Name tags are usually ordinary items for any event. But not if you are attending an introduction gala planned by the City’s Mentorship scheme staff. The back side of every name tag has a secret which could change a student’s future.
During the event, guests are given coins with silver tape on the back that they can scratch off to reveal a hidden name. This is how a six-month partnership between students and their mentors start.
City University’s Professional Mentoring scheme matches students with experienced industry professionals who help them develop confidence, receive one-to-one support on their CVs and give students a pathway to become highly employable graduates.
The program won The Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award in 2017 for Alumni Engagement. It was founded in 2002 and matched 20 pairs then. Now staff matches over 400 student-mentor pairs each academic year.
“It is very competitive. There are almost always two students applying for one position,” said, Professional Mentoring Officer Xenia Kotova.
There are no paths alike
In order to join the programme, students have to complete an online application and attend an interview and training sessions.
“Students should be able to demonstrate some basic job interview skills and be willing to learn more. They also have to be committed and engaged,” said Caspar Latham, Professional Mentoring Assistant.
The staff finds mentors based on students’ interests and requests.
“Interest and industries matter, but what’s more important is whether personalities will match and they will be able to work together,” said Kotova.
The scheme not only helps students to better access their chosen professional path, but also guide those who want to change their career choice or explore different opportunities.
“I thought I would work as an educational psychologist when I started my studies at City, but later realised I want to do something creative,” said Julia Lewis Martinez, an undergraduate Psychology student.
She was matched with a marketing professional who helped her research creative industries.
“It is a great opportunity to get insight into a field where I do not have any contacts or connections,” she said.
Moreover, Martinez’s work with her mentor motivates her for life after graduation.
“I feel like I am in a bubble and I do not want to leave university. This mentorship scheme helps me to build confidence,” she said.
Syed Muhammad Mohamman came to London from Pakistan and is studying a Master of Science degree in Business System Analysis and Design at City. “My mentor helps me to understand what happens in UK companies, and its work culture,” said Mohamman. He likes that his mentor understands his country’s economic challenges and teaches him how to navigate the British workplace.
“People who join the programme came from very different backgrounds, but they all find the programme beneficial,” said Ms. Kotova. “Some gain more confidence, direction in their careers or transition to a different path than they originally intended. There is always a way to help anyone.”
Mentors learn from students
The programme has a long list of mentors who work in globally-recognised companies or run their own businesses. More than 80 per cent of all mentors are City University graduates.
Haresh Raghwani is a City University graduate and currently works as a Chartered Independent Wealth Manager at Hale & Company LLP. “I wanted to give back to the university, which gave me good skills to start my career,” he said.
Mr. Raghwani admitted that not everything in his life turned out the way he had hoped. He studied system communications engineering at City, but works in the world of finance.
“If I had this programme when I was studying, it would have helped me focus on what I wanted to do,” he said.
In his first meetings with a mentee, he asks them to create a business plan and establish short and long-term goals.
“I try to provide guidance and set goals. You fulfil one, and then set another. This is what keeps me motivated,” he said.
His work with students earned him the Outstanding Contribution certificate from the programme’s 2018 awards.
Agata Manges, who is a Digital Marketing and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Manager at BP, also graduated from City University. She has been mentoring students for the last three years.
“When I invest my time in the right people, I am helping to build a better world for tomorrow as they increase their influence on the people they interact with,” she said.
Additionally, the programme changes mentors’ lives too, not just students.
“I am challenged to articulate my perspective and be thoughtful in my answers. This process sharpens my mind and makes me wiser. I really enjoy this, “she said.