Meeting – June 2014
Simon and I met again at the beginning of June to discuss what my next steps were after just completing my degree. It had been a busy few months with final exams and dissertation hand ins, so we had a lot to catch up on. I now have an unconditional offer to study my Masters course (in Cultural Policy) in London from September, and we discussed a variety of current issues on arts funding and education systems. The greatest benefit from an alumni mentoring relationship is getting an insider’s perspective of the industry, and Simon’s extensive work in Germany was particularly insightful on understanding the fundamental differences in policy initiatives and the national curriculum relating to arts education.
To tell the truth I have been putting off writing this last ALMP post in the vain hope that I wouldn’t be the first ALMP graduate to leave the scheme jobless (yes that’s right, the scheme has a 100% success rate in terms of graduate employment!). Fortunately – and after ten long months of off-and-on job hunting – I have found a job working for an exciting media agency in London. Funnily enough, the events which surrounded the interview earlier this week provide almost a perfect reflection of the ALMP programme and its extraordinary capabilities. As such, instead of just summing up my experience this year with Andrew Garner, it’s perhaps a good idea to share my last week on the programme with you.
My first mentor meeting with Simon Halsey took place in November 2013. We had a very informal coffee meeting and discussed anything and everything to do with university so far to long term career prospects. I have worked with Simon for the past year or so through choirs and other musical events at the University of Birmingham, but this was the first time we had properly got to know each other in a mentoring context. We began by discussing the various career opportunities in the music/performing arts industries. As a well-connected and world-renowned musician, Simon has many contacts and networking circles in the business. After discussing my initial thoughts on where and what I’d like to do, he made extremely thought-provoking suggestions on alternative routes into different institutions, which were related to music, but that I had previously not considered.
The last few months have been very busy, both with getting ready for finals, as well as trying to complete patients’ treatments and transfer others to other students. However I was able to meet with Barry in January when he invited me to the National Steering Group meeting at the Department of Health/NHS England in London. There have been many changes within the NHS in the last year, with numerous ‘local professional networks’ having been set up to provide feedback on local services. The National Steering Group communicates between these and NHS England, as well as monitoring the pilot sites for the new dental contract. These meetings are very important in determining the direction that NHS dentistry will take for many years to come and so it was great to be able to observe it. It also gave me the chance to meet other people playing important roles in these developments, such as Professor Jimmy Steele who led the independent review of NHS dentistry several years ago and is now helping the attempt to improve quality of care for patients without reducing access to dentistry.
Watching Barry in his daily life showed a very different side to the clinical aspects of dentistry that I’m familiar with. I was able to observe several other, some more informal, meetings that Barry had scheduled that day, and it made me appreciate the amount of communication and work that needs to take place within different departments/groups in order to be able to make changes and improve even one part of the NHS.
Since then I have kept Barry updated about my application and offer of a foundation training place in September and am now aiming to meet him again in June to catch up and for a meeting of the National Dental Commissioning Group. So far I have very much enjoyed the experience, and despite both being very busy it has been good to make time to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of the NHS and has helped develop my understanding of the profession I am entering.
April – I updated Alan on the meetings that I had been to since our last meeting – I had a couple more in March at the Birmingham Rep and with the Director of a young people’s theatre company called Fevered Sleep, which is based at the Young Vic. I had also had the opportunity to do some shadowing at the Royal Shakespeare Company (an opening that came out of my February meeting there), which was just fantastic. I am very grateful for these introductions and for Alan’s continued support with job applications. As I said before, the great thing about this scheme and the opportunities that arise from it is that you are not out to gain anything except advice, which people (or at least everyone I’ve met!) are happy to give.
February – Since my January meeting with Alan I had been to meet the Director of Education at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Director of Arts Connect West Midlands, which is one of the Arts Council Bridge organisations.
January – My third meeting with Alan was a New Year catch up and re-assessment of my career objectives. He has been brilliant in terms of getting back to me with application feedback and has also said that he is happy for me to put him down as a referee if needed which is great.
December – I arranged the second meeting a few days after the first via email. It’s good to have a date in the diary not only because the mentors have busy schedules but also because it gives you a deadline to aim towards (for example, Alan had recommended some organisations to read up on which I made sure I did before we met again).
Having turned up over an hour early to my first meeting with Alan Davey, I found a nearby Costa and sat down with a cup of tea. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but I had come prepared with a notebook in which I had written my personal ambitions for the upcoming year and specific objectives for what I wanted to get out of the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme (ALMP). I used the time to read over these objectives and re-read Alan’s biography on the Arts Council website as well as familiarising myself with the Arts Council mission statement and recent news.
After an incredibly hectic second semester I finally have some time to sit back and reflect on the most recent developments in my Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme (ALMP) experience…
As I write this I am yet to receive a job offer for next year, having been rejected from numerous different graduate schemes across a range of different industries/sectors. Interestingly though, when I look back over the different applications and interviews that I gave, I can find flaws in every single one of them. This isn’t because I hashed them out without due care; or because I am an overly self-exigent individual. But rather because my mentor, Andrew Garner, has given me an entirely different perspective with regards to career management and entry-level recruitment. I genuinely can’t stress just how refreshing it is to get some career advice that is different to the generic stuff you find online.