Read time: 5 minutes
Written by Victoria Abbott, Recruitment & Selection Adviser at UCL Careers
Defined simply, mentoring is a relationship between two people with the goal of professional development. In reality, mentoring provides a multitude of benefits, which can be summarised into three broad areas; personal growth, career development and health & wellbeing. Let’s look into these more closely.
- Personal Growth
A mentor is key for aiding and assisting with your personal growth, providing an encouraging and empowering influence. Gaining a higher self-awareness is often the first step towards gaining valuable personal skills, which in turn help you to discover your strengths, identify resources and set goals.
- Career Development
A mentor is often the first step towards building essential global connections and boosting your network within your chosen industry. Mentors may have expert insight into upcoming events, internships and opportunities, as well as relevant insider knowledge. In your early career, mentors are often credited with helping graduates gain promotions and increase job satisfaction.
- Health & Wellbeing
Sometimes overlooked, mentors play a huge role in increasing confidence, lowering anxiety and supporting isolation. If you are feeling overwhelmed, a mentor could provide exposure to new ways of thinking, whilst allowing you to gain feedback in a safe and productive environment.
Not sure where to find a mentor?
Look no further than UCL Bentham Connect, an exclusive social and professional networking site – home to 24,000 UCL students, alumni and staff. Make global connections and find the support you need. Ask the network, find a mentor, and learn from personal and professional development resources.
You can also take advantage of our Graduate Guides – alumni volunteers, who dedicate their time to helping students and fellow graduates find the support they need. Whether you’re looking for a mentor, or just want to ask a quick question, the Graduate Guides are always happy to help.
We reached out to a number of our Graduate Guides and asked them questions sent in to us by our followers on Instagram. We hope that you’ll find the advice below useful as you navigate finding your future!
Did you benefit personally from the guidance of an alumni mentor? If not, how could this have helped you when planning your career steps?
Conor Courtney: I didn’t get a mentorship from an Alumni Mentor, but mentoring has always been so important as I’ve progressed from a student to a young professional. It always surprises me how much a mentor really has to offer, and how willing they can be to help. My most influential mentor helped me with an extra-curricular project while I was at UCL, and later went on to give me a pep-talk before an important job interview. I think what I would note about a mentor relationship is that it can always surprise you.
How important are face-to-face and virtual networking opportunities, including engaging with social media platforms, as part of a focused careers strategy?
Ajaz Hussain: Having a multi-strategy approach to networking is critical for any student (or early career professional). It is difficult to find a role, sector or career path that does not require employees to build relationships, proactively engage at work or connect with people. Every interaction (face-to-face, by phone, or online) is an opportunity to make a positive impression. Seek feedback from your fellow students, lecturers, tutors, family and friends on how you might contribute more, present yourself differently, improve your presence and influence. Get started today!
Can you share any mistakes you’ve made along the way, or any tips of things to avoid?
Joy C Martindale: I think my number one tip would be to prioritise your mental health. In my experience when I am in good mental health, I feel open and positive about reaching out to connect, network and ask for guidance. Prioritise doing the things that make you feel good, whether it is exercising, eating well, getting out in nature or staying in touch with family and friends, and the rest will follow!
What is the best way to approach a mentor?
Conor Courtney: I think the best approach is to be honest and enthusiastic. Mentors are looking to help, so be sure to tell them exactly what you want help with, or what you want to hear about, and then make sure that you really engage with their advice.
Natasha Winnard: Approach a mentor in a way that feels most natural to you. There is no right or wrong way.
Joy C Martindale: It is really easy to find a mentor through Bentham Connect: https://uclbenthamconnect.com/mentoring
Is it hard to find a job if you only get a pass in your Masters?
Ajaz Hussain: Recruiters are looking for more than just a degree. Carefully analyse job adverts, descriptions and person specifications. Identify why the company is recruiting and what specific problems they (and their industry) are currently facing. How do you meet the requirements? Think holistically. Reflect on your skills, qualifications, experience, qualities and knowledge. Some countries might ask you to provide the overseas equivalent of your ‘pass’. Do your homework and find out (from credible sources) the implications of this.
Dimitri Visnadi: In my opinion it depends on the company and more importantly the drive the candidate has. So far no one has asked me about my grades.
Other people have loads on their CV and I’m struggling. What can I do to find opportunities?
Michaela Clement-Hayes: Use your personal life and hobbies. If you want to work in marketing, set up a blog or make an Instagram account. If you want to work in customer service, volunteer for a charity on the phones, create a website for your drama group, send out a newsletter for your son’s rugby team. Take some free courses. Don’t sit still; every hour you have free is an opportunity to learn skills.
UCL is really not going well for me. Do you have any advice to improve my experience during the pandemic?
Abhishek Gulati: Stop and reflect what is not working for you. Is the root-cause external or internal, this will give you a lot of clarity and once you find out, reach out to someone who can help or you can have a conversation with, there is always a solution.
You can also get in touch with UCL Student Support and Wellbeing who can provide expert wellbeing, disability and mental health advice and support a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space, in which you can discuss any issues that may be affecting your ability to study.
Did you know what kind of job you wanted before you graduated?
Anne Byrne: Yes but that’s because commercial law is a structured career path which can often start before graduation. Lots of graduates do not know though, and connecting with mentors may give you some ideas of jobs which you would never have considered.
How might connecting with a mentor boost my confidence when searching and applying for jobs?
Ajaz Hussain: Job search can be a long, tiring and arduous process. Sometimes students send out hundreds of applications hoping for employers to respond. Likewise employers might receive many applications per vacancy and may not respond to candidates that are not shortlisted. A mentor can provide that missing feedback. Speaking with a trusted adviser can open up new possibilities. You can learn what other ways there might be to getting into the sector. Ask for introductions to insider connections. All of this can boost your confidence, while enabling you to successfully transition from academia to the world of work.
Do you think lockdown will help or hinder getting a mentor?
Eeva Ellenberg: Without the usual distractions, I think potential mentors have more spare time on their hands, and many (myself included) genuinely enjoy supporting others start/progress in their careers. So, I think it will help, as mentor availability is probably higher than it would otherwise be.
Why do you think it’s beneficial for students to connect with alumni mentors?
Joy C Martindale: Alumni mentors understand that being a student can be challenging because we have been where you are now. Alumni mentors have the benefit of hindsight and we can share all our learning from the decisions we have made along our career paths with you!
Nick Lawrie: Real life stories, neutral advice, and it’s always good to have a mentor to bounce ideas off.
Enjoyed reading the thoughts of the Graduate Guides? Want to find out more about what they think of these questions? Benefits of Mentoring Part 2 is out now and you can read it on our blog.