How Being Mentored Worked for Me
By Kobby Adarkwa, Connect Mentors
After graduating from The University of Bedfordshire in July 2016, I became part of the unfortunate pool of grads who struggled to get a job. There was a point at which I had an interview almost every other week, for months on end. I was bewildered when I went to one interview to be a media analyst and the feedback was that I was “over-qualified for the job” — bear in mind this was a graduate position I had applied for with very little experience of work, in my first year after university.
My confidence was undoubtedly knocked. However, I kept persevering because the idea of quitting was simply not an option. I came across a particularly interesting PR traineeship programme with Taylor Bennett Foundation, a social enterprise helping those from ethnic minorities get into PR. I applied with a certain level of disbelief because of my experience of continuous rejection.
The recruitment process was intense. There were two group tasks, followed by a presentation analysing and dissecting a business story and then two further interviews. I remember leaving the assessment day with two other candidates that I had formed friendships with saying; “see you on Monday!” I was confident that all three of us had done well enough to get onto the programme. That sudden abounding confidence and excitement could have easily taken a turn for the worse if I had not then received the good news phone call. I was overwhelmed with excitement to hear that my friends had also made it onto the programme.
The following week I began my journey with six budding trainees in the pursuit of a career in PR. Over a ten-week period I was assigned two mentors; one internal and one from Brunswick. They helped me with everything from checking over my work to giving career guidance. I am still in touch with one today.
My time at Taylor Bennett had many highs. If I learned one thing above all from my experience, it was the significance of expanding my professional network, both via formal networking events and informal coffees. “A friend of a friend is a friend” — or, so the saying goes.
It is the norm to go to university today and come out with either a 1st or a 2:1 (like me). As a result, organisations have tried to adapt the selection process by which they find talent. Some organisations go to extreme lengths by recruiting those who have had exceptional results throughout their education, others recruit solely from Russell Group universities in a bid to acquire “the best”. The unconscious bias that we all have (one way or another) has created a barrier to diversity and social mobility. Therefore, having a good network is fundamental. Employers are more than likely to hire someone they know and trust than someone they don’t know but whose CV looks good.
A mentoring relationship works both ways. No-one is going to want to invest their time in someone who isn’t motivated, dedicated and ambitious. You must be willing to illustrate your work ethic Have a clear plan of what it is you plan to achieve. You may not know how you plan to get there, but that’s when a mentor becomes useful.
Reputation and corporate values are now more important than ever. A lack of diversity in the workplace has been an issue for some time. There are some organisations which realise the need for diversity and inclusion and are intent on addressing the widening talent gap.
Connect Mentors is a new initiative set on addressing the ‘opportunity gap’ most organisations aren’t aware exists. The team at Connect Mentors have partnered with several corporate institutions to create opportunities for ambitious mentees to expand their network and learn from industry leaders.
I would encourage anyone who is serious about progressing their career to sign up. If you want to find out more here is the link: http://www.connectmentors.com
Special credit to: @AdaNworgu @JessicaHuieMBE @Lee-Roy Chetty @Steve McCool @Steve Hartley @JoeShipley @SimoneMaine for the guidance and support you have given me during my journey to pursue a career in communications.