Introducing the Career Mentor Scheme

Hannah, final year at the University of Exeter studying BSc Geography with Applied Geographical Information Systems

Hannah, please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about the Career Mentor Scheme?

My name is Hannah and I am in my final year at Exeter studying BSc Geography with Applied Geographical Information Systems (GIS). This is my second time participating in the Career Mentor Scheme, which is a 6-month programme, running twice a year, that matches current students and recent graduates with a sector professional.

Throughout the six months you’re expected to meet either online or in-person for at least 1 hour a month, although you can meet as many times as you and your mentor would like! At the start of the scheme you set career goals for yourself, such as improving your CV or applying for placements or graduate jobs, and during the meetings you get 1:1 advice, guidance and help on reaching your set goals.

“Going on the scheme improves your employability, as you can show you have been proactive in sourcing a 6-month mentorship and taken the initiative to improve your transferable skills.”

What have you done during your partnership so far?

My mentor works in the Earth Science sector. The scheme started in December so we are just over half-way through the partnership. They have been really helpful so far! I have started to apply to graduate jobs and further study and they have reviewed my CV and applications, and given useful feedback that enabled me to make my applications as good as possible! As a result of my strong applications I was given interviews at most of the places I applied to, and they helped me prepare by conducting a virtual mock interview. They created questions specific to the job and skills involved as well as personal attribute questions. I felt much more confident going into the interview after my meeting with them and I was able to prepare examples and skills after discussing my answers to some common interview questions. In my real interview they asked several of the same questions as my mentor, so I could use and expand upon some of my examples. I am thrilled to say I got the job and I know a big part of this was due to the preparation and advice I was given on my application.

“They have been really helpful so far. I have started to apply to graduate jobs and further study and they have reviewed my CV and applications, and given useful feedback that enabled me to make my applications as good as possible.”

Why did you apply for the scheme?

I saw the scheme advertised around campus and decided to find out more about it (the link to the website is at the bottom of the page). When I applied the first time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I thought speaking to a mentor in the Geography field might help me narrow down my options. I enjoyed my first time on the scheme, and it was instrumental in helping me source a second year summer placement as my mentor worked in the same field as my placement. It also showed I am proactive and used my initiative to source a mentorship, which gave me something to talk about in my interview.

I decided to apply for the current scheme during the first term of third year. I knew it would be very helpful for someone with experience of applying to further study/jobs in my sector to give me guidance, and I knew that as the scheme is very flexible I would be able to balance it alongside my dissertation, part-time job and other commitments.

“I would say to definitely apply. No matter what stage of your career planning you’re at, having a mentor to discuss your ideas with is very helpful.”

What would you say to someone thinking of applying?

I would say to definitely apply! No matter what stage of your career planning you’re at, having a mentor to discuss your ideas with is very helpful! Many of the mentors are Exeter alumni so they have been in our position and made the leap from a degree to the job market. Your mentor can provide insight into your subject sector or give you advice on applications, it is really up to you and what you want to get out of the scheme – some mentors can even help you find work experience or networking opportunities. I would say that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

There are mentors from all different sectors and working all around the world on the scheme, so there is most likely one in the field you’re interested in! Going on the scheme improves your employability as you can show you have been proactive in sourcing a 6-month mentorship and taken the initiative to improve your transferable skills. This means the scheme is a great thing to talk about at interviews or put on your CV.

What is the application process like?

It is first-come first-served. All the mentors have profiles on Handshake with information about their job, qualifications and skills they can offer to a mentee (such as mock interviews or work experience). Once you have found the mentor you would like to apply for there is a link to a Microsoft Form. There are four main questions to answer to apply, which relate to careers research, suitability and what you’d like to get out of the partnership. I would recommend writing your answers to these in a word document as it’s easier to check the spelling and grammar. It’s really useful to add lots of detail and examples in your application to demonstrate any points that you make.

Using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique is really important in your application, and is great practice at mastering the technique ahead of job applications. Employers love this way of writing an application as it gives specific examples and sets out in detail what steps you took to overcome a problem or achieve something. The more detail you can add about this the better! The Career Zone has workshops such as Effective Application skills if you decide you need some help on writing your application. Your mentor is sent your application so it is important to tailor it to their profile, as you would with a job. This may sound like quite time-consuming but it took me around 45 minutes to apply, which is something you could do in between lectures or over lunch.

“If you have any questions about the application process or the Career Mentor Scheme in general, the team who run it are really helpful and always welcome any emails, so don’t be afraid to reach out.”

Once you and your mentor are given contact details, you are expected to take the lead in contacting them and organizing your first meeting where you can get to know one another. The scheme is definitely worth the time spent applying as it can open a lot of opportunities! If you have any questions about the application process or the scheme in general, the team who run it are really helpful and always welcome any emails, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Their email address is: .

Applications for the new scheme are open now. I hope that I have shown you how great the scheme is and why you should apply! Remember to look on Handshake and get your application in early so you don’t miss out!

You can find out all the details about the Career Mentor Scheme here: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/employability-schemes/careermentorscheme/

The Career Zone – Helping you Reach your Career Goals

Our range of services can really help you gain crucial experience, and boost your careers confidence. Even if you’re studying at Exeter for a year, we can help you maximise your time at University, and help you on your way to a bright future. We talked to Anda about her experience of using the Career Zone, and how we’re helping her with her career path.

Anda, please tell me a little about your background, you are a European student studying social science at postgraduate level at Exeter – why did you choose Exeter?

I am a European student and a Criminology and Psychology graduate. I study MSc in Social and Organisational Psychology at the University of Exeter. I have chosen to study for my Master’s at Exeter for a few reasons. Firstly, I chose Exeter because it is a Russel Group university and a leading university for research and teaching. I specifically liked the research culture within the Psychology department. Second, I wanted to study Social Psychology, and Exeter is one of the few universities that offer this specialisation in the UK. I really liked the practical aspect of my course, for example, we had an extended research project module and we got to learn and practice advance statistics which I believe is a great skill to have for employability.

Anda, current MSc in Social and Organisational Psychology student at the University of Exeter

“After the one year I have spent at the University of Exeter I can say that the career advice and support I have received at the University were one of the best opportunities for my career.”

In your time at Exeter what was particularly useful to you about the services the University offered?

While I expected to really enjoy my course, I did not expect the Career Zone and employment opportunities to be so good. Now, after the one year I have spent at the University of Exeter I can say that the career advice and support I have received at the University were one of the best opportunities for my career, as it really helped me develop the skills for searching, applying and securing jobs but also offered me the opportunity to apply for internships within the University and get the essential work experience I needed.

You told us that you used Handshake and our webpages to apply for five jobs in the year and actually took four of those jobs on – four jobs in one year! Tell me about that please, how was the application process, how important were the jobs to your career development?

Yes, I have used Handshake and I have applied and worked on two Student Campus Partnerships (SCP) jobs in current research undertaken at the University, one marketing internship through the Pathways to Marketing scheme where I worked as a Data Analyst within a marketing company, and I worked as a Student Ambassador.

I found the Handshake site very useful. When I was looking for jobs, I would write in the keywords I was looking such as ‘research’, and I would check it periodically to find new opportunities. I found it very useful that underneath each job posting the Career Zone attaches a short advice list that summaries all the things you need to consider when writing an application (such as information about how to write a cover letter). All the University internships come with a standardised application form which makes it very easy to structure your answers and learn what employers are looking for at each stage. Therefore, the process of applying to jobs at the University of Exeter is easy because it is streamlined and organised.

The jobs were very important to my career development. Before coming to Exeter, I only had one relevant job experience (for the career that I want) and some volunteering experience. Now, I have three other extremely relevant positions on my CV and I have learned so many useful skills that have helped me develop professionally and bolstered my confidence.

“The jobs were very important to my career development. Before coming to Exeter, I only had one relevant job experience and some volunteering experience. Now, I have three other extremely relevant positions on my CV and I have learned so many useful skills that have helped me develop professionally and bolstered my confidence.”

Could you tell me about some of the workshops and sessions run by the Career Zone that you undertook?  

Before I started applying to jobs, I went on Handshake and booked many sessions that could help me improve my employability skills. I have attended sessions on writing your CV, cover letter and interview skills. I have also attended employers’ events and meetings, LinkedIn workshops, and a workshop about building resilience and confidence. I have also used an interview tool provided by the University which simulated a trial interview with pre-made questions and a video recording option.

I also had the opportunity to be appointed to a mentor through the Career Mentor Scheme and I have received valuable career advice from my mentor.

Lastly, I have applied for and was awarded the Exeter Award which is an acknowledgement from the University of all the extra-curricular activities I have participated in such as training and jobs.

You had also done some online self-evaluation, to assess your strengths and weaknesses, how did that help you?

Yes, I did. I feel like the evaluation tools mostly confirmed what I already knew but I have taken into consideration my results and used the identified strengths in my CV, while I started to work on my limitations in order to surpass them.

“I believe that my course and amazing lectures and as well as the Career Zone workshops and work experience have helped me develop personally and professionally and offered me the tools to reach my career and academic goals.”

You mentioned to us that doing all of this extra-curricular activity gave you extra confidence, that’s great, how do you think this will help your plans for the future?

I gained a lot of confidence in the last year as before coming to Exeter, I found job applications daunting and I was very pessimistic about my employment opportunities. However, once I gained the right skills through the sessions I have attended through the career service and I started to apply for positions that I was actually appointed to I felt better and better about my capabilities, knowledge and future prospects. As a result, prior to finishing my Masters, I started applying for PhD positions because I have always wanted to work in research and academia.

After a few applications, I have been awarded a funded PhD position for the project I was most interested in. I have worked very hard for both my academic and extra-curricular achievements but I am also very grateful for all the help I have received here at the University of Exeter. I believe that my course and amazing lectures and as well as the Career Zone workshops and work experience have helped me develop personally and professionally and offered me the tools to reach my career and academic goals.

We’d love to help you with your career planning, come in and see us in the Forum, Streatham Campus, or in the Exchange, Penryn Campus.

Or you can live chat with us on our website

email careers@exeter.ac.uk

call us 01392 724493 9am – 5pm

Monday to Friday, including Vacations 

Get Invaluable Insight with the Career Mentor Scheme

Sabine Hoadley, Exeter Graduate and current Clinical Exercise Specialist at CP+R

Sabine Hoadley Graduated from the University of Exeter in Medical Science, 2020. She is currently a Clinical Exercise Specialist at CP+R. She talks about how the Career Zone  helped her find her dream job, and how the Career Mentor Scheme was invaluable to her career insight. 

I heard about this career through the Career Zone! I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, as Medical Science leaves many doors open for employment. After considering the idea of Medicine, I realised that I am not ready for this huge academic commitment at the moment, and perhaps it will be something to come back to in the future. Then I heard about the role as a Clinical Exercise Specialist at CP+R and it really stood out to me. We will deliver sustained, life-changing healthcare to CP+R athletes through monitored exercise sessions, nutritional guidance and lifestyle advice and support. I am very excited to start this role, and having met with the team via Zoom meetings and visited the workplace on Harley Street, I can’t wait to begin working with some of the athletes.

“I signed up for the Career Mentor Scheme whilst I was in Year 3 which was invaluable to my career insight… I would say take any opportunities that are given to you.”

I signed up for the Career Mentor Scheme whilst I was in Year 3 which was invaluable to my career insight. Chris Moody was an excellent mentor and gave me a lot of help with my CV and cover letters, as well as providing some really fantastic insight into his work life. Also doing my placement year at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Brisbane, Australia was invaluable to my career – so I would say take any opportunities that are given to you.

Based on the preliminary work of my dissertation project, I was selected as one of four Final Year Exeter students who presented abstracts (online due to Covid-19) at “3D Printing, Advanced Robotics and Automation (3DPARA) in London, United Kingdom, 21st – 22nd May 2020”. My dissertation looked at the possible uses of 3D printing for application in the Medical Field. Under the excellent supervision of Mohammad Akrami and Reza Zamani, they have helped me to pursue this opportunity, and I was excited to present my project at this event.

“Not to be cliché but don’t be afraid of failure! I had applied to quite a few jobs before I got the one I was offered… but it just goes to show that the right thing comes around if you wait for it.”

Not to be cliché but don’t be afraid of failure! I had applied to quite a few jobs before I got the one I was offered… but it just goes to show that the right thing comes around if you wait for it. I also think that applications give you so much experience on how to deal with different situations as well as the opportunity to improve your interview technique and gain confidence with the sort of questions that they might ask.

I have been an active member of the surf club since first year at Exeter. The surf society is fantastic and has been the perfect way to meet friends, as well as go on a number of surf trips abroad, including to France, Portugal and Morocco. I have also been one of the founding members of Friends of the Earth at Exeter, and acted as Treasurer, responsible for sourcing grants for our group. As a group, we focussed on grassroots community action in Exeter, fighting for a better planet (local actions, global effects). We ran a sustainable cooking workshop back in March that tried to encourage people to incorporate seasonal and local produce into their cooking. I also took part in Fight Night this year, which I had always promised myself I would sign up to since first year. Being in my final year of Uni, this was a balance of extreme stress work wise with my dissertation, and training 4 times a week for Fight Night. Funnily enough I found that it was actually one of my favourite terms at Uni – it was the perfect opportunity to stress bust while working out on the punching bags!

The Career Mentor Scheme, a Career-Changing Experience

Rebecca Lenthall is the Career Mentoring and Internships Coordinator, based on the Streatham Campus. 

Rebecca Lenthall, Career Mentoring and Internships Coordinator

Working for the Career Zone, we’re in the fortunate position to get that ‘aww, I’ve helped somebody today’ feeling pretty much every day in the office, but every now and then you receive an email from a student or graduate that upgrades that feeling to a full-blown case of the warm and fuzzies!

In bleak early January, we received this email from a graduate who had benefitted from the Career Mentor Scheme during her time at Exeter, and two years or so later, she took the time to get in touch again and let us know just how much she feels it helped her out. Now to let her do the talking…

“I am an MSc Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture alumna (2014-2015) and I applied to the Career Mentor Scheme in November 2015 when I was doing an internship with a local food marketing company in Torquay (I was able to obtain this internship thanks to the Career Zone).

My mentor had had an amazing career developing a publication so successful that it was sold to the Informa group. Publishing has been an ongoing dream of mine and I have always enjoyed researching, writing and communicating insights in accessible terms. Since my mentor had a relationship with Informa, she was able to help me “get my foot in the door” with them. That resulted in my first publishing contract ever. That was a thrilling experience that has improved the confidence I have in the commercial value of my work. Furthermore, I had a positive experience with my first publishing contract with Informa and that resulted in the publication of an additional two reports.

“My mentoring experience was a fantastic opportunity that has contributed to my self-esteem, my negotiation skills and the belief in my ability to reach any goal I set my mind to. My mentor was incredibly generous with her time and knowledge and she has made a lasting impact on me.”

This continued to give me the confidence boost that I needed in the beginning of my career. I am now a PhD student in Spain and plan to pursue a management consultant career in sustainability issues when I graduate. My mentoring experience was a fantastic opportunity that beyond the publishing contracts, has contributed to my self-esteem, my negotiation skills and the belief in my ability to reach any goal I set my mind to. My mentor was incredibly generous with her time and knowledge and she has made a lasting impact on me.”

This graduate’s story really showcases just how much of a positive impact a Career Mentor can have on your future career and indeed, your personal development. It really does have the potential to provide an insight like no other and to give you that boost of confidence that is sometimes just what’s needed in order to find the inspiration to fill in another application form.

The deadline for applying to the May – October 2018 Career Mentor Scheme has now been extended to Monday 26th March (final years graduating in summer 2018 are also very welcome to apply). We really hope the lovely story above will inspire you to have glance at the mentor profiles on My Career Zone and submit an application for a mentor of your own.