As an International Relations student going into my final year at university, the prospect of having a mentor was an opportunity I could not pass up. At the end of the ALMP interview process I was delighted to be matched with Sarah Cox, Director of Strategy and Planning at the Cabinet Office. Sarah has had an incredibly exciting and distinguished career, not least with her contribution to delivering the London 2012 Olympic Games as Head of Planning.
Having just returned from a summer spent in Chicago working for the British Consulate, I was keen to gain some insight into the kind of career path I might wish to follow and how the experiences I had had to date would put me in a position to realise this potential. Sarah’s success in her career to date is certainly something I seek to emulate, and her input has been extremely valuable.
We first met at the end of November when Sarah was visiting the University of Birmingham to deliver a lecture at the business school. I managed to gain an hour’s one to one time with her where we soon moved on from initial introductions and formalities into really helpful and meaningful conversation. She was interested in all aspects of my life, from academics to work experience and extra-curricular activities. She was also very open about her own experiences and answered any questions I had honestly. When speaking about my future career plans, she listened to all I had to say and helped me to weigh up some pros and cons about certain options I had in mind. Further to this, she brought to my attention graduate roles and possibilities I simply hadn’t known existed, thus opening my eyes to completely new and exciting industries. We spoke a lot about the skills I had gained throughout my time at Birmingham, on my year abroad and through the internships I had completed. It was an excellent opportunity to reflect on my achievements with somebody who had clear insight into how they could help me when I moved into the competitive world of graduate jobs.
Safe to say, our first meeting flew by and I soaked up as much knowledge and expertise as I could. I knew that in order to capitalise on the time spent with Sarah I would need to spend time researching the ideas she had put to me and acting upon suggestions she had made. Over the next few weeks as I bounced ideas for applications around, Sarah was only ever an email away, which was both encouraging and extremely reassuring. She read through cover letters and CVs for me, always making helpful suggestions and offering to Skype with me if I needed any extra input. Just knowing I had somebody of her calibre, with her insight into both the Private and Public sectors, at the other end of the phone made all the difference as I began lengthy application processes for graduate roles.
The best advice that Sarah has given me to date is that interviews are a two way process; don’t feel obliged to take the first offer that comes your way if you don’t feel the role is right for you. Have the drive, confidence and patience to go out there and get the job that fits your criteria, where you will be happy and that will act as a real springboard to your career. With this advice in mind as I start to attend interviews, I know that when the right thing comes along I have the skills, knowledge and industry insight to go for it.