Academic School: Languages, Linguistics and Film
Degree Course: BA Comparative Literature and Linguistics
Current Study Year: Graduated December 2017
Why did you apply for QMentoring?
Like many other students, I was very anxious about whether or not I would be “successful” after completing my degree. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to secure the graduate role I wanted and that I would be behind my peers. I was a final year student in receipt of the QMUL Bursary, which I learnt put me in an advantageous position to successfully obtain a place on the scheme. Additionally, my parents hadn’t gone to university, so I wasn’t feeling particularly well-connected in terms of graduate job prospects. QMentoring offered the opportunity to be connected with a member of the QMUL alumni community so that I could be supported to make informed career choices, develop my employability skills and gain confidence applying for graduate job roles.
What did you learn from your mentor?
Reassurance and self-belief – I was connected to a mentor with hugely similar experiences to my own. I was lucky enough to know that what I wanted to do following graduation was pursue a career in marketing and communications for a charity. The mentor who I was matched with was a marketing professional who was very passionate about the charity sector. The relationship immediately became personal – my mentor and I shared our own insecurities and anxieties about the working world and university – I thought, if she could make it, then why can’t I? In addition, my mentor had lots of ideas for places to look for roles. She suggested CharityJob for sector specific vacancies, Creative Access for creative internships, and that I approach smaller mental health charities to get my foot in the door with speculative applications.
In what way did QMentoring help you make informed choices about your future?
My mentor told me that smaller local mental health charities, such as those within close proximity to QMUL, often had links with the University and could be particularly supportive of local students coming into their offices. Luckily I was already volunteering in marketing for a small mental health charity in Tower Hamlets, an opportunity which I had secured through the QMSU Volunteering website, for a few hours a week in my final year.
Following my mentor’s advice, I made the most of this opportunity and, after a year of volunteering, I was offered a permanent paid role at the charity. Whilst this was not in marketing, I secured a role in casework and employment advice for individuals with mental health issues in Tower Hamlets. I worked there for 8 months until I found a role in marketing at a national mental health charity, which I found through Harris Hill Charity Recruitment (an excellent agency which my mentor recommended). I’ve been working as a Communications Executive at Dementia UK since June 2018 and I’m really enjoying it. I finally feel as if I’m on the way to my career in charity communications.
After graduating, you returned to become a mentor yourself, can you explain what motivated you to volunteer with QMUL?
A year after completing the programme as a mentee, I felt as though I’d gained some level of experience and reflection, which I was happy to share. Being a student, especially when many of us have other things going on in the background, is a lot more isolating than it is often considered, so I wanted to be there to support someone else. I also have a huge level of support for schemes which target socio-economically disadvantaged students and I cannot praise Queen Mary enough for QMentoring.
As a mentor, what do you think are some of the challenges graduates face after completing their studies?
Mental health – this is absolutely huge. Whilst not restricted to these conditions, anxiety and depression run rife and there is simply not enough support out there. Countless job application rejections can take a huge toll on your self-esteem.
Low motivation – coupled with the above and in a tough economic climate, people sadly fail to belief in themselves.
Cover letter writing – most of us have the skills to succeed in these graduate roles, but it’s just a case of how we communicate these on a cover letter or application. I know I’ve fallen down in applications for that reason. My best piece of advice for cover letters and supporting statements is that you can copy every point from the person specification and use it as a subheading to structure your piece. You can then write two sentences underneath about how your previous experience means you have that skill and how that relates to the job description for the role you are applying for. You can then add 1 extra sentence about how your experience of that skill will benefit the organisation, or even that you are passionate about exploring this further.
Here is an example:
Person specification point: Excellent communication skills including face to face, phone and written
Answer: In all my previous roles including administration, I have communicated with the public, service users, colleagues and stakeholders via face-to-face, phone, email and letter. In a role at Dementia UK, I would be very keen to communicate not just with communications and other teams within the charity, but also with sufferers and their families to ensure that positive messages regarding Admiral Nursing are disseminated to increase coverage and raise awareness and understanding.
Remember that you can get your cover letter, CV or application checked at the Careers & Enterprise Centre (open Monday-Friday, 9.30-5).
If anyone wants any pointers on breaking into the charity sector as a student, or graduate, I’m really happy to help where I can. Feel free to message me on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/laurapotter27