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by admin Posted 3 December, 2021

I hadn’t really considered the idea of a mentor before, or what having one would entail. To me, the idea of a mentor conjured up images of a stern, educational type – pointing fingers and telling me what I was doing wrong with my life (as someone who is terrified of authority, you can imagine how this immediately turned me off).

When I finished my undergrad degree, I was very lucky to land myself an internship at the same university, coordinating a student professional award as well as a mentoring scheme.

I got to see the process from beginning to end, match students with industry mentors in their field of interest, and seeing each professional relationship develop made me realise I’d been missing out on something huge.

When I made the transition back to student to do my MA, I didn’t want to miss the chance again so signed up straight away for the Universities mentoring program.

It has to be said, it was a strange experience coming into it from the student perspective, when I’d only ever known the scheme as the master manipulator behind the scenes. But I was quickly matched with a mentor named Ashleigh, a marketing communications specialist with a background in marketing, journalism and PR – a perfect match!

 

Our First Meeting

Queue instant anxiety, which is absolutely ridiculous considering I’d spent the entirety of my internship telling students NOT to be anxious about their first mentoring meetings.

Let’s not forget (I mean, how could we) that this all happened during a global pandemic. Meeting anyone for the first time is a daunting experience. Add into that the uncomfortable nature of virtual meetings and it’s safe to say – I was nervous. I needn’t have been.

My mentor, Ashleigh (who’s praises I will sing evermore) is plainly and simply a bloody wonderful human being. Our first meeting was also her first experience as a mentor, and she went into it as if she had been doing it her whole life.

We chatted about ourselves, our interests both personal and professional, and set out exactly what it was I wanted to get from the partnership. So, without further ado, let me tell you…

5 reasons why I wanted an industry mentor, and 5 reasons why you should get one too!


1 – It helps you to figure out where you want to be within your area of interest

I’ve had a vague idea since beginning my undergrad in marketing management that I wanted to be on the digital side of things. But that world is so vast these days, it was difficult to map out exactly where I wanted to be within that world. Social media manager, digital marketer, digital PR, copywriter?

It’s tempting to think when we’re in digital comms that we should be masters in every aspect of it. But having a mentor has helped me to realise that sometimes, that just isn’t realistic. Talking through the different aspects of the industry with Ashleigh and her experience with each helped me to pull my focus & has given me a much clearer path as to where I want to be.


2- If you’re a student it gives you a professional, real life perspective on your career, rather than just theoretical

Degrees are great, they really are. I know these days they aren’t a necessity, but the process of undertaking a degree gives you so much more than just knowledge and a certificate. But a degree doesn’t necessarily give you a true indication of what your career is really going to be like on a day to day basis.

Cue, industry mentor. Finding out what a day in the life of your future career really looks like can be a huge factor in deciding your next steps, not to mention allows you to prepare for what to expect from your chosen role.


3 – It gives you to opportunity to talk through your ideas with someone who’s actually interested in what you have to say

Whether you’re a student or already in an industry, it never hurts to have an ear of someone who shares your interests. From a student perspective, having a mentor has helped me to flesh out ideas for assignments, get feedback on work, talk through campaigns that interest us, deconstruct them and pull out useful ideas or concepts that I can put back into my own work.

Same goes for if you’re already in your chosen career – running your ideas through a mentor can help to flesh them out, gain an alternative perspective, vent your frustrations about something that’s gone wrong and talk about why it might have happened.

If you’re a freelancer, you might not get the opportunity very often to put ideas to your colleagues, a mentor might be just what you need to get those ideas onto paper.


4- It’s a brilliant networking opportunity

I mean, this one is pretty self-explanatory, but I don’t think the importance of networking can be overlooked. I’m a firm believer in that old saying “it’s not what you know…”. Obviously, knowledge and experience are essential, but that doesn’t always help to get your foot in the door.  

Having a mentor can open up opportunities you’d never even considered. They might have inside knowledge of company vacancies you weren’t aware of, they may invite you to an industry networking event you may not have otherwise had access too.

Even if/when your mentoring partnership ends, you’re on their radar, and you can be sure that if an opportunity comes knocking, they’ll be spreading your name like wildfire.


5 – You can get as much or as little out of the experience as you like

A mentorship really is one of those situations where you get back as much as you put into it. Both parties are volunteering their own time, and both parties stand to gain a lot from a successful partnership.  

But it may be that you aren’t in it for an intense, life changing experience. You may only want the occasional nudge in the right direction, a little boost here and there when you’re in a creative slump, and that’s okay!

Setting out your expectations early can help you both understand the level of commitment you want to bring to the table. But go into it with an open mind and allow the partnership to develop organically. If that ends up being something more than you expected, all the better.


With all of that in mind…

I’m very lucky that my mentoring partnership with the ever-enthusiastic Ashleigh is still ongoing and showing no signs of coming to a close any time soon.

It may sound cliché to say, but I really have learnt so much about myself from our little hour long chats every Friday, more so that I ever expected going into the partnership. We have so much more planned & seeing our partnership develop week by week is so exciting.

The personal and professional development that’s up for grabs with a mentorship is something that I feel is taken for granted, when there is so much to gain. The CIPR have recently introduced their own member mentoring scheme, you can check it out here.

Keep an eye out for another instalment of ‘A Conversation With…’ coming soon which may or may not (it absolutely does) focus on Ashleigh.

If you’re a student at the University of Sunderland, I can’t shout about the Professional Mentoring Scheme enough. Find out more and get signed up here.

Are you a professional & think you’d like to mentor a student? You can sign up to be a professional mentor through the University of Sunderland here. You don’t even have to be local to the area (the joys of the new Zoom way of life).



by admin Posted 3 December, 2021

Hi! My name is Ana Castillo Botto and whilst writing this I am currently undertaking a year-long web development placement at Barbour as part of my Computer Science degree. With the pandemic, I started off working in the office for a few days a week but now I’ve been working from home since January.

At 7 am I wake up; well, I try to. One of the perks of working from home is that I can get up later than I would usually have to. After getting ready, I have my breakfast. I usually like to make a cappuccino to wake myself up. I also have a playlist I listen to in the morning to hype me up for the rest of the day.

At 8:45 am, I begin to work. I open Teams and read my emails to see if I have any messages. I then start writing my notes for the stand-up meeting. In my notes, I write what I did the day before, and what my plan is for the day. I like doing this as it allows me to organise my thoughts and set my priorities for the day ahead.

During the stand-up meeting, I listen to what my team members are going to do for the day. This helps me keep informed and it allows me to know if anything they are doing will affect my work plans.

After the meeting, I start my tasks for the day. I play my working playlist as this allows me to focus. At Barbour, we use the Laravel framework for the web apps that we are working on. This is a framework that uses the language PHP.

Usually, I work on business applications that other employees at Barbour use. The one I am working on now is the Repair and Reproof app, which is used to process repairs of jackets. The customer service team, the factory team, and the finance team all use this application, so they frequently send requests for new features and improvements.

Sometimes when there is a request for a change in the application, we need to do it quickly, so we do this as a hot-fix. My manager sometimes assigns these to me. So, as a start, I create a new feature branch using Git. This is to separate the work I was doing before from the new work I have to start. An example of a hot-fix I did was adding a new filter to the jobs, which allows the users of the application to filter through US jobs and UK jobs. This was a request from someone on the US Customer Service team.

So, after coding for a bit I join the “Development Open Room”. This is a Teams meeting that is open during the morning, and anyone from the Development team can join whenever they want. There is no pressure to join but it is just there in case anyone wants to have a chat as we are unable to do this as we usually would in the office. Whilst being in the Development Open Room I continue to do my work and if someone joins, I have a conversation with them. I usually leave the open room before lunch.

When it is time for lunch, I go downstairs to eat. Usually, I have something quick to eat, like a sandwich. If the weather is okay, I go for a walk. I am lucky enough to live near a park, so I just walk down the street and go walk in the park. I think this is important as it allows me to add more structure to my day and gives me a chance to clear my mind. In the park, there is a small coffee shop so I get another cappuccino from there. I like to go there at lunch time as there are usually other people who are on their lunch breaks or elderly people, who always smile at you or greet you, visiting.

After lunch, I get back to work. If I am working on a hot-fix I continue to research the problem and code the solution. When I believe it is at a great standard and I have tested it out on my local, I commit the change to the branch then I push my branch into the Azure repository. After this, I make a pull request to the Development branch and then approve it so it can merge into the Development branch.

I then must test this on the staging server. So, I log into the staging server and pull the change using Git. Then I test the change again on this server.

After I see that it is working fine, I have to put it on the production server. To do this, I make a pull request to the Lead branch. Then I approve and complete the pull request, merging the change into the Lead branch. I then log into the production server (this is the live version that the users are using) and I pull the change onto the server using Git. I then test this change to make sure it is okay to use.

When I am done doing this, I tell my manager and he tells me to send an email to the stakeholders who requested this. So, I spend some time composing an email to send to them. I feel happy when I complete a task like this as it shows that I am making a difference in the company that I am doing my placement in and they appreciate the work that I do.

Usually, by this time, it is 5 pm, which is the end of my working day. So, to celebrate I take a nap.

I sometimes see what events the Student Union is running. Occasionally they do quiz nights or game nights, so I always like to get involved in these as it is a good way to reconnect with people from university or meet new people. Also, they always give away great prizes at these events!

Also, I like to catch up with my friends, this can be through calling them or just by messaging them.

Typically, I eat quite late, usually whilst watching TV. I do not have a specific show I watch at this time but whatever is on I’m happy to watch.

Then after this, I get ready to sleep. I usually scroll through social media in my bed for a bit before sleeping. By the time I put my phone away it is probably around 11 pm or 12 am. I always try to go to sleep early (usually I fail though).

So, this is a day in my life. Although every day may be a bit different this is the usual structure.

One thing that I think is great is that the University of Sunderland allows you to do the BSc Hons Computer Science course with a placement year. This has helped me develop as a professional as I have learnt a lot of new skills and I also have the chance to apply what I have learnt in my degree so far.


by admin Posted 30 November, 2021

Currently I have just finished my second year and will be entering my third year at the University of Suffolk studying IT & Business Management in the autumn of 2021. During my first two years at University I have met loads of new people and certainly learnt a lot, although to say that there have been many ups and downs in my time so far would be an understatement.

To start my journey off and immerse myself in university life I attended the well-known Freshers week. This is a week ran by the University, full of events and activities for new students to allow them to meet other freshers and some of the staff at the University of Suffolk. To begin withon the Monday we had the Induction talk. This was a talk simply welcoming us to the university and giving us the much-needed information, as well as the history of the University and Ipswich itself for students who are perhaps not as familiar with the area. Next on the Tuesday I attended the Freshers Fair which was held in the waterfront building, at this there were various stalls about clubs and societies at the university as well as local partners of the University giving any vouchers and telling people what exactly they do.

The location for me is a real positive for the University of Suffolk, with it being only a 15 minute walk from the train station - making it ideal for people who commute like myself. It’s also only a 10 minute walk from the town centre. The waterfront where the University is based is also a stunning and modern looking area of Ipswich, providing a fantastic view of the docks. In my opinion the University buildings also give off positive vibes and I have friends who are very happy with the student accommodation being so close to where our lectures are held.

One of the main challenges that I encountered, and am still currently adapting to, is the pandemic. The government announced a lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2021. This ended up affecting my studies massively, it originally meant that no face to face lectures or seminars would be able to take place and instead they were shifted online, making everyone thankful that we are able to do this with the technology available nowadays. I found there were both positives and negatives to this, firstly this meant that I didn’t actually have to physically go the University and instead giving me that bit of extra time in the morning, which usually allowed me to have a slightly longer lay in. Like myself many students were a fan of this. Since I also got the train to Uni this meant I was able to save that extra bit of money just staying at home. 

There are many aspects of my course which I have enjoyed, however one of the highlights was in my Introduction to Marketing module. A talk was arranged with an entrepreneur called Scott Russell who is the CEO of Paddy and Scott’s which is a coffee producer in the UK. Scott talked about how the adventure starting and growing the business had taken him on and also went over the different aspects of the branding of Paddy and Scott. From this I not only learnt how Paddy and Scott’s became what it is today but also the mindset of an innovative entrepreneur like Scott and about how he goes about his daily life.

From the 26th-30th April 2021 I also attended the some of the various webinars at the Careers Week sessions. Usually these would be held in the lecture rooms around the University but were held online instead. In the week I attended three different ones; Coderus, UOS Enterprise Skills Programme and Fourier. Overall I found these beneficial as I got to learn about both of the companies. Coderus is a leading software and app development company in the UK based in Ipswich, and is one of the partners of the University. Fourier provides contract and permanent personnel to clients including investment banks, hedge funds, fintechs and so on. Both of these companies are also in sectors which I’m looking to go into so definitely worthwhile!            

Another memorable day for me was in my Business Economics module I also went on a trip to the Business Show 2019, in the ExCeL building in London. This again was a fantastic day out arranged by the University. This was full of new and thriving businesses, speakers, entrepreneurs and so on. Aside from getting loads of free stuff I overall found it a great experience and definitely got to meet and network with ambitious people like myself.

More recently near the end of my second year I began the Micro Placement Scheme ran by the University. So far I have starting doing a placement on the Waterfront Reception / Student Life centre which has including myself helping out on the social media channels and the rebranding of the Student Life Centre, as well as shadowing others in this department to see what they do and how they do it. This has also allowed myself to meet lots of new people around the University and most definitely increased my network. It is also incredibly flexible to fit around studies. For example when most of my time was taken up by various assignments near the end of my second year I was given less work, and was instead allowed to focus on them. When I had finished them and had a lot of free time I was given many more hours.

As for now I’m applying to become a Student Ambassador and hoping to welcome new students onto the Campus from September 2021 - Covid restrictions permitting. Also I’m looking forward to starting my final year of studies after the summer break.

by admin Posted 30 November, 2021

A Week in the life of Harini Nagesh 

Hello, I am Harini Nagesh – a Link to Leeds ambassador from India. I would like to take you through my weekly routine as a University of Leeds student. Before I take you through my routine, let me share a little bit about myself. I am a master’s student in Economics who has been recently working on her dissertation. I currently live in a private accommodation near the university (10 minutes) in a residential student area known as Hyde Park

My day starts with me trying to snooze my alarm and stay in bed for that five more minutes and then proceeding with my day. My lazy day breakfast is usually smoothies, I love making smoothies with fruits, flax seeds and chia seeds. I take an ample amount of time having my breakfast while chatting with my flat mates and catching up on my day-to-day tasks. I have the practice of always planning ahead of week my day-to-day schedule of work. I mark it down with its timings so I can plan my day the previous night accurately. This is one such practice I meticulously followed all through my year, and has greatly helped me plan my study times and stick to the planned routine. It is an exhilarating feeling once you tick off all the activities in your to do list for the day. 

I proceed my day by working on my dissertation in a University study space. There are 4 different libraries on campus where you can sit individually / group and work in silence. Apart from the libraries there are spots in the University union, Café Nero on campus and Business school building for working. I really like to work in the union and often go to common ground to satisfy my coffee cravings while working. As an ambassador, once I am done working with my study, I take my time to finish my ambassador duties. As mentioned earlier my day-to-day planning has immensely helped me manage my time between study and part time work. It is always necessary to strike a balance and take enough rest after a tiring day. 

I am someone who cooks most of her meals. One tip that has really helped me manage to cook despite a busy day is planning ahead of the day what to cook. I either make my rice before I leave for studying so when I come back all I left with is cooking some curry. It is always good to prepare prior to your meals to avoid wasting time just thinking about what to eat. I also cook both my lunch and dinner together as a batch. It saves so much time at the same time you have good home cooked food at the end of a tiring day. When it comes to buying groceries, I usually wait till my empty list reaches a certain number to go shopping. This avoids unnecessary buying and makes sure you complete and finish your groceries before buying. This idea was inspired by my fellow roommate.

It is necessary to engage with your passion and interests from time to time. I take my time dancing and revisiting dance pieces that make me happy. One other thing is attending the classes provided by our 300+ clubs and societies. I am part of the Bollywood dancing society (VIBES) , attending their classes really helped me meet new people who share the same passion of dancing. These clubs are a great way to progress and take your passion forwards through competitions and auditions. Allocating at least one hour for your passion can go a long way. Scheduling my day really helps me in identifying the free time I have and use it to spend in something productive like dancing 

If there was one thing, I learnt during my study in this university is valuing your mental health. It is really necessary to give yourself frequent breaks to avoid burning out due to work. I make sure I take my weekends to relax and do things that I enjoy. One thing I love doing is travelling. This time I took a trip to Glasgow, Scotland. One great tip if you are planning to travel frequently is to buy a railcard. The rail card is a great way to save money on train tickets. If you are planning to travel within Scotland, the coaches are the cheapest and efficient options. When travelling, always look out to eat and drink in the local cafes and bars. I was fortunate enough to visit a pub with 700 plus whiskies and tried a locally produced drink. Overall, my travelling experience was a wholesome with amazing memories. 

Some days in my week are pretty hectic while others are just me lying on my bed enjoying my ‘me time’. In conclusion, always try to take some time for yourself without feeling guilty, do things that make you happy – be it shopping or partying or just lying on your bed watching shows. As a student it is necessary to make time for yourself and manage to strike a balance between work and fun .

by admin Posted 30 November, 2021

Anastasia  

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Career Centre of Leeds University never failed to conduct their annual autumn career discovery. The event entitled with “Discover your future” happened across October and was offering different events such as career fairs, employer meet-up, and personal development webinars. All events are conducted online and went equally as good as offline events.  

The Career Centre uses Career fair plus to make the online career fair happen. We can download the application through the app store and play store, or if you don’t want to download the apps, you can simply go to their website. From there, simply make an account, choose the fair that is happening in your organization, book time slots for one-to-one meeting, or discover a drop-in session with employers.  

I personally prefer online career fair because they are easier, flexible, safer, and more organized. I also could choose a timeslot to have a one-to-one conversation to employers which is a non-existent feature in offline career fair. In comparison with offline career, I did not have to queue for gaining information which saves me time. The employer can also focus on me which allows me to give them some impression in establishing connection. Finally, I can avoid crowds which is an important for my health and safety since the pandemic.  

The career fair happened almost every day with each day having a different theme. I attended sustainable futures and environmental jobs career fair on the 27th of October. It was a career fair for companies who offer roles in sustainability or ‘green company’ who offer services to improve planet’s health 

I was looking into 2 companies: Jacobs and Hermes. I had one to one meeting in both companies by booking a specific available time slot, and it lasted for 15 minutes. From 2 companies, I gained prestigious information on what the companies are, the details about the role, whether it is an entry role or graduate scheme, whether they sponsor international students, the application stages, and the details on the entry requirements.  

Unfortunately, both companies are not offering role that is related to food science. However, through my skills, I still can apply to their role as they do not have a specific degree requirement. For Hermes, they are also planning to incorporate sustainable food delivery in the future which might be relevant to my degree.  

The good thing about having a one-to-one meeting with employer is that the connection I gained with them. I can gain their email and connection in LinkedIn. This eases my job hunting as they might be interested in offering a role for me in the future whenever needed. 

Khanh. 

Hi everyone, it’s me Khanh. Last Thursday 21st October, I had the opportunity to participate in the career fair “Discover your future: Sustainable Futures and Environmental Jobs” and I am here to share with you some of my experience. As a graduate postgraduate student, I figured out that this career fair is really useful as we got the chance to attend group workshops to get to know more about each company and even can book 1-2-1 appointments to speak with employers about graduate/ work placement opportunities. In total, I attended 2 events: (1) Savills Graduate Recruitment- Group Session and (2) Sustainability at Jacobs- Presentation and Q/A with Sustainability Professionals  

  1. Savills Graduate Recruitment- Group Session. 

 The very first session I took part in was “Savills Graduate Recruitment– Group Session ”, which was led by Hebe Williams and Hester Thompson. Savills is one of the world’s leading property agents that provides diverse consultancy services including building, environmental consultancy, planning project management to support clients within their property decisions and ambitions. Right now Savills is actively recruiting many positions such as Internship and Graduate Scheme, which I am actually interested in. For that reason, I booked an appointment with Savills and had an informative discussion with 2 representatives from Savills- Hebe and Hester. At the beginning, I thought it would be a group session, but actually there is only me there with Hebe and Hester, so I felt really amazing and comfortable. They started out by introducing Savills and the current graduate schemes/work placement that Savills is currently hiring. Then I demonstrated my interest for the Sustainability Graduate Scheme 2022. Heba and Hester were really supportive as they guided me throughout the role, the recruitment process and also what they expect from the candidates. In conclusion, even though the session with Savills was just a short one, I found it to be very useful for me as a graduate student. 

2. Sustainability at Jacobs- Presentation and Q/A with Sustainability Professionals

The second workshop that I participated in was “Sustainability at Jacobs– Presentation and Q/A with Sustainability Professionals” hosted by James Steven and Chris Sowerby from Jacobs. The workshop included 2 parts: Jacob’s introduction and Q/A session. The workshop began with Jacobs sharing about their company and introducing exciting projects and career journeys relating to sustainability professionals. In fact, right now, Jacobs has had more than 25 Environmental/Sustainability graduate positions open for 2022 ranging from environmental assessment/ management, landscape, air quality and sustainability consultancy. I have known Jacobs since during my course, my professors invited Jacobs to come as guest lecturers and share with us about their company and the field that they are currently working on. Jacobs is one of the leading global environmental firms that provides technical, construction and environmental consulting services. Within their session in the career fair, James and Chris also provided some advice and three tips for us as graduate students on how to build and develop our career path.

Here were the three tips: 

i. Grow your professional network.

Join workshops, networking events; be proactive in approaching people and put yourself in a position to be noticed and speak to people. Utilize Linked and other social media channel to connect and broaden your professional network. 

ii. Take opportunities to work with relevant organizations.

Try to gain different opportunities to work with different environmental, sustainability-related organizations through volunteering internships and research projects to earn working experience. Any experience would be considered as valuable for any graduate students. 

iii. Belief 

Believe in yourself. Be confident in your skills and knowledge and strengthen your weaknesses. 

In conclusion, Khanh and Anastasia- we both think that the career fair was really interesting and useful for graduate students like us. Thanks to the event, we got the precious opportunity to meet and talk directly to the companies that we aim to work with in the near future and prepare ourselves better for the application process. We hope that next year, there will be more events like this from the Career Centre, University of Leeds so that more international graduate students like us can connect to more companies whose work are relevant to our courses/majors.