Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme
BA Geography, 2022
Mentored by Professor Shahbaz Khan
Tell us a bit about yourself, your mentorship and what you gained from taking part in the mentoring scheme.
My name is Katie Ellis and I'm currently in my final year of a BA Geography degree, so graduating in 2022. I've been part of the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme since September 2021, mentored by Professor Shahbaz Khan, the Director and UNESCO Representative to the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea.
During the mentorship, we've discussed a range of topics including the roles and responsibilities of the UN and its partner agencies, like UNESCO. We have also covered UN/UNESCO schemes in place to aid international development, like the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Citizen Education policy. Shahbaz and I have also discussed careers within the UN and pathways into these, highlighting the importance of enthusiasm and proactivity in meeting entry requirements and gaining professional contacts.
Did you have any preconceptions about the mentoring experience that were challenged as a result of your experience?
Initially I was apprehensive to meet someone so experienced and distinguished in their career field. I couldn't determine what my mentor would be able to gain from the scheme, however, it became clear from the outset that Shahbaz was interested in my current studies and my aspirations for the future, alongside other things. As very different individuals, we are able to offer varied experiences and opinions which is one of the advantages of the ALMP scheme. From this, we have had really insightful discussions regarding the UN's involvement in global challenges and how and why differing levels of development are managed accordingly.
I was also anxious about using Zoom with someone I've never met before and whether or not it would inhibit communication. In fact, with Shahbaz located in Beijing, there is no other way this mentorship would be possible!
What is one piece of advice you learnt from your mentor you could share with other students/graduates?
My mentor gave me two really helpful pieces of advice whilst we were discussing UN career opportunities, although relatable to any job. Firstly, Shahbaz told me to pursue a career that I was passionate about. With most of the UN careers, there is a long list of requirements or expectations in order to meet the pre-application criteria. My mentor told me not to be disheartened but to see it as an opportunity to build enthusiasm for a particular area, through which the entry criteria will seem more attainable and a natural fit with your skillset.
The second piece of advice was to reach out to professionals in the career sector you are looking to join. It may seem unnatural at first but being able to gain a better insight, from an insider's perspective, into prospective jobs will significantly enhance your applications and awareness of what employers are looking for.
Can you share any top tips for making the most of the mentoring opportunity and how to be an effective mentee?
My top tip is to ask lots of questions throughout the mentoring scheme. This is such a fantastic opportunity to hear from experts in a field of interest so you need to maximise what you're able to learn and take away from the process. I would encourage you to think of some questions before each session which you can raise as discussion points. Being interested and proactive will create a healthy collaborative environment for the mentorship, solidifying the relationship being built.
It's also really useful to remember that what you will get out as much as you put into the mentorship. Honest communication regarding expectations, goals and commitment will help to make the scheme as worthwhile as possible for both of you.
Why would you recommend the scheme to other students?
I would really recommend the scheme to others as it has been really intellectually stimulating and thus a nice break from my degree work. The scheme has aided the improvement of my transferrable skills. I am increasingly confident in my ability to determine what I want from a job but equally, what I can offer an employer. Shahbaz’s knowledge of the UN and its agencies has provided me with great contextual knowledge for any related job applications and I am looking forward to learning even more in the coming months.