Yousuf Chowdhury (BSc 2020) shares his experience of the Bristol Mentors programme and how it helped shape his career path.
My undergraduate degree was in Economics. So many of us assumed we were going to go into Finance, without really knowing any specific area we wanted to get into. I was applying to internships in my second year without much success and I didn’t know many people in the sector to turn to. I wanted someone to help me through the process and share their experience of the industry, and that was why I applied to Bristol Mentors.
My mentor is called Ken. He did a Chemistry degree before moving into Finance, so he took a slightly unconventional route. He started out working for a large accountancy practice that later became part of Deloitte, before working as a Finance Director and living in America for a few years. He now works as a consultant for different companies based in the UK. His experience in big and small firms and different working cultures gave me a fresh perspective on the variety of working environments. The range of his experience – from starting out to board level – gave me a breadth of knowledge I wouldn’t otherwise have had access to.
One of the things I like about my mentor is that he is easy to talk to. Whether the conversation was about our shared interest in football, or our experiences of Bristol, Ken was approachable and fun to talk to.
My lack of experience with assessment days meant I was concerned about what to expect and how to prepare. I was getting all these pre-interview rejections and I started thinking to myself, if I can’t get through this stage, how am I ever going to succeed at the next? Ken helped ensure I was fully prepared for them, which meant I also enjoyed each assessment centre more. When I had an interview, Ken and I would meet beforehand at the Trade Wind Café near Clifton Downs to do a mock interview. It was such valuable practise for the real thing and helped me anticipate what to expect.
The most impactful thing that the Bristol Mentors programme has done is help me focus. By applying for roles I was actually interested in, I started coming across as more enthusiastic and confident.
One of the best pieces of advice my mentor gave me was to close an interview with a strong statement. From the interview feedback I have had, I really think this has helped. It shows interviewers that I am engaged and enthusiastic about the role.
Ken and I keep in touch, we still talk about football and when he next comes to London we are going to meet up. It has become a nice friendship and a long-term mentorship. Before I started with Bristol Mentors, I thought to myself, why would someone be a mentor? Now, I completely understand. If the University asked me in ten years’ time if I wanted to be a mentor, I would happily give back to the programme that has helped me so much. So many students have no idea what they want to do or how to go about doing it. This mentorship gave me that focus and the confidence I needed.
I was supposed to start an internship this summer in Asset Management. COVID-19 has meant that it will have to be delayed until next summer. However, I am enjoying my current internship at the UK’s biggest Bank Lobbying group and I’ll potentially have the opportunity to continue working there part time during my Masters at UCL, which I start in September. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world, but since participating in Bristol Mentors, I feel more confident in my own ability and I know that everything is going to be ok.
Bristol Mentors is the University of Bristol’s alumni mentoring programme, providing career-focused support for students from under-represented backgrounds by matching them with an alumni mentor.