Back in January, eight lucky ULaw students won our mentoring competition. The prize? A mentorship with one of our successful ULaw alumni, each of them a leading professional in their field. We spoke with some of the winners about their experience as a mentee and the valuable knowledge and insight they gained. However, a mentorship isn’t a one-way street. Often the mentors themselves leave the experience having gained new insights of their own. Below, the mentors discuss the benefits of the scheme and what they learned from the process.
By Grant Longstaff. Published 30 September 2022.
Walk us through a normal session as a mentor
After speaking with each mentor, it became clear each session was shaped around what each mentee wanted. “I tend to let the mentees drive the agenda,” Mike O’Neill, senior legal counsel at Aviva, explained. Amelia Wilson, programme lawyer for Channel 4, said, “It was quite fluid really” and broke down how her conversations ranged from course advice to OFCOM decisions and programmes she had worked on.
What do you enjoy most about being a mentor?
Rebecca St. Requier, who works at Barclays as a derivatives associate, said she most enjoyed, “inspiring my mentor to believe in herself and realise that her dreams are attainable.” Amelia said spending time with the mentees was a highlight and explained, “learning about their backgrounds and where they were hoping to go in the profession” was particularly enjoyable.
How have you found the experience of being a Mentor?
“I have found it really enjoyable,” Mike explained. “It’s something I didn’t have when I was in their position. I’ve been lucky enough to succeed in my career, and I enjoy the fact I get to give something back. It offered an insight into a world that I no longer inhabit but still recognise. It helped me realise how lucky I’ve been in my own career.”
For Joana Jere, a contract affairs manager at Career Moves Group on assignment at Google, the experience offered a different perspective. “I realised cultural sentiments can be a challenge in both personal and professional development, but I was able to provide guidance to the mentee on ways to navigate these obstacles from my own experience.”
Was there a defining moment when you realised you were making a real difference to a mentee’s life?
A defining moment for TK IU, a solicitor and mediator at Kwok, Ng & Chan in Hong Kong was when his mentee, “understood there is no one size fits all way to become successful in practise law.” Rebecca reflected on her mentee’s anxiety with work and studying. “My mentee was considering putting her LPC on pause. I acted as a sounding board. In the end my mentor decided to prioritise her LPC, saying I had helped her with making the decision.”
What have you learnt from your mentee?
Although a relatively new concept, reverse mentoring is becoming increasingly popular among organisations and allows older, more experienced members of a team to gain new insight and knowledge from younger recruits. With this in mind, we asked what our mentors had learnt from their mentees.
TK spoke of gaining an “enthusiasm to improve”, whilst Joana realised “it’s crucial to practise what you preach, otherwise it stops being effective.” Amelia talked of how it had affected her work, saying, “an outside perspective on TV and broadcasting compliance was incredibly useful. To talk about issues such as harm and offence, and really dissect certain areas and look at it through a different prism, certainly gave me food for thought.”
What is the most important piece of advice that you would give anyone looking to advance their career?
“Don’t give up,” Mike said, “it can be difficult and frustrating at times, but the right opportunity will come if you keep looking.” Amelia offered some thoughts on working relationships, saying, “be nice and treat everyone with respect,” suggesting, “you’ll have more rewarding working relationships if you’re approachable and pleasant to work with.”
What would you say are the benefits to being a Mentor?
TK reflected on his career and attitudes towards students, saying, “the mentees are brighter than I in some areas.” For Rebecca, “being able to give back, to help others and promote diversity” were huge benefits. Amelia also spoke of aiding others by sharing her knowledge, adding the experience helped her “gain a new perspective. You can work in an industry for years, but to have that fresh set of eyes is invaluable.” Joana echoed the usefulness of mentoring and expressed how the opportunity helped build her own confidence. Finally, Mike summed up his experience, saying, “it was great to engage with the next generation of leaders. It allowed me to give something back, and hopefully will inspire my mentees to do the same when they are in my position.”
Looking for more inspiration? Read about the varied career paths of our mentors, as well as other ULaw alumni, to see where a career in law could take you.