Whilst a lot of students volunteer for the scheme to further their existing career plans, I was almost the opposite. I applied at the beginning of my second year studying English Literature and History and I was struggling to decide what I wanted to do post-university. I had always had an interest in publishing although the PR industry had started to look more appealing. I was paired with someone who although was working in a different industry now, had a background in PR and had studied the same subject as me whilst at Birmingham. By the end of the scheme I wanted to be in a position where I would be going into my final year with a clear idea of what career I was aiming for, equipped with the skills I would need to get me there.
My mentor and I have kept in touch through email, about once a fortnight. They are pretty substantial and cover a lot of topics, from discussing work placements I had been on to discussing activities that he had been getting involved in his line of work. This has been ideal as it means he can advise me on the things that I am doing whilst giving me an insight into what kind of things he has the opportunity to get involved in. Through a combination of work placements, my own research, and my mentor’s invaluable insight, I now feel that I have a sound understanding of the PR and similar industries, and feel confident that I could apply to jobs and have evidence of the skills I need to get involved.
I found that I benefitted from having someone to inform of any developments as it really pushed me to find the opportunities. My mentor didn’t find the placements for me, but I pushed myself further to find the placements that would be right for me. Since being in contact with my mentor I have gone from not really knowing what PR entailed to having a great understanding. I have undertaken an internship at a Birmingham PR firm, which I really enjoyed, and it has meant that I have been able to start building up a network of contacts in the industry. By developing in confidence and recognising the skills that I would need to develop, I took the opportunity to run for the committee of one of the University’s largest societies, Carnival RAG, and am now a member of committee for the 2012-13 academic year. As I did have an interest in publishing, I still undertook an internship at a magazine publishing company, but found that I enjoyed my experience with PR a lot more, so I am now confident that this is what I want to go into, whilst before I was unsure. I would definitely recommend just giving things a go, if you don’t enjoy a work placement then at least you know it isn’t for you, and no doubt you will pick up some useful skills along the way anyway.
Throughout the scheme, I have learnt how to maintain a professional relationship. My mentor and I have been emailing for almost a year now and the emails have been consistent. The ones I receive now are just as insightful and helpful as the ones at the start, if not more. We are in a position where we know what the other is interested in, so we are able to share events, companies and ideas with each other. Even though the scheme technically runs for just a year, I am sure that we will stay in contact throughout my final year.
I would highly recommend taking part in the mentoring scheme. Even if you don’t know what you want to do (like I did!) it’s a great way to help narrow down your options and your mentor’s insight will help you to decide what is best for you. And if you do know what you want to do it would be equally as rewarding as your mentor will have firsthand knowledge of the experience you will later have.