I am a final year Business Management student and my mentor is Andrew Garner, CEO of Andrew Garner Associates, a leading Executive Search Consultancy.
I first heard about the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme (ALMP) whilst on my year in industry working for GlaxoSmithKline. My role at GSK was in HR and by its nature and the type of people that I was working alongside, I was encouraged to think about my future career during the 13 months that I was there. I think I came across the ALMP via an email that had been sent to my University account, and at first I probably didn’t pay much attention to it.
However when I did get around to having a look at the ALMP I was amazed at the seniority of the mentors, and the fact that they were willing to give up their time to help students like me. Having spotted a couple of mentors in the HR sector, and even some in other sectors, that I thought could benefit me, I decided that this was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss out on.
I have to say, selecting my top three mentors and ranking them in order of preference wasn’t an easy task, and there are lots of great factors to consider, but then again I think that this just illustrates the high calibre of the mentors on offer! I was really excited when I had successfully progressed through the application stage and interview, to find out that Andrew was going to be my mentor.
I immediately set about researching him on Google once again, and I was just as impressed, if not more, than I had been about the prospect of him mentoring me for the year. One of the first emotions that I did feel, and discussed with my colleagues though was a feeling that I would be in awe of Andrew when the mentoring began and that this would hinder me. Of course everyone reassured me that wouldn’t be the case and I put the feeling to the back of my mind.
Come September I was invited to an ALMP induction session where I was able to meet the other ALMP mentees and learn a little bit more about what was expected from ourselves and the mentors along the process. At this session I also found out that a few of the mentees had already been in contact with their mentors, and the fact that I hadn’t heard from Andrew began to make me a little nervous.
Fortunately Andrew made contact that afternoon, and his PA had arranged a date for us to meet in a few weeks’ time. Unfortunately Andrew had to cancel the meeting at short notice, but I didn’t let this deter me, and we swiftly arranged a new meeting.
I met Andrew in Costa Coffee in the Guild and the first thing he did was to buy us some drinks, which was really lovely of him. The second thing Andrew did was to apologise for the meeting which he had to cancel. I replied saying that it didn’t matter, and Andrew’s response was that “it could have been”. This particularly struck me, as Andrew genuinely appreciated the fact that I had been able to rearrange so easily, which I presume isn’t always the case when you’re working with CEO’s!
We began to talk about me, my upbringing, my education, my placement and my future aspirations. Andrew was really engrossed in what I had to say, even more so than I would have expected. Andrew also spoke to me about his education and the start of his career which was really interesting to hear about, and to understand how he navigated the graduate job environment. Andrew was keen to understand where I felt I needed his support, and from having heard about my life, he was able to input into what I was saying, and add insightful comments about how he could help me.
Andrew set me a task at the end of our meeting to go and purchase a Financial Times newspaper, and scan the FTSE 500 Company pages at the end of the paper. He wanted me to pick out the industry and companies that literally gave me goose bumps because I would be excited to work for those companies, and then learn about their cultures and values, so that I could truly decide if I want to work for those companies or not.
This was the first time I had approached choosing graduate companies like this (as opposed to applying to 20 different companies for no good reason), and when I was carrying out the task in the following few weeks, I could really understand why I was doing it. It was a very good exercise for making sure that you are actually passionate about a company before you plan to commit 2-3 years of your life to them, at a minimum.
During our next conversation/meeting Andrew and I plan to work on my interview techniques to ensure that I can demonstrate my abilities at an interview, and secure the job that I want.
Andrew has been very forthcoming in that he is happy for me to call him at any time, and he will get back to me as soon as possible, and he is more than happy for me to use his name in a situation if I feel that it will add something to a conversation/interview.
My mentor relationship with Andrew has been great so far, he is hugely supportive of me, and he really wants to help me get a job after graduation, which is something that is important to me.
Having only met Andrew once so far I can already say that the ALMP is an invaluable opportunity, so make the most of it whilst you can and apply!