Hello, my name is Alex. I am a Senior Planning Regeneration Officer working for Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council. In 2020 I graduated from UoB with an MSc in Urban and Regional Town Planning. I was already working as an Assistant Planner for Sandwell at the time and they sponsored me to undertake the degree (a tick in the box for the benefits of working for the public sector!). I have, since completing the Masters, progressed on to the role of Planning Regeneration Officer and, subsequently, the Senior Planner role I am in currently.
This year I mentored a final year planning Masters student who is at the beginning of their career as a planner. We started off with an informal introductory session over a coffee to get to know one another and understand their aims for the programme. During the course of the programme we met, on average, around once every 6 weeks which comprised both virtual and in-person sessions. We set out an action plan at the beginning which we reviewed at each session and focused on individual elements as we progressed. One of the key outcomes was discussing the nuances of the different specialisms within planning and, in part, the wider built environment. This meant we were able to identify the type of work that would be most aligned to their personal and professional aspirations and tailor the action plan accordingly. I was also able to share my own professional experience, signpost to relevant information and connect my mentee with various contacts in the industry to help broaden their understanding, in order to inform their own decision making.
How can you support students and graduates through the mentoring scheme?
In my experience, the world of professional work is mostly about what you know, but, as the proverbial saying goes, it is also to some extent about who you know. Therefore, the mentoring programme is a good way for students to start building that professional network at an early stage, to get an independent perspective on practical documents such as CVs and supporting letters, and to learn more about the fields in which they currently study. Overall it was a very positive experience and I was fortunate to have an enthused and ambitious mentee (which always helps!).