our social media channels, attending our networking events and often employing students from the Scheme: their involvement makes a huge difference to its success.
In 2013/14, over 60 per cent of mentors were City graduates, but the role of City's Alumni Network does not end there. Indeed, the expansion of the Professional Mentoring Scheme - which has seen the number of pairs grow from just 20 in 2007 to a projected 500 in 2014/15 - would have been impossible without the financial support of donors to City's Future Fund. "In 2012, we were able to bring Taryn on board thanks to donations to the City Future Fund," says Thalia. "This year, we piloted a postgraduate strand, which we plan to develop in 2014/15. We've also been able to offer more rigorous support to mentors and mentees through their journey, which I'm delighted about".
BSc (Hons) Psychology, 2009
Kerina is a Financial Adjudicator at the Financial Ombudsman Service. At present, she is responsible for resolving financial complaints relating to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI). During her time at City, Kerina was part of an early cohort of mentees in the Mentoring Scheme. In 2014 she became a mentor for the first time.
"When I started at City I wanted to become a clinical psychologist, but as time went on, I found that I was more drawn to the business world. Participating in the Mentor Scheme as a mentee was transformative: my mentor helped me clarify my interests, she gave me the courage to change direction and she emphasised the importance of networking."
"I graduated from City when the economy was weak and many companies weren't hiring recent graduates. Initially I worked in sales, ultimately managing a team of 20 people, before starting my current job in 2013. I have packed in a lot since I graduated: that was part of the reason I felt I could give something back to the Mentoring Scheme and current students."
"When I returned to City as a mentor, I was amazed at how much the Scheme had grown. I think that the Scheme works really well in bridging the gap between university and professional life and helping students stand out as they enter the employment market."
BSc (Hons) Mechanical Engineering, 1978
Steven is a consultant who advises organisations on subjects including business strategy, process re-engineering and quality planning. Until 2011, he worked at the Ford Motor Company in a variety of executive roles around the world. Steven's relationship with Ford began at City, when he gained industry experience there as part of his 'sandwich' degree.
"When I left Ford after nearly 35 years, I looked around for projects that I had previously not had time to do. An email from the City Alumni Relations team inviting people to join the Mentoring Scheme came at just the right time: I replied asking whether I might be of use and within minutes a response of 'yes!' landed in my inbox."
"I have mentored four Engineering students in the last three years and I'm now proud to consider each of them as friends. I've watched them develop in different ways and I am so
pleased to have played a small part in that process."
"Today's graduates are entering a competitive marketplace and the engineering sector is no exception. Participating in the Mentoring Scheme allows students to develop the attributes that will help them stand out in a crowd and have the confidence to aim high."
BSc (Hons) Business Computing Systems, 1986
Alla is a Director of Moonlight Media, a public relations agency that specialises in financial trading and technology. After graduating from City, Alla worked in the development of trading room applications before moving into technology product management, marketing and public relations. She joined Moonlight Media in 1999.
"My degree at City was quite technical, but at an early stage in my career, I realised that I enjoyed working with people. My company is immersed in the world of financial technology, so my grounding in that sector is important, but my day-to-day job is all about people and relationships."
"I have mentored five students, all of whom have been very different. I've noticed that they often don't realise how much they have achieved already and what they are capable of achieving. A big part of the mentoring role as I see it is building confidence."
"One of the reasons I became a mentor is because I think graduates today face real challenges: when I was a student, good grades were often enough to secure a graduate job, but now students have to juggle their studies and home life with the pressures of getting internships and preparing multiple applications. Whether it is helping them to build their professional networks or polishing a cover letter, I hope that I can help them deal with some of these stresses."
MA Property Valuation and Law, 2005
Laurence completed his MA at Cass Business School part-time while working for niche retail agency practice Dalgleish. He has subsequently worked for a number of leading global property advisors including CBRE, CBRE Global Investors, ING REIM and Picton Capital Limited where he is a Senior Asset Manager.
"I am not sentimental by nature, but the mentees I have worked with have, without exception, been superb: dedicated, ambitious, gracious and hard-working."
"There is no fixed formula for success and every mentor/mentee relationship is different. Some mentees have a very clear set of tangible objectives. Others simply want a sounding board and some direction on where their future may lie."
"Time, encouragement and honest feedback can have profound results. All of the mentees have worked hard, grown in self belief and achieved the things they set out to do. There is no better reward for helping them along the way."