‘It’s important to find what’s right for you’: Bristol Mentors share their insights

One hundred alumni and students joined us on 16 March for the Big Bristol Mentors Mingle, which was our first ever Bristol Mentors virtual networking event. This was a chance for alumni, students and mentors to meet each other and share invaluable career-focused insights.

Bristol Mentors is a flagship alumni volunteering programme in which students from underrepresented groups are matched with a Bristol graduate. Mentors work with mentees to help them with their career development and provide support which can enhance their university experience.

Bristol Mentors is based on one-to-one connections, but this event enabled students on the programme to meet the wider network of alumni volunteers. It also provided an opportunity for the volunteer mentors to connect with one another.

The evening was split into three parts, the first of which focused on sector networking. Alumni shared their individual journeys and students asked questions on pivotal moments in their careers – including opportunities, successes and times when things haven’t gone to plan.

Alumni also reassured students that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities to explore, develop and compete in the job market are still available. They shared insider tips, covering everything from making the most of remote work experience to finding placements and internships this summer.

Keynote speaker Julia Cooke (LLB 2017) shared her career journey and experiences as a mentor. She explained how after realising that a traditional law career was not for her, she started doing extracurricular activities, part time work and volunteering to learn about her skills and what she was looking for in a career. These exploratory steps helped her to find her current role as a Senior Policy Officer for the Information Commissioner’s Office, which she’s really enjoying.

Talking about why she became a mentor, Julia said: “I remember how terrible it felt when everyone else had a plan upon graduating and I didn’t! I became a mentor because I wanted to share with students that it’s okay not to know, and not to follow a traditional route. It’s important to find what’s right for you and it’s okay to take time in doing this.”

The final session of the night focused on different career development topics such as applications, interviews, and dealing with rejection. Students and mentors spoke about the value of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as a route into employment, as an alternative to larger graduate recruiters. Alumni also advised students to be open-minded in their job search and to look for entry-level jobs to help build up their experience and CV.

Networking can be daunting but the Big Bristol Mentors Mingle event provided a safe and supportive platform for students seeking advice. The event meant that students and alumni could connect remotely, ensuring that they could still engage with each other and expand their networks, despite the COVID-19 restrictions.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to the alumni and students who participated in the Big Bristol Mentors Mingle and helped to make the event such a success.

If you would like to find out more about Bristol Mentors, click here, or please email alumni-mentoring@bristol.ac.uk

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