Group of happy students around a laptop having a virtual conversation

For many students, graduation and building their careers after university is a big priority – but with the pandemic and a financial recession, knowing what to do next can be a little daunting. 

Our students are studying hard to learn all they can in extremely difficult circumstances; that’s why having access to high quality advice from someone who has taken a similar path before them can be invaluable, especially if they are the first in their family to go to university. College Alumni Relations Manager, Jess Cooper, recently held several alumni speed networking events to connect students and alumni.

Practical constructive feedback from someone who has already lived through graduation and job hunting can help students map out what they want for their future. To facilitate the sharing of experiences, we recently held two virtual speed networking events to support graduate employability and outcomes. Working in collaboration with the Policy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Criminology societies, the events brought together current students from the school with recent graduates from their courses to provide some invaluable micro-mentoring.

Each event had six recent graduates who spoke to the students in breakout rooms, in a speed networking format which meant that the students were able to speak to each alumni speaker in turn. The graduates who volunteered work in a variety of organisations, including the Home Office, West Midlands Police, Midland Heart, The Welsh Government and across the Civil Service, organisations which are of huge interest to students.  They gave their time to support our students and provided them with practical, inspiring and encouraging advice about resilience, being bold and how to adapt when things don’t go to plan. The events were also a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our graduates, many of whom have been able to secure senior positions within their organisations since their graduation.

In total, twenty six students joined the sessions to hear from the recent graduates and plans are in place to repeat the events this semester. These events form part of the plan to cultivate a dedicated group of Social Policy graduates who can act as mentors to our students.  We are reaching out to even more graduates to ensure that every student who wants to learn from a mentor can find one. Through these targeted events, we will be able to raise the profile of the mentoring programmes to ensure students from the school have the ability to connect with alumni from their courses. The mentoring programme provides the opportunity for students to be guided and motivated, enabling them to focus on their goals and how they can be achieved.

Mentoring forms a big part of our Birmingham in Action campaign and we are incredibly grateful to all our alumni who give their time to help current students.  Find out more about our fundraising and volunteering campaign, Birmingham in Action, here. 

You can contact Jess Cooper on J.Cooper.1@bham.ac.uk, or speak to the Student Experience Team. 

Jessica is an experienced Relationship Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education sector. In her current role, she works closely with graduates from the Schools of Social Policy and Government to enhance student's employability and develop engagement opportunities that keep alumni in touch with the University. Jessica’s background is in Student Recruitment and Engagement, Widening Participation and Outreach, and she led the coordination of the award-winning Lloyds Scholars programme at the University for a number of years before moving into her current role.  Jessica is passionate about supporting social mobility and increasing access to, and participation in, Higher Education for students from underrepresented groups.