First Meeting

When I first applied to the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Scheme I had only a vague idea of what I wanted to do after graduation, I really need some direction and I needed it soon! After a successful application I was so excited to be mentored by Baroness Doreen Massey a Life Peer member of the House of Lords and an Education graduate of UoB.  I originally planned to go in to Social Work but after volunteering in this field over summer I was no longer sure.  I was still keen to get input from Doreen as I knew she had been involved in policies that overlapped with issues surrounding social work.  However, after an impromptu visit to a school I found myself wanting to be a primary school teacher and so I was even more excited for my first meeting with Doreen since a large part of her career had been in Education.

The first meeting we had was early on in Term One and this centred on getting to know each other and what I wanted to get out of the mentor mentee relationship.  I explained that while I had figured out what I wanted to do and begun applications I still felt under prepared to make the transition from university into employment and would appreciate her guidance and advice from her time in Education.  The second meeting we spent putting together a personal statement. This was useful not just for UCAS applications but also for helping me to think through all the experiences I had gained.

We had also planned two further meetings but these were postponed due to problems out of our control. We plan to meet at least one more time but nonetheless the whole experience from application to meeting Doreen has been so worthwhile.

Kristina Wright, 3rd Year BA Social Policy

Blog 3 – helpful advice

So far Cilla has been incredibly helpful to me, particularly during my ongoing job hunt. Unfortunately Cilla has been unwell so we have been unable to meet since our last meeting at the end of January. However, at that meeting she was really helpful, giving me advice on how to progress on a lead I have for a job. In this meeting I learnt a bit more about Cilla’s role at the University as a member of the alumni, and we spoke about how many of her past mentees received unhelpful feedback on their work – something I can relate to!

One of the most important things Cilla has taught me is to not let stress affect me. She reminded me that at the end of university, once in your first job, there is little difference between a 2:1 and a first, so I shouldn’t let the difference get me down.

I have a job interview in the coming week so Cilla has given me some advice in how to prepare for this, such as what specific things she knows this agency would expect me to know.  She also reminded me to be myself and express a point of view. She seems genuinely interested in how I’m progressing and I feel comfortable knowing that I can go to her with questions and for advice.

Molly Feely, 4th Year BA Modern Languages

‘Twelfth Night’ at the National Theatre

I met with Tamsin Grieg on 30th March at the National Theatre in London before her performance of ‘Twelfth Night’. We chatted in the café before the show and discussed my recent improvements with drama school auditions. She was really helpful in guiding me to pick a school that works best for me and even said she would introduce me to Daniel Ezra (another member of the cast) after the show. Daniel went to East 15, which is the school I will also be attending in September to do MA Acting. We also discussed my modules at University and it was really helpful to have an outsider’s perspective on my final year project, let alone a professional actor. She gave me some interesting things to research and look at that can also enhance my work.

After the show I went backstage to the green room bar and met the cast, it was so exciting to be in the presence of so many talented actors. Tamsin then introduced me to Daniel and he gave me an insight to what it is like to be a student at East 15. He made me feel so much more excited and comfortable that I have made the right decision. This meeting was another confirmation that I am doing the right thing in following what I have always wanted to do and gave me hope that one day it could be me performing. It is exhilarating to think I am coming to the end of my third year and am about to start on the road to becoming a professional actor.

Jessica Robjohns, 3rd Year BA Drama and Theatre Arts

Blog 2 – career paths to acting

Since my last blog, Phyllida’s trio of all-female Shakespeare plays have finished their run in the UK, and gone to Broadway and completed their run there. Despite all of this, Phyllida has been in contact regularly through email and voice messages whilst meeting face-to-face would be difficult.

Throughout the emails and messages, my mentor and I have been continuing discussing what path to a career would be the best course of action, and how to make myself as desirable for an acting career as possible regardless of the path there. Phyllida has advised me what courses and schools to pursue, as well as what skills and experiences I ought to cultivate to make myself as ready and desirable as possible for courses and an acting career.

My mentor has also offered to give me one-to-one direction on any audition pieces I would like to prepare for auditions, which is an invaluable offer. And when I come to preparing my audition pieces, I will be sure to take it up. Alongside my visits to see Phyllida working in rehearsal twice last term, and see her shows, I have a better idea of a professional rehearsal room, and what I need to do to get there myself.

Erin Quilliam, 3rd year BA Drama / English Lit

Finally got a Grad Job!

This final term at university has been a bit of a crazy one, between balancing job applications, part-time work, sports and my dissertation. Resultantly, most of my contact with my mentor Valerie this term has just been via email. However, both Valerie and her business partner Amanda have been continuously supportive, particularly on the job applications front.

Amanda kindly helped me with my presentation for a graduate job interview back in February which I unfortunately did not get a position on. However, on the same day I was rejected from that, I also found out I have got a place on the HR Graduate Scheme with Ford! In my interview for Ford I talked about current issues within HR that I had specifically learnt from Valerie and Amanda, as well as what I’d seen and learnt from shadowing at the BBC’s HR Service centre thanks to them too.

It was therefore great that my increased understanding of HR as a result of this mentoring relationship had finally shown. I’m now looking forward to my next meeting with Valerie in a few weeks’ time, which I’m hoping to focus upon how to progress once I’m in my new role.

Katie Jones, 3rd Year BA American Studies/History

A week at Crew Clothing

Over the Christmas break, and after an extremely hectic Autumn Term, Louise Barnes invited me to join her team at Crew Clothing for a week. This was an amazing opportunity to gain a first-hand insight into several departments I had no experience of, including e-Commerce and Merchandising.

For me, the experience began with my first ‘job’ in retail- working as a Retail Assistant in a Crew Clothing store in my hometown, Ilkley. Louise advised this was a good place to start, as although I have a fairly varied employment history, I had never worked on a shop floor. The two days I spent with the team in Ilkley was great; an eye-opening experience into the demands of store, personnel and stock management, as well as the challenges involved with maintaining high levels of customer service. This experience left me with plenty of questions to ask the relevant departments at Crew HQ down in London the following week (as well as a new admiration for the patience and endurance of Retail Assistants in the weeks before Christmas!)

My week in London began with a visit to Louise’s sister, Kate Barron, at Frame Recruitment. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours with Kate talking over my career plans as well as reviewing my CV and LinkedIn profile. This was a hugely valuable experience and Kate leant a fresh perspective to the discussion, suggesting many avenues I hadn’t ever considered.

The following day, I headed out to Crew Head Office in Earlsfield. Crew had ‘gone into sale’ the day before I arrived, and due to how Christmas would fall on the calendar, the teams were under significant pressure to have the sale running smoothly before they left for their Christmas breaks. I’m therefore hugely grateful to those who welcomed me for the day and showed me what they were working on.

I spent my first day with the e-Commerce team understanding how Crew presents its offer online, reorganising the sale based on the previous day’s trading figures and understanding how the team utilises software such as heatmap tracking, as well as sales data, to monitor Key Performance Indicators such as time on site, traffic source, conversion rate and shopping basket abandonment. Day 2 was spent with the merchandising team as they negotiated probable ‘further reductions’ to go live in the second part of the sale, based on current stock cover and product fragmentation. With no experience of merchandising beforehand, it was fascinating to see a process, that you don’t really think about, in action. I spent Day 3 back in more familiar territory in the HR team. I was tasked with assisting the HR Manager in his report on a staffing issue. Again, this was a great insight into the day-to-day operations of a large business.

I also took the opportunity to catch up with Louise over lunch, where we discussed my current plans for next year. Although I had been looking for a graduate role, a combination of a heavy load of coursework based modules, my dissertation and lengthy online applications had left me uninspired and de-motivated. We both agreed that it would be beneficial if I re-assessed my options once I’ve graduated and spend my final few months at UoB enjoying my studies and my down time, rather than spreading myself too thinly. After this chat, I feel much more positive about my plans moving forward and I look forward to catching up with Louise again in the New Year.

Ellie Pinfield, 4th Year BSc International Business with Language

Shadowing at the BBC

During my first mentoring meeting back in November, it was suggested that I could spend some time shadowing various teams at the BBC’s HR Service Centre. I have now taken up this opportunity, and found the experience to have really increased my current understanding of HR practice.

When I arrived, I spent three hours with Sarah Gregory, who has recently joined the BBC in the role of HR Director of the Service Centre. We first spent some time discussing her own career path, and it was interesting to hear how she too completed an undergraduate degree in a field far from HR, but then did postgraduate study in Business Management which pointed her in the HR direction. As I am also at present considering doing a Masters in Human Resource Management, hearing how Sarah valued this so highly in contributing to her own career path was very beneficial for me. Sarah then walked me through the different processes and teams within the Service Centre. I found I took a fancy more to the work of Onboarding and the Customer Service Helpdesk where my current recruitment experience is more in line, than I did with other teams such as the Freelance and Changers and Movers. I felt this was very beneficial for establishing where I may like my own career path to take me.

In the afternoon I spent a longer period of time shadowing with the ‘Reward’ team – again I found this to be not entirely up my street, but nonetheless, still interesting. I finished the day by having a long meeting with Valerie’s business partner Amanda, who ensured I had a thorough understanding of the BBC’s HR structure. We discussed the feedback I had received from the interview and assessment centre I had just before Christmas – one from which I was unfortunately rejected, whilst the other I have progressed to the final stage. For this final stage I now need to prepare a presentation to do on the day amongst other tasks, and Amanda has kindly offered to give me any help I may need in practicing for this.

As Valerie was not in Birmingham on the date that I attended the Service Centre, I also had a phone call with her the following week to discuss how I got on and generally ‘see where I am at’ with my career progression at this time. This was really reassuring for me at a time where I am starting to get a little overwhelmed with some application rejections and the pressures of third year! With applications for graduate roles still ongoing and two Assessment Centres coming up in the next few weeks, I now hope that I will be able to translate some of what I learnt whilst shadowing at the Service Centre to my performance on the day.

Katie Jones, 3rd Year BA American Studies/History



Progressing Well (Blog 2)

The Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme is progressing swimmingly for me and Cilla Snowball, despite the fact we still haven’t met! We were supposed to meet in December at the AMV BBDO offices in London, but Cilla fell ill so had to cancel. We have rearranged to meet next week which I am very excited about. Whilst we haven’t met in person, we have spoken on the phone and exchange emails regularly.

During my first term back at university I applied for the AMV Academy, a graduate scheme run by AMV BBDO (where Cilla is the CEO). I got through to the final stage of interviews but unfortunately did not get the job. Whilst I was sad about this AMV recommended me to a sister agency for a job there. Cilla has helped me in regards to communicating with them and the sort of things I should prepare for my interview. Since I have never worked (aside from part-time work at uni), it is really useful to have a leader in the business guiding me through the job search. Cilla has advised me that even though I have a promising lead at the other agency, I should continue to search for jobs and to apply around.

Cilla suggested that even if a company has not advertised a specific job opening, if your CV and cover letter are good enough they will happily speak with you in regards to possible opportunities because advertising agencies are always looking for new talent.

Molly Feely, 4th year BA Modern Languages

First Meeting at the Theatre

Becoming a mentee on the scheme came as a surprise, and is proving to be an amazing opportunity. I say surprise, only because I was never certain that I would get a place given the competition, and how prestigious the mentors are. So if you are in any doubt of your chances, or just unsure if you want to have a mentor or not, just apply. You never know what might happen, and it is an opportunity you ought to grasp while you can.

My mentor is Phyllida Lloyd CBE, who has an illustrious career directing theatre, opera and film. I want to become an actor, but I can’t imagine anyone in a better position to advise and guide me about the industry, and what a director would look for from their cast. Phyllida has been approachable and helpful during my time with her, and anyone who receives her mentoring in the future is very lucky and in very capable hands.

The first time I met Phyllida was quite informal, and relatively brief. She had invited me to watch the dress rehearsal of Julius Caesar, one of her three all-female Shakespeare productions that she had directed for the Donmar’s temporary theatre at King’s Cross. Getting to watch a professional rehearsal was a new experience for me, and insightful to witness and feel for myself what the working environment was like. Before the rehearsal, Phyllida spoke to me for a while as she got ready for her working day. She asked about my degree and what I wanted to do afterwards, while she shared with me her degree experience and path into the career she is in. I never anticipated the meeting to be very formal, given the nature of the profession, which suits both the environment we were in, and myself as a person. But there is still a great focus there. I’ve valued how approachable and genuine my mentor has been, as it means I feel as a mentee completely comfortable to ask any question no matter how seemingly small or silly.

I later watched one of her other productions, The Tempest, playing in the same theatre. And later again I came to watch a rehearsal of the other play in the trilogy, Henry IV. It was a privilege to see another rehearsal, and get to experience again the atmosphere and expectations of a dress rehearsal of a professional show. Following the rehearsal, Phyllida and I went to have a one-on-one meeting together where she asked me in more detail about where I wanted to be after my degree, and how I thought I would get there. From this, she listened to what I had to say about myself and ambitions, but was able to guide it to identify subjects to discuss in more detail, and advise me with. In the meeting she answered a lot of questions I had for her, and has answered many more in emails between our meetings and after.

I’ve enjoyed my time with my mentor so far, and am really looking forward to seeing how it develops in the coming months. The trilogy of shows has now transferred to New York, so it may be some time before I have another face-to-face meeting. But in the meantime, we are sharing emails, and voice mails, so we keep in contact and I keep learning.

Erin Quilliam, 3rd year BA Drama / English Lit

Meeting the Professor

I have to admit that I was quite nervous before my first meeting with my mentor. Alan is a leader in the pharmaceutical industry and with a wealth of experience in an area which I am incredibly interested in. He is the mentor I wanted right from the start when applying so I felt really lucky to have got him. However, what if I didn’t make a good first impression? What if things got awkward and I couldn’t express what I wanted out of the mentoring programme well? What if he thought I was too out of my depth?

I had been in contact with Alan over email and also on the phone before I met him, and not surprisingly he was as nice and approachable in person. There was no need to worry at all. We met over coffee at the medical school and just got to know each other. He told me stories about his life and career, some which were indeed quite incredible I have to say. He asked me questions about university, my family and career goals, and of course what I wanted out of the programme.

I have to admit that some of my goals had changed from what they initially were when first applying; so when asked this question I felt somewhat little lost and unpolished in my answer.  We discussed how we wanted to keep in contact over the next few months, and things we could arrange to keep in with what I wanted to achieve at the end of the year.

He said that his schedule was quite busy up to the Christmas period so we have decided to meet from January onwards and keep in contact in the meantime. This will include trips down to his offices in London, meeting some of his clients and many more things.

I am really looking forward to working with Alan for the forthcoming year. I hope we will achieve some great things together.

Haweya Abdikadir, Final year Medical Student

Click here to find out more about why Haweya applied for the Programme