Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme
BA History and Philosophy
Mentored by Hilary Spencer
Tell us a bit about yourself, your mentorship and what you gained from taking part in the mentoring scheme.
Hi, I'm Lucy, a final year undergraduate student studying BA History and Philosophy. I have had the pleasure of being mentored by Hilary Spencer this past year through the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme. Hilary is the current CEO of education trust Ambition Institute, and former Director of Strategy for the Department for Education. Across several meetings, we have discussed lots of different things - such as potential career paths in the Civil Service, and she kindly helped me with my personal statement for a Masters application. Our meetings have been fairly casual - she invited me to her house for lunch for our first meeting, and since then we have met over zoom. We should be meeting again soon in person, which I look forward to!
Did you have any preconceptions about the mentoring experience that were challenged as a result of your experience?
I think it goes without saying that the experience seems quite daunting - the mentors have been very successful, and are generally experts in their field. However, I made sure to remember that they have chosen to be our mentors and genuinely want to help, which made me feel more relaxed. I was quite nervous for the initial meeting but it was actually quite chilled and more of a chit chat about who we both are and what we do. I came away feeling really motivated and grateful to have been paired with Hilary - and I'm sure this is the consensus across the scheme!
One piece of advice you learnt from your mentor you could share with other students/graduates?
Before speaking with Hilary, I felt quite overwhelmed at the thought of being a graduate in such a competitive/huge market. I remember thinking I probably can't afford to be fussy with jobs straight away. However, Hilary assured me that we can indeed have an element of choice in our early careers, and should not "settle" out of fear that we won't find other opportunities. She advised to select a few schemes/jobs that I am genuinely interested in, and work on detailed applications to show to the employer that I really want to work there, and that I haven't just sent across a general CV.
Can you share any top tips for making the most of the mentoring opportunity and how to be an effective mentee?
Communication has been really important in my mentorship - being open and honest about when I am busy, so that neither my mentor or I are messed about. It has also been really useful to go into the sessions with some questions/specific things that I wish to talk about, so that the time is spent effectively. For example, in my last session, I wanted to speak to Hilary about Masters options, so I prepared a list of courses ahead of our meeting so I knew what to raise. It's also nice to send a follow up message/email, and try to schedule a future date during/straight after each meeting!
Why would you recommend the scheme to other students?
I would recommend the scheme to others because it is a really rare and exciting opportunity to receive one-to-one support from a professional in a field that you are interested in. The mentors' advice is invaluable and it also feels like they really want to help - which has made me feel more confident about entering a post-uni world. Final year is very busy but the commitment is only an hour or two a month - and so worth it! Just be open-minded, and, ultimately, be yourself.